Guilt; for women it’s a feeling that is inescapable. For most of us there will come a day when we will have to choose between neglecting work to stay home with the children or neglecting the children to go to work. We can only hope that we won’t be consumed with guilt and remorse for choosing what we feel is right.
It seems today neither answer is right. The pressure to do it all, have it all, be it all is so monstrous that many of us can’t evade it. Worse still, it’s the other women in our lives who put most of the pressure on us. Be they someone who thinks they are contending with both career and family successfully, or someone who took a different path than you and thinks your choices are wrong. These people don’t even have to say anything, just you worrying about how they might be judging you is enough to make you feel guilt-ridden.
I haven’t had to make this decision yet, and already I can feel the guilt and uncertainty forming. I always thought that when I grew up and had children I would quit my job to stay home and be the best mother I possibly can be, but that was before I had a job that I actually enjoyed. When I ponder becoming the perfect little house-wife, my daydream is often severed by the thought of, “what will my mother think?” She worked very hard to ensure that my brother and I would have the life that she never had. Will she think I’m weak? Will she call me lazy? Will she talk about how selfish I am being? Will she understand that everyone wants to give their children the things they never had, and what I never had was a mother who was there when I needed her? Then I begin to wonder if it’s all even possible. What if my family can’t survive on my husband’s income alone? What if something terrible happens and I no longer have a husband? What if when the time comes, I don’t want to stop working?
The worst part is; the anxiety probably won’t subside after I’ve made a decision. If I choose to continue working I might worry about my children all day, where they are, who they are with and if they are ok. Then there are other concerns like, what if I miss a millstone like first words or first steps because I was so focused on my career? What if they feel abandoned by me? What if they don’t even miss me? And again, will other people think I’m selfish?
It appears, at first, that a compromise between the two will abolish any negative feelings. I’ll have the best of both worlds, won’t I? The problem with this notion is that the odds of it actually working out are far to slim. Eventually something will have to give, and someone will suffer. Your work might not be as good as it was before you became Superwoman, or your children might not be as healthy as they could have been. Maybe your partner will end up being the neglected one.
Without support for your choice from your partner, family, friends and others, no path will be easy. No choice will be clear-cut. Maybe if we support the women in our lives who have had to make these decisions before us, other woman will support us, in turn, when our time comes.