According to Alison Wolf, author of The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World, as a “graduate mother of four,” I’m an “extraordinarily rare beast.”
Not surprisingly, it’s a label that caught my eye. Having earned an undergraduate degree in economics, then taking several courses towards an MBA (the pursuit of which was halted, once I gave birth to twins), I’m not sure if I qualify in Wolf’s view as a “graduate” mom.
(But even if I don’t, I’ll say I do.)
For my first year of motherhood, I went back to a job I truly enjoyed and for which I was adequately (if not yet extremely well) compensated. It was the 1980s and the industry was IT: I worked for a software developer in Richardson, Texas. Day care was difficult to find (and hard to accept, after I visited the place). My solution: a nanny who arrived at my house at 8 am and left at 6.
Problem solved – for a while. I focused all my energy on my work, both in the office and at home. Of course, my husband helped; with two babies, he had to. But when he was offered a much better-paying position in a different state, I made a decision that Wolf says is rare for women with my educational background.
I took the road less traveled: I became a stay-at-home mom.
Even with my husband’s new job, it meant downsizing; as we simultaneously dealt with a home that was “underwater,” our stress increased. Not everyone understood our decisions, but we came up with a financial game plan (à la Dave Ramsey), and over time, it all worked out. We learned to live on one income – also something rare, according to Wolf – but something that “made all the difference.” *
That income increased over time, and so did our financial stability. We’d always wanted four kids, and our wish came true: when our twin boys were five, their brother was born; three years later, our daughter arrived. [I’ve read that “three is the new two” – as far as the “right” number of kids to have – but for me, baby #4 turned a crowd into a party.** And, well, I like parties.]
Now, our daughter is in college; “the boys” are all in their twenties. The road I took – raising kids (and managing/running a household, with no “outside” help ***) – has ended, and I’ve launched a new career as a writer. Abandoning my professional track years ago had its consequences (many of them described by Wolf), but it’s also had its benefits: more time with my family, [perhaps] less stress, and a happy marriage.
[I’m not saying my marriage wouldn’t be happy, had I kept working outside the home; I’m just saying I didn’t, and it is.]
As for being “an extraordinarily rare beast” – well, I find that to be a little pejorative, even judgy. I never engaged in “The Mommy Wars,” other than to defend my decision to stay home. Wolf refutes a New York Times article’s reference to a group of Atlanta mothers (that I don’t know, but who resemble lots of my friends) as representing an”exodus of professional women from the workplace;” she claims it’s statistically insignificant. Really?
Some (but not the vast majority) of my other friends and relatives, with various levels of education and compensation, continued in their careers when they became moms, without missing a beat, or much of one.
They chose to take the other road.
My jury’s out on Wolf’s latest book. My mother kept working because she felt she had to (while her mother provided free child care), and my daughter just began her university education. [Due to the rise of working women], is the world really far less “equal” for her than it was for me, and for my mom? Must all educated professional women be “like” educated professional men? Are there no other acceptable options? And is there only one route to a “successful” life – no exit or entrance ramps available?
If so, de mon côté, I’m still glad I took the road less traveled.* The last four words of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost ** “Two’s company, three’s a crowd, and four’s a party.” *** I did have “inside” help: my husband has always done the cooking.