women’s work

Someone left a comment on my first pregnancy post that went “Oh good, now you’ll never have to get a job. Perfect.”

I’d been waiting for it.  I deleted it quickly, as though I could unsee it. And then I sat, paralyzed, and tried not to cry.

My biggest immediate fear about this baby is that I won’t be able to work for a while afterward. Or, more confusingly, that maybe I won’t feel the incessant push to work.  I’ve had a regular job since I was fifteen. Before that, I babysat a lot and ran this summer day camp for little kids with my friend Meg (our schedule was DETAILED). I tracked every dollar I earned in a journal with a shiny blue cover. The first serious purchase I ever made was a giant purple trampoline from Sam’s Club, when I was ten, and it was very upsetting when our dog bit holes in the tough, black fabric, in her desperate effort to participate in the fun as we bounced.

(I kind of miss it now…source)

So many people my age are not doing what they think they should be doing with their lives. I know lots of people who are working a job that isn’t a “real job,” yet, and they’re unhappy. I am not exactly sure what I should be doing, but I am usually sure I’m not doing enough. That I should have more to show. I have this urge to apologize to the world for not being far enough along. For not being obvious enough in my successes. You know, like Lena Dunham. We writers and creative types are always talking about her. She’s so conveniently successful! We all want to be her a little, so that we can relax. We imagine that we could relax at that point.

There’s lots of talk about women “having it all” or not being able to “have it all” these days. Arguments back and forth about what that even means, and if it is indeed possible, and for whom it’s actually possible if it’s at all possible. Really, I think we’re expected to do it all, whether or not we have it all.


I feel guilty when I am not working. I have since I was a teenager. My parents are entrepreneurs who started a business from nothing and nursed it to viability and clung to it when it plummeted close to bankruptcy and dragged it back up again. They didn’t go to college—my dad realized he wouldn’t get in and he decided not to try. They just worked their asses off. Work has never stopped on the weekends in my family. My brothers and I didn’t go to school, and homeschooling for us meant that you are always working. Working is a part of life—it gets mixed up in play, sometimes they’re indistinguishable from one another, when you’re a kid without classes and grades. You can make money, too, during the day, on any day, if you can figure out what skills people will pay you for. I taught lessons in just about everything I could do reasonably well. I loved it.

I had an unusual upbringing, but I learned some of the same lessons that the rest of my peers seem to have internalized: you need to make something of yourself. And you need to do it now.

And it occurs to me that sometimes just showing the world that you’re running around working as hard and as fast as you can is the most important thing. The worst thing is looking lazy, or entitled, or privileged (people apologize for their privilege if they are receiving even the tiniest bit of support from their families or partners). The worst thing is looking like you’re doing nothing. If you haven’t made it to wherever “it” is, you should at least be sweating profusely from the effort of the climb.


I am realizing more and more that I am intensely afraid of appearing to not be throwing myself into my career, the way every self-respecting, educated, enlightened twenty-something woman should be. God forbid, I should look as though I am not doing enough. God forbid I should fail to scramble up higher and higher on the ladder of life until my accomplishments speak so clearly for themselves that I never again need to explain that, yes, I am working. I am always working.

And I am scared of what people will say when I have a baby. What if I stop doing everything else for a while and I spend time with that baby? Will I then be doing nothing?

More than anything, I would like to not have to try to explain.

I would like my friend who works at a coffee shop to not try to explain, constantly, that she will someday soon make sure to be at a different job, a job that commands more respect, even though she hates the thought of sitting in an office and loves the freedom of being able to dance in her spare time.

I would like all of us to stop trying to explain that this place, where we are, it is only temporary, we’re going somewhere grander, somewhere more serious, somewhere with a better view and a fitted suit and a title so gloriously simple that we only have to say it to be appreciated.

I was talking with a woman who just had a baby, and I asked her how she felt, professionally. She said she was going to figure that part out later, but that she was really happy to have a baby right now. And she seemed to trust herself completely. For a second, I wanted to be her more than anything else.


*   *   *

Are you where you want to be in your career? Are you proud of what you do for a living?

Unroast: Today I love the way I feel when I can see a river. There is nothing like a river to put things in perspective.


Kate on February 21st 2013 in life, pregnancy, work

82 Responses to “women’s work”

  1. Sheryl responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 10:26 am #

    I’m nowhere near where I want to be in my career. I went into university so sure I was set to be a professor, and then I realized that even though I love academics and I love my subject I just didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in school, I didn’t want to have to go into even more debt to get to a career, and I wanted to see more of the real world before I commited to all that.

    Then I entered the “real world” right in the middle of a recession and realized that there aren’t any jobs that are interesting out there right now. Even worse, I live in a small city in central Ontario that’s entirely based around being a commuter town for Toronto, so the options that open up are few and far between.

    I’d like a 9 to 5. I’m good with structure. But since entering the work world I’ve really untied my happiness and sense of personal success from my career. I take pride in trying to do my job well, but my job isn’t something I’m proud of. But there are more important things about me than what tasks I trade for money.

  2. Kate responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 10:29 am #

    I’m impressed that you separated your happiness and success from your career. I feel like my whole identity is wrapped up in mine, and so many people I know are similar. When we can’t get the job we want, it can feel like we’ve failed at life. Which is such a huge amount of pressure, especially during a time when it’s so hard to get a job.

  3. Sheza responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 10:29 am #

    You are right. I don’t know what we are trying to prove and to whom. I’m a school teacher and I find myself giving excuses to people when they ask me why I’m “wasting” my degree at a school. But honestly I love being a school teacher. And I don’t want to have to give explanations for it.

  4. Meg responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 11:10 am #

    This is the exact kind of women-directed and career-deifying pressure that pisses me off.

    I’m in my 30s (about halfway in, so not just dipping my toes in), and I’m always so thankful for that. Once you leave your 20s, most people (my father not included, but he’s sometimes a total tool) are so much less ridiculous about the whole “where you should be in life at this age” thing or the “how much you should be earning” thing or the “are feminist-leaning mothers supposed to work or stay home” thing. In your 30s, I think people allow you more leeway to just do what you want or need to do, instead of making every *$^&ing decision about capital-C Career or advancing women’s lib in the workplace. It’s not liberation if it’s just forcing us all into a different flipping box.

    And a box is exactly what it felt like through most of my 20s. I’m good at math and the sciences, so I was strongly urged into math and science as a career path, because I was supposed to be an inspiration to other girls. I scored highly on tests, so everyone had some expectation that I should have a strong career drive and a desire to earn lots of money. But I really just like working alongside other people and acting in a support capacity (I don’t want to be a high-powered boss). And I like the arts and literature and soap-making. I don’t care about having lots of money. I don’t need cable TV, I have a 10-year-old Honda that just won’t quit (NEVER an issue or repair needed, not one), and I like my free time to knit and see friends and read books and bake tons of cookies.

    And I also don’t want to have kids, which ALSO weirded plenty of people out when I was 25. And it was like…so, what, I’m supposed to have a super career, inspire other girls who may not like science to go into it, definitely have a kid, but never take time off to take care of the little life I created? What a load of BS. You’re right: even though everyone admits we can’t have it all, we’re expected to do it all anyway, even if it makes us miserable. That doesn’t stop magically when you hit 30, but it definitely seems like the pressure lessens. Like, “Well, you didn’t get it already, so you’re a lost cause, so we’ll go bug some younger people now.” :)

    Now, there’s actually a *ton* of evidence that having kids early is better for women’s career trajectory overall (Penelope Trunk lists it all on her career-life-etc blog). You’re at almost exactly the right age to do it, career-wise. But I think it’s a hard age to do it in our society, because people don’t treat 20-somethings as adults in so many ways. I definitely see my friends having kids in their 30s in an easier position in some ways. If you’re in your 30s and have a kid, people don’t immediately start lecturing you about how you’re making a mistake if you take time off of work. By this age, many (not all, unfortunately) people seem to realize that life is full of so-called interruptions like babies and hospitalizations and diseases and weddings and siblings’ legal troubles and parents’ failing health. I mean, real life is *always* going to get in the way of perfect working conditions. Welcome to being a human, you know? And I’d *much* rather have a baby take a few months away from work than a family member being hospitalized, which seems to be happening to everyone at my current place of employment. No one is crabbing at them about their careers.

    Personally, in spite of my high scholastic and work achievements, I don’t want a career and I’m very happy not to have one. I want useful employment. I want a vocation. I want to help people on a daily basis. However, I really don’t care what form that takes, or if there’s some ladder involved, or if it’s always in the same field or same capacity as I age. I get just as much of my identity and self-worth from my out-of-work life and friends and relationships. I don’t see why one way or the other should be more highly-valued. I see value in both. If someone’s lucky enough to be in a field that energizes and fulfills them, AWESOME. I’m not knocking that and think it’s fantastic that some people are wired that way and find that. If the sort of things that energize and fulfill you are found in something other than a single career path, why can’t that be awesome, too? Or maybe you really like both? Again, is the world so small and limited that this isn’t okay?

    So, yeah, the haters can just step off and worry about their own lives. It shows a lack of maturity and insight and life experience to leave a comment like that on your website. He or she should take his or her damn temper tantrum elsewhere.

    PS: Rivers are really awesome. I always felt similarly about Lake Superior, back when I lived in Minnesota.

  5. Kate responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 11:14 am #

    This is so badass and I immediately want you to write a book about this so that I can read every word.

    It’s really, really encouraging to hear about differences between the twenties and thirties, and I’ve heard other people say that a lot of that relentless pressure in their twenties suddenly changed in their thirties, or maybe they just had better perspective. That is my favorite thing about aging and I’m seriously hoping it happens to me.

  6. Marissa responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 11:16 am #

    Dear Kate;
    I send you a heartfelt hug.
    I am on the opposite end of the scale of self assessment you are now dealing with. Growing up in an alcoholic dysfunctional home left me directionless. The one needle on my compass came from my love of growing up with Little House on the Prairie books. Self sufficiency, and a big family tripped my trigger. One thing I could do well was work hard. I got married, had 6 kids, practiced attachment parenting, breastfed forever, became a Certified Professional Midwife with a solo homebirth practice, homeschooled my kids through high school (still have 2 at home), was a foster parent, we raised most of our own food, and now I am a londlord. Whew!

    Five years ago I went down in flames. My adrenals burned out. I could no longer participate in my own life. I became depressed. None of this was part of the plan. And there in lies the problem….The Plan.

    This could end up being a really long story, but what I really want to share is the realization I had that–we can make all the plans we want to. We can agonize over our self worth as we see it connected to what we are doing/planning/trying to achieve in the future, but the real truth is ‘all we have is today’. If we constantly live in tomorrow, in what we will achieve in the future; or we are always beating ourselves with yesterday–what we see as our failures or shortcoming–we miss out on the greatest gift life has to offer us…and that is today. Today is the only reality we have. If most of our lives are spent on plans for ‘tomorrow’ then we miss what is real and standing right in front of us. When we live in ‘today’ the sense of urgency disappears. I came to realize that; I might not make it to tomorrow-for whatever reason- and that made me see that everything I am doing ‘today’ is essentially important–even if that means just kissing my babies toes. That act alone is the most important thing for me to do today. Tomorrow will present it’s own set of options.
    I have also come to realize that where I am in my career is no longer important to me because life is fluid and things, goals, interests change. At one point I thought I would be a midwife forever. I loved the work, the women, families, babies. And I miss them. But I can no longer give up the sleep because it affects my health. So now I find myself in the interesting place of seeing what is next. When I look back I can now see that Life has always presented Itself to me when I was ready. I’m old enough (51) to trust that now.
    I wish you well in your pregnancy and if you would like the view of pregnancy as a normal life event, rather than a medical occurrence, I would heartily recommend midwifery care for your birth. (Just a little tip that helped me immensely; after 2 pregnancies of non-stop nausea I found relief by squeezing 1-2 lemons into a quart of water and sipping that through out the day; no more puking!)

    ps I really enjoy your articles in Home Education Magazine too!

  7. Claire responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 11:24 am #

    After working on my Master’s degree for about two years I got a job offer in Europe. I took it thinking I was close enough to being done with my degree that I could finish it in a few months, but because of several factors it has kept being delayed. Now it’s been a year and it’s still not done, and although I know many people would struggle with moving to Europe, working (even if it is technically part time until I get my MS) and finishing their thesis, and people looking at my resume would understand why it took me a little longer, I still feel really ashamed and guilty that I haven’t finished and graduated yet.

    I’m sure in 20, 10, even 5 years it won’t matter, but right now I feel like I need to apologize for not doing things the “ideal” or “normal” way. People only seem to notice what I still haven’t done, what I’ve failed to accomplish yet, rather than all the exciting things I have done that wouldn’t be possible without taking the job. I sometimes feel they treat me like I’ve made some incredibly poor life choice rather than just doing things a little differently.

  8. Allyson responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 11:36 am #

    I know I’m not where I want to be in my career, but what scares me is the fact that I have no clue what I want to do when I grow up, jus that it’s not what I’m currently doing. I don’t dislike my job, but I see it as a job, something that’s okay for now, but not a career. I also feel ungrateful for that, because I’m young and have something resembling a traditionally sucessful office job that many people twice my age would kill for, in fact, some of them work for me. But I can’t do this same job the rest of my life, and I feel like I’m running in place and have no idea where to go from here. But, I guess I shouldn’t really complain, because I know I have it relatively good, especially given the economy. And maybe I’ll figure out what I want to do when I grow up!

  9. Jessie responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Your unroast made me think of one of my favorite passages by one of my favorite authors, Anne Tyler:

    “Oh, didn’t a river rest your eyes! She sank into a peaceful trance, watching how the water seemed to gather itself as it traveled toward a sharp bend. It swelled up in loose, silky tangles and then it smoothed and flowed on, transparent at the edges but nearly opaque at the center, as yellow-green and sunlit as a bottle in a window. She drifted with it, dreaming.”

    If only life itself were as dreamy and relaxing and lovely . . . :-)

  10. Sarah L responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    I was always overly conscientious when it came to work – I also started working at fifteen. I never considered that not working like a demon was actually a life choice, but at the same time, I’ve never been particularly specific about it – I’ve just taken opportunities as they have arisen. I wanted to be a journalist, so I did a journalism degree, got a job at a magazine. After a year, I decided to go overseas so I threw caution to the wind and set off on a gap year, basing myself in London. People said I was crazy for throwing away my career prospects and leaving a good job. I was 22 years old! If I couldn’t travel and see the world then, when would I?

    As it happened I landed in a corporate communications job in a high profile company in London, and that became my life for the next two years. The working in a pub and saving enough to travel thing never quite eventuated. I did get to travel plenty, though. I came back home and continued my corporate career, and then at 28 had my first baby. Like you I had no concept of what I would do, how I would explain myself, if I didn’t have work. I had decided that I would definitely return to work full time after 12 months, which seemed like a lifetime.

    A funny thing happened. After stepping off the corporate treadmill, I became so involved in my life outside work, thinking, reading, writing, and of course caring for my baby, that I never went back! Imagine that! It’s seven years later and I’m only now considering dipping my toe back into the waters of a “proper career.”

    Occasionally I’ve felt the need to explain myself, to have more to show for where I am. But I know I’m guilty of judging myself so much more harshly than I would judge others. So I remind myself that I would not judge another person for being where I am, so why do I apply stricter standards to myself? What’s important to me is building my empathy, my kindness, my tolerance, my patience, my understanding of how I work and how other people work. Nothing will help you with those goals more than parenthood. I’ve let go (mostly) of the need for external validation. I *know* I’m growing, so I’m cool with that.

    Of course I think about what I have missed by choosing an alternative life to the one I had envisaged. But my advice to you would be: don’t worry about all of that right now. Your choices won’t be taken away. As a writer, you may be in one of the best professions to be able to keep working, if you want to, after your baby is born. You can do it anywhere and at anytime. All you need is some time, your thoughts and a laptop! And having a child is all-consuming, sure, particularly at first. But there is this myth that new mothers are incapable of thinking about anything else, and that if they do, they are somehow failing their child. I read an entire novel the first night my second child was born because she slept the whole time! And with my son, who was a non-sleeper, I surrendered to the idea that he needed to be close to me to sleep, and spent many hours reclined on the couch, book or computer close by, with my sleeping babe sighing peacefully on my chest.

    I think as long as you are prepared to develop a more fluid notion of what work means to you, you don’t have to give it up. Embrace the widening of your identity that motherhood provides. You’re not being replaced by a “mother”, you’ll still be you. Sometimes I am playing with my 6 and 4 year old and I look around and wonder when their mother will be here to collect them. Then I look into their little faces with the recognition that I belong to them (not them to me) and I can hardly remember a time when they weren’t here.

    It’s awesome.

  11. skye responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    @ Kate and @Meg: THANK YOU for your perspectives. Gosh. I spent the first 8 or so years of my career in overdrive, climbing and achieving and impressing people, and I have had a very, very difficult time allowing myself to start doing what I actually want to do. I just turned thirty, and I feel like it’s finally happening! But not without confidence and identity crises about every other week :)

    I think as I’ve rounded up to thirty, I’ve started to think harder about how I want to spend the hours I have here on earth. Maybe that sounds kind of morbid. But I’ve started thinking about career and life decisions in terms of time. I get one life. I am personally inclined to spend a lot of it outside, in the woods or my garden, instead of at a desk. I haven’t found a job that has fulfilled me more deeply than this. I’m still ambitious, but I’ve redirected that ambition toward goals that have nothing to do with what my life looks like from the outside, from the perspective of other people who would prefer I took a similar path to theirs, perhaps to help them justify years spent on trains or at desks, wishing they were somewhere else.

    Everyone should do what they want to be doing! Right now! We don’t have all the time in the world.

  12. Mallory responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    I’m about about to graduate from college in May, and this post voices all these concerns I’ve had – thoughts I’ve had that I felt odd voicing out loud.

    I’ve never been career focused in the way I felt I was supposed to be. I studied a topic in school that is in a creative yet very competitive field, and definitely has a clear career trajectory if you look at it that way. Now that I’m about to be launched into the ‘real world,’ I feel like I’m missing some element of the young college graduate. It’s so true – in the culture of America, mainstream or not, you need to be ambitious to not seem lazy. You need to take full advantage of the cards you’ve been dealt. Kate – you struck such a strong cord with me about apologizing for privilege. I grew up as a very comfortable middle-class white girl in a school that was mainly lower-income minorities. I learned early on how to be very sensitive about this. I would sometimes lie about where I went on vacation or be wary of introducing my friends to my house which, I knew, was most likely much nicer than they were used to. I feel a pressure to take advantage of all I’ve been given – it’s not enough just to appreciate it and be thankful for it. I feel I have little basis for my complaints about being unsure of my life choices, doubts about my career choice, or even my own feelings. I know from personal experience that there are people who had no choice in their life’s path and had only a fraction of the opportunities I’ve been given.

    But I value leisure. More than Americans are supposed to. I like taking hours to make meals for people I care about. I don’t have much desire to be hugely successful or powerful or climb the corporate ladder. I want to do something gratifying but I’m not sure that’s the thing I studied for four years. I want travel and see and do – it is so odd that my life goals, as they stand now, are to be able to enjoy my life, rather than be successful at my job? I worry about being seen as the Gen-Y-er who has no work ethic. Because I do.

    From what I’ve heard and experienced, one of the major things that Europe/other parts of the world, mostly, doesn’t understand about Americans is how much we work and are expected to work. This contributes to so much of the stereotypical impatient culture they scoff at, and yet, they don’t understand the culture of anti-lazy that supports it. Of course, this is a generalization. But are other nations lazy, or just live in a culture that values balance more?

    These are all things that have been rolling around my head for some time. Like any 22-year-old, I’m just trying to sort it all out. They say youth is wasted on the young, but young people have certain unique pressures put on them that others don’t. Because youth is so glorified, the struggles we face can be ignored as unnecessary complaining. This is supposed to be the time of my life, the most fun I’ll have, the best I’ll ever be physically, the time to put my mark on the world, the time to meet my life partner, the time to be in shape, the time to get educated, the time to be sexy and desirable, the time to prevent aging, the time to do crazy things you’ll recount later when things are normal and boring, the time to do all these things before age makes things unremarkable/undo-able.


    Ultimately, I just try to remind myself that what will be will be, and no amount a planning or life-anxiety can alter that. I just need to, as some of you have emphasized, be able to life in the moment. But what a task that is!

    My apologies if my rambling got out of hand.

    Finally, I just wanted to thank you, Kate. You don’t know how awesome it has been to read your thoughts – you have such a unique gift of articulating issues that are easily oversimplified. You tackle the complexity of the female experience so well and something speaks to me personally on every post. And, well, you’re a great writer. Best of luck!

  13. Christine responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Hey Kate. I’ve followed your posts for a little while now, and I’ve found the pregnancy/motherhood ones particularly interesting. Like similar posters, I feel like I’ve spent the first 25 years of my life proving myself – growing up with all boys, really good at math and science (and just about any other subject), homeschooled for a little while, driven, etc. I’ve never had to deal with sexism in a blatant way, just an underlying tone of surprise at my successes kind of way.

    I guess the reason why I feel compelled to reply to your post today is because as of Saturday, I’m a stay at home mom. That’s “it.” I started to work from home when my baby was born last year, and I’ve slowly realized that not only was it INCREDIBLY HARD to work from home without additional childcare (that’s another story…) but I just didn’t care enough about the job anymore. It was a great job, one I’d often described as my dream job and it was an important job, the kind where you help people and it makes you feel good about yourself and other people feel better about themselves. But having a baby changed my life – and this isn’t a bad thing! I want to be a mom. I still catch myself when people ask me what I do, because my immediate reaction seems to be an apology. I “just stay home.” What I’m sure you’ll realize is that after the baby is born, your opinions and expectations about work (whatever they are) will change and grow as you get used to having another person in your life. And whatever you decide, it’s ok. This is one stay-at-home-mom who thinks that the judging and comparing needs to end!

    Best of luck with the rest of your pregnancy!

  14. Sarah responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    I think a rotten truth about being female is that no matter what choice you make regarding your career and family, people will feel free to tell you it’s wrong.

    I’m about to turn 35 and, because a couple of long-term relationships didn’t pan out (in hindsight, thank goodness), I’m not married, I have no kids, and most all of my friends are married with kids present or on the way. My career is solid and where I want it to be and I’m more grateful for that blessing (and the fruit of that hard work) than I can say.

    But do I wish I had a family? Yes, very much. And do I feel like “I’ve done it wrong”? Yes, more often than I’d like to admit.

    Somehow, it seems like we’re all of us, no matter what we choose, wrong. Which is exhausting. Why couldn’t it be that maybe, we’re all right?

  15. Emily responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    As you know, being in graduate school makes people ask you what you will do after. I say the same thing every single time “it doesn’t matter to me, I’m happy doing anything”.

  16. Cait responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Having just recently cleared the hurdle of turning 25 and thus no longer existing in the land of the “young 20-somethings,” I can identify with some of what you mean about our demographic feeling like we’re constantly falling short. And I respect that many, many people find fulfillment through other things in life and then work to survive and feel good about that. But I think there is tremendous value in also digging in your heels and doing the necessary and incredibly difficult soul searching that is required to figure out what could really fulfill you in a career. And I don’t even mean in a career, like earn lots of money, kind of way. I guess I mean more in the “What are you contributing to the world, every day, what skills are you bringing and cultivating, and with whom are you sharing your talents and spectacular-ness on a daily basis?” kind of way. Maybe that’s being a mom. Maybe that’s being a mailman. For me, that’s being a midwife (in a few years). Nursing school is wicked hard. But I am so, SO excited to be a CNM, that I don’t even care. I just can’t wait to do this work for the rest of my life.

  17. Cay responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    Thank you for writing this, Kate. I was just wishing to read something that I could relate to, and this was it.

    I do have my own website, but I am too reserved to write about the type of truths that you share. I think that your openness really draws women to you. Maybe one day I will dare to be as open.

    The truth is, I don’t think that pushing myself into the places where I didn’t belong ever really worked. I’m a creative person. I worked so hard to earn degrees in law and finance because I thought it would make my family love me. In the end, we all stayed the same.

    I am a freelance writer. I married into a family that treats me the way I dreamed that my own family would. My life is neither impressive nor lucrative, especially when compared with my peers. I am wildly in student loan debt, but I have never felt safer or happier.

    From time to time, I still wonder what would have happened if I got to where I believed I would end up. I don’t know who that person would be. But I am so grateful for everything in the present, my sweet husband, my safe home, and being able to write. It was all very humbling, and eye-opening, and probably for the best.

  18. Harriet May responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    I’m so glad you wrote this, because it’s exactly how I feel. Especially the part about Lena Dunham. I love her, but I envy her a little (ok a lot).

  19. Deb responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Thought provoking article and comments, people! Your “hater” merely sounds envious of your choices. Chances are, they have a similar ability to choose their life, but dont know how to get over their belief that work is what lifeis about. Clearly, the experience of bringing a new life into the world leads many women to shift priorities despite the Western culture of work/achievement. This is a GOOD thing. At the end of the day, we all want to be happy and how we define and achieve that is up to us.

  20. M responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Dearest Kate,

    I think it will be this way for a wee while. But have faith it will stop. Why? I know it will stop because you are a brave authentic woman who is evolving. There will come a time where nothing about ‘being labeld’ will matter. Look above this message…look how many women you inspired to open their own souls in response to your soul message. I have an opinion, but the beauty of evolution is to know when to keep it to myself. You will offer both your family and the world lots of beauty and richness. Accept it as your truth.

  21. morgaine responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    I wish more people understood that every job needs its own kind of intelligence. Parenting is damn respectable work, and let no one tell you it’s just coasting.

    I am, among other things, a model. As a former Latin scholar, I’m on a one-woman crusade to convince the world (and maybe myself) that posing for cameras is just as legitimate an occupation as translating Cicero. I design a lot of my own shoots, and on the set, I’m thinking constantly about texture and angles and scenery. I’m thinking about how to hold my body to catch the best possible light and how to paint my face for optimal drama. A hell of a lot goes into a good photograph – just like a hell of a lot goes into a good cup of coffee, or oil change, or anything else that people consider “beneath” them.

    Even in “easy” occupations, so much goes on behind the scenes that most of us would find pretty damn challenging. Everything can be rewarding in some capacity.

  22. PJ responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    Hang in there, Kate! The 30s are better than the 20s, the 40s are better than the 30s, and now the 50s are better than the 40s. Every decade just gets better and I’m looking forward (faraway as they may yet be) to my 60s. I don’t know if it’s true for men, but for myself and other women I’ve spoken with, you just get freer the older you get. <—— I tell this very stuff to my daughter, too.

  23. Marley responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Loved this post. I am always feeling like this, I’ve made a huge career change as a somewhat result. But I am happy where I am heading. I am relieved to know it’s not just my perfectionist type A personality that feels this way..but perhaps other women too. The comments on here are lovely as well. Perhaps it is more of a societal pressure than I thought.

    I graduated from school as an Actress..so when I went into the recession having been a busy straight A student my whole life to jobless and in limbo, I went crazy. It was a blessing in disguise because I really had to self analyze and separate what I truly valued from what society tells me to value. I still struggle with it but that life experience and time (with plenty of mistakes and stumbles) has made me a bit more even keeled.

    Don’t feel guilty about taking time off work. You will have a baby to be with, how wonderful an opportunity. Like one comment said here, you have today. Take it a day at a time and trust your own decisions for your own life, not what outsiders may say. You are great!

  24. Emmi responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    I don’t have a career. I have a job. This was a deliberate choice.

    When I was first embarking into college, my vision never really included other people. I would go to class, read and write in beautiful places, poke around shops, keep my own counsel. This plan was promptly turned on its head when I almost instantly made a huge circle of friends at college, and two years later I dropped all my classes and was totally focused on them. Ten years later, I’m not in close contact with 95% of these people – the most notable exception being the man who is now my husband. I certainly never expected him to come into my life, and become the best part of it.

    Back at the beginning, he and I felt like we should have careers – the issue was, in what? I had wanted to be a veterinarian but was incredibly allergic to animals. Nothing in our lives sparked our passions enough for us to really pursue (nothing that would make us any money, anyhow) in higher learning or the workforce. So we got jobs, and tried to figure things out.

    Four years ago when I became dreadfully ill and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease I had to re-evaluate a lot of things in my life. And I realized, working my job and then going home – that’s exactly what I wanted. A career would have brought me a lot of guilt, during the times I wasn’t completely throwing myself into it. I can’t do that, and have my time with my husband too. I also couldn’t really begin to have it now since stress makes me physically sick. But I never feel guilty now, that I’ve been in the same job in a small company for almost seven years, that my salary hasn’t skyrocketed, that I don’t have anything exciting to tell at school reunions (I don’t go to ‘em!). I am happy, happier than I ever anticipated. I think that if my husband hadn’t come into my life and I did launch into a career, I’d be perfectly content – but I am so, so glad this did not happen, considering this alternative. There’s no contest.

    As for you taking time off after you have your baby – I think I would be shocked if you *didn’t*. It wouldn’t seem like you, the “you” that I have come to vaguely know through the Intarwebs. I have visions of you spending oodles of time with your beautiful child, making quick notes about writing topics here and there, delving into them during kiddo’s naps and other times, finding that when you’re interrupted and you go back to your writing you see ways to revise it that make the piece even better.

    I may be an Epicurean fool, but here’s my viewpoint: If you are happy, there is no need for comparison.

  25. Raven responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Wow. What a . . . well, comment. I’ll leave the adjectives to someone else.

    First, raising a child is work, no matter what else you do with your life. Second, and I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but having my daughter twelve years ago was a huge catalyst. Sure, you need a few months in the beginning to recover from birth, take your time moving back into something resembling a routine, and enjoy the “halo of light” that many people feel postpartum. Three months. But after that? If you’re anything like me, and often you say things I’ve thought or experienced myself that maybe we’re similar enough, you’ll find having a child not only inspires you to do work — besides parenting — but also to do more meaningful work than you’d ever considered.

    And if you do decide that during your child’s development working to raise and educate your child is most important? And you can afford to be a single-income family? Enjoy your time. You may find as you go being inspired to do all sorts of things you never thought you’d wanted to do. I’ve become insanely passionate about food security and sustainable farming, I’ve actually written and COMPLETED three books with two more to go, and plenty of revision. All of this because the world changed for me when my daughter was born. And all of these things I’ve been able to share with her as she’s grown, to show her how much it means to me, and how much working on these issues is important to the grand scheme of the world and to my life in the microcosm.

    So ignore those who actually think that having a child isn’t work and that it’s a great way to avoid working. You were raised as a homeschooler; you know the standard work most people consider when they say “work” isn’t anything like what you were already doing or dreaming of doing. Continue to be unconventional, take your time with this pregnancy to explore your emotions and face your fears or worries, and when you’ve passed through that three month marker and start to see the world again, give yourself time to find a rhythm, to create a new routine, and to consider what matters to you on the other side. You’ll find your good work in this life, no matter what shape it takes, and you’ll pursue it because you didn’t grow up with the idea drilled into your head that it had to be one way or not at all.

    *big hugs* Take deep breaths, you’ve got this.

  26. Laura responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    The Feminine Mystique just turned fifty. Somewhere in the flurry of articles in the news because of this anniversary, I read that Betty Friedan didn’t advocate that women take just any job for the sake of having a job. She recognized that could be a trap in and of itself. Instead, she advocated that women work or volunteer in positions that they found satisfying, challenging, and a good use of their skills. The message was not that women must be part of the labor force, but instead that women shouldn’t feel abnormal for wanting challenges outside of of the home. Somewhere over the course of the past five decades, this idea, this goal, seems to have morphed into (or been distorted as) “Women (or at least feminist women) must hold a job.”

    I suspect that not all men find the idea of spending their lives climbing the corporate ladder fulfilling, but if they’re career-driven, or even express doubts about a career-driven life, they’re considered lazy and lacking initiative. Because our society hasn’t completely settled how it feels about having large numbers of women in the workforce, we can express doubts about a career-driven life if we wish without as much stigma as men face for similar views. In my ideal feminist utopia, where masculinity was not such a straight jacket and things like nurturing were valued, though not gendered, men and, whether parents or not, men and women, whether parents or not, would be able to determine their work/life and work/family balance based on their interests and skills, not societal pressure towards conformity.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few months pondering my own feelings about goals, work, and finding value in a job versus other things in life. For five years or so, since I was middle school-aged, I’ve been planning on becoming an organic farmer — keeping poultry, gardening, reading about organic farming, even attending organic farming conferences. Then I spent four months interning on an organic farm last summer, and I wasn’t nearly as happy as I expected. There were plenty of reasons why I wasn’t happy that had nothing to do with farming, so I’m going to give another internship a try this year. If I don’t enjoy myself more this time, it will be time to consider doing something else with my life.

    As I’ve come to peace with the fact that I may or may not end up becoming an organic farmer, I’ve come to think that our culture’s idea that we should have our whole lives figured out by our early twenties is silly. Even if I don’t become a farmer, I’ll be glad that I at least gave it a try. I’ll have lived in places I never would have before, lived and worked with amazing people I never would have met otherwise, and learned to truly appreciate the hard work it takes to produce food. Because I wasn’t focused on getting into a good college during my high school years, if I pursue a different career, I’ll probably have to take some extra math and sciences classes to go back to college, but that’s okay. I think I might be interested in becoming a midwife if I’m not a farmer, and I doubt I would have ever realized I was interested in birthwork if my focus in high school had been AP Calculus. I’d rather my life be full of interesting detours than a dull straight path.

    Really, when it comes down to it, we change throughout our lives, we evolve as people, our needs and obligations evolve, and our interests evolve, too. Perhaps it should be considered normal to be doing different jobs in our twenties, forties, and sixties. We can take a cue from honeybees, who take roles of caretakers, guards, and foragers at different points in their lives.

  27. Janet T responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    ok we all need to agree Meg is awesome. (and the rest of you are too)
    I feel about the Pacific Ocean the way you feel about rivers (but I do love rivers too)
    As someone who had her first child at 25, and her second at 29 and worked through both then quit at 31 to stay home with the kids, I understand what you are talking about.
    When I worked I felt like I had a different worth than when I was a stay at home Mom(SAHM). And often other women treated me like being a SAHM made me, I don’t know, somehow brainless? And other women were wonderful about it. I had a really hard time adjusting to being at home, because I had either worked or been in school, or both since I was 9. I had employed a housekeeper/nanny and had people who worked for me. I used to joke that not only did I now have to make my own coffee, I had to clean my own toilets. It was an interesting transistion, and took me 18 months to get used to the whole SAHM thing. And then I loved it and felt how blessed I was that I was able to have this opportunity. Who ever thinks that raising children is doing “nothing” has never done it. And why belittle someone else’s choice that way? We do not all have to take the same path. Don’t explain or apologize for your choices. Kate, I think you are going to have to work on an intimidating stare! or a polite chuckle- something that says- I cannot believe you just said that!

  28. San D responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    I’m on the other end of the life spectrum in that I am retired, and people ask me all of the time “what do you do?”, as if all I am/was, is tethered to my career. I am more than what I did/do. Right now, my answer is “I do whatever I damn well please!” Sometimes life does feel like a race, with distinct winners and losers. Well, as most have indicated in their own way, the race is at your own pace, and in your own way. Motherhood will change your race completely in ways you can’t even imagine at this time (think hurdles thown randomly). Your path will change, double around, end, begin, go through sunny days, through muddy wet cold days, but since you are a “worker” you will work your way through the race in ways that you can’t even predict. Suffice it to say, I predict that you will “work” the hardest you ever have being a mother because you know all that is at stake.

  29. damla responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    I am a 27 year old artist. After getting my masters (during which I did lots of teaching assistantships, and was surprised to find out I was good at teaching) my life has been a bounce back and forth sessional faculty positions at universities’ fine arts departments, serving at restaurants, tutoring Photoshop, doing people’s websites, etc. So when someone asks me what I’m doing, if I happen to be teaching at that period, I get the ‘Aren’t you too young for that?’, but if I happen to be working at a coffeeshop, I get the implied ‘Aren’t you too young for that?’ – Funny thing is, these jobs often overlap. They have to, as none of them pay enough. Two years ago, I was serving at a restaurant with douchebag clientele and one of my former students, 7-8 years younger than me, happened to be there with a bunch of her friends. She told me she couldn’t believe I was working there. A couple months later I ran into her again, and she told me her friends ‘made fun of her, saying that’s what her fine arts degree would get her in the future… being a server’. I told her to lose the friends.

    Kate, thanks for this post. Not only it is valid on the general level that no one should be apologetic for what makes them happy, but also it speaks to an issue particular to our generation – no jobs, or let’s say no jobs that pay you enough to make a living without support, constant struggle for happiness and finding out what your real desire is, and the complete conflict that lies in between.

  30. Rapunzel responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Oh heavens, no. I have a degree in Ecology and I work a minimum wage crap job at a newspaper, manually putting together newspapers and their respective inserts. It’s awful, but it’s not fast food I suppose, which I would somehow hate more.

    I do feel like a failure at life largely because of my job situation. The worst part is that even for the jobs I HAVE had that are in my field, I didn’t fully enjoy them. I already know I don’t want to go hiking around beaver ponds in the middle of nowhere seasonally for the rest of my life. And other than loving the SUBJECT of Ecology, and just not liking the actual work of it (I guess?), I have no idea what to do. I’ve tried answering the old question, “What’s your dream job?” for like two years, and I can’t come up with anything. I don’t even have any hobbies or interests that I know I wish I could do full time. I feel excessively lost, if lost is something you can feel excessively.

    Maybe I just feel overwhelmed. You sound a little overwhelmed too, or maybe just worried about things. You’ve better things to think about than to worry about your career when your business is all about growing a baby right now. It’s okay to take time off from work to enjoy life you know. I don’t think people realize that enough. No regrets, Kate! Don’t look back on this time and wish that you had worried less about stuff like this.

    “The great wave threatened to overwhelm her, but for now she held it back, if one young woman can hold back the ocean.” -First Rider’s Call, Kristen Britain

  31. Kate responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    Fantastic quote. Fantastic comment, as usual.
    Isn’t it hard to tell what you’ll regret later on in the moment? I always assume I’ll regret not being successful enough, career-wise, but that might be totally wrong. Ecology seems like a cool degree to have, no matter what. My degrees are in religion, and I loved studying it and could never figure out what to do with it after, which is why I figured I’d just teach it.

  32. Kate responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    @San D
    Beautifully put! I love your response. I want to say that later on, when I’m where you are. I love your description of what motherhood might be like. It’s a crazy adventure, and even crazier in a way, for being so normal.

  33. Kate responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Holy shit, I’m reading my way up the list, and ALL of these comments are friggin’ amazing. I LOVE everything you just said. I think that, too, about how oppressive masculinity can be, especially where career is concerned. I have these conversations with Bear, about his career. He feels even more obligated than I do to keep going and keep going, and I am so driven! I think the way that he’s driven has much more to do with his masculinity than mine does with my femininity. Although I did grow up in a world where being a woman definitely involves having a career, and a serious, impressive one, if you can possibly make that happen. At least, that’s the dream. And it’s a hard thing to realize about yourself, when you begin to think that maybe you don’t want that as much as you’re supposed to, in certain ways.
    I will be so interested to learn what happens next for you. Midwives are amazing. Organic farmers rock. Detours are where the adventure happens.

  34. Brea responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    Have you read the book “Radical Homemakers” by Shannon Hayes? I read it at a juncture in my life where I was facing the same questions and it was a revelation. It focused on the co-optation of feminism by industrialism/corporatism and it made so much sense to me. It is about the home as a center of production and civilization.

    I don’t have kids yet, but a few years after college I became disabled and it really made me re-evaluate life and cultural messages and all that stuff. I had been an ultra-driven overachiever type all my life, and now I am decidedly not. But life is better now, and my perspective is deeper.

  35. Kate responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    I’ll check it out, thank you!!

  36. Sarah S responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    I took a year off from a tenured, titled position in a full-time professional orchestra. I scared the crap out of my parents, management, and fellow musicians, who thought I’d starve and or/abandon music entirely (Funny, that’s what would have happened had I continued down my path as a stressed out, anorexic violinist.) In that period, however, I regained my mental and physical health, and nurtured a fledgling LDR which is still going strong. None of these things would have been possible had I not stopped trying to “be productive” and accomplished. Honestly, I’m not sure I would even be here today had I not taken a break. Anyhow, I guess what I’m saying, Kate, is to trust your instincts. Do what feels right for you now, knowing (and being ok with the possibility) that it can change as you go through life.

    I still say I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! I’m almost thirty-eight. :)

  37. McKella responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    I don’t have kids yet, but I’d like to in the next couple years. Of course, I’m dealing with thoughts like “I’d better have my art and writing career up and running by then, or it will never happen!” and “if I don’t travel before then, I’ll never get to”. A lot of fear-based thoughts, but having children in the next few years feels right, and when I examine those thoughts, I realize that they have nothing to do with what I really want. I’m perfectly ok with building my career slowly and only having that as a part time gig to bring in some extra money and still have a creative outlet when I’m a busy mom. I’m know I can be happy even if I don’t travel the world, and I’m ok with having a home instead of vagabonding, even if it does make me boring.
    It comes down to what feels right to us and what we really want. When I’m honest with myself, I feel peaceful toward all of these things.

  38. Michele responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    I didn’t even get though your entire post before it hit me… Why exactly do most women feel like they have to apologize for EVERYTHING? Too pretty, aren’t pretty enough… Work, feel guilty about being away from kids then feel guilty about not working. Today, I felt guilty because for the second job in a row it has been pointed out to me that my boss is probably feeling threatened by me when I’m busting my ass a) because that is what I do and I don’t know how to do anything without giving it 100%, and b) to make her look good. Guilty because the stepkids’ mother feels threatened by me to… Blah blah blah… I am truly blessed to really kind of have it all… I have a great career, step kids that I can be devoted to when we have them, and a little extra time and energy when we don’t. Ladies… We are ALL awesome. We make the decisions we make because they are the best we can do at the time. Who cares if others don’t like it – that is totally about them and NOT about me. I’m done with it… If they can’t handle it, tough sh*$! Ladies – do what is best for you… That truly is enough. Rock on ladies!

  39. Hillary E. responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    I just “put my career on hold” (as an orchestra teacher- I am also a high strung violinist… Lol) to stay home with my last baby. I wish I had been able to stay home with my two older kids too. Everyone asked me why I was “giving up” my career… And send me job postings, because surely after almost an entire school year I’m ready to go back to work. I’ve had more time to read now that I sit on the couch and eat Bon-bons all day (jk), and have been enjoying the feminist blog http://www.bluemilk.com for just such musings. My daughter recently brought home a book about women who wanted to be astronauts when they started the space program. Most were pilots, and their story was amazing (I’d never read about them before). What struck me the most was the expectation (even before the advent of American feminism) that they do it all- fly planes, keep the house, raise their babies, cook pies, and look good doing it. Reporters asked them about their favorite recipes, how many kids they had, and what their husbands did for a living. They asked the male trainees how hard the tests were, and what they were doing to train. The women all noted that, as lady pilots, the best way to stay out of trouble in a male dominated profession was to be hyper-feminine. Lipstick, pearls, perfect hair and crossed ankles. It kind of blew my mind- I had always assumed that they WERE hyper-feminine. I have been struggling with my own preconceived notions of how I should mother for a while. As an educator, I can see how essential it is to have a parent (or two) at home. I think the way many moms reconcile this with themselves is some type of work-from-home situation. We’ve been misled into thinking that we can have it all… And now we are figuring out that we might not want it all.

  40. Hillary E. responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    Oops that was http://www.bluemilk.wordpress.com just in case you don’t already read her stuff.

  41. SolariC responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    I just watched a cute Indie flick about this very topic (minus the baby on the way) called ‘The Giant Mechanical Man.’ I highly recommend it if you’re in the mood for a sympathetic portrayal of people who aren’t happy with standard jobs, but need something more fulfilling out of life. The film had a lovely metaphor for the pressure that society can put on us to have a glamorous job and work all the time.

  42. R responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    Screw what you want as a job. What do you want as a life? I want a comfortable place to live and high speed internet. I want enough money to pay for that place and for my food without having to work a job that completely sucks out my soul. I want a relationship that is a source of joy. I want to spend time with family and friends. I want time to read. I maybe want a kitten or a puppy, or both. I someday want children to whom I can show the beauty of the world. I want to, in some way, reach out to others. I think I’m well on my way to this.

    You have that life RIGHT NOW, Kate. Apparently, I want your life. I have no idea what that commenter was talking about. Do they want you to have a mansion with a pool of gold coins that you can swim in life Scrooge McDuck? What a ridiculous measure of success. You have already succeeded. You are succeeding as we sit here.

  43. Amanda responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    Eh, my “career” is a job. I’m an office manager who majored in English and taught for several years. Teaching wasn’t for me (not long-term, although I still have many great memories of my students and co-workers), I had children, stayed home 5 years, then went back to work in a field I could manage. It’s nice going in to work with adults. I get an hour for lunch and I can go to the bathroom any time I want.

    It’s the little things some days ;)

    As for my passions, they’re my children, our pets (the humans in our house are outnumbered by the animals 3:1), and cooking and baking.

    I make a mean pound cake. It’s a good thing, because I love pound cake :)

    Ultimately it all works out and we all find our niche. I’m not thrilled with my job but you know what? I like the people I work with — the benefits of which cannot be overstated — and I’ve got good benefits. Sure I live for 5:00 and the weekends, I’m hardly fulfilled in my career (I’ve missed my calling as a zookeeper I think!), but I’m not miserable and after work my time is mine; I’m not stressing over business matters.

    All in all, I’m happy. So it’s good. And if things change, I’ll recalibrate and it will get to good again. I have a feeling you’re going to be just fine, Kate :)

  44. bethagrace responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    If I didn’t love my desk job, I’ve always thought it would be great to just have random job after random job. No prestige, but it would be so much fun to have all those different experiences and get to know all those different people.

    Congratulate your dancing friend on living a wonderfully spontaneous life. :)

  45. claire responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    Mooshie, I cannot imagine what an ignorant person wrote that comment to you. Please remember that you are a very talented, loving, wonderful person, and you do not have to prove anything to all of the people that know you for what you are. I suppose someone who is envious of your looks,, your talent, your handsome caring husband, had to try to strike out at you, If you let me know who it is I will take care of them in my own way. Meanwhile I never felt that being a parent wasn’ t fulfilling and rewarding, and probably the hardest job there is. Love CRF

  46. Julie responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    Oh Kate! I’m not exactly where you are, but this resonates with me! I turn 29 next week, am in my tenth year of university and not yet near done, and just got engaged to the loveliest man ever (who I met on eHarmony!)… my grandma’s comment when she heard I was engaged? “Oh, that’s nice. Then poor Julie won’t have to keep going to school…”

    Grandma, I know you love me, but I THINK YOU”VE BEEN MISSING THE WHOLE POINT of my schooling all along….

    Don’t even get me started on the question of aging bodies, hereditary family illness that might number my fertile days, and the question of juggling grad school and babies. It’s middle term stress time, which means all I want to do is to put an end to all this homework and start a family. ;o)

  47. Alicia responded on 21 Feb 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    I am amazingly content with my career-more so then I ever though possible. I teach first grade and it is a integral part of my identity. Once I went out to lunch with a friend and her business co-worker. When I told them I was a teacher, one literally said “Yuck, how can you stand that? I could never be in room with kids all day” It’s funny, but I can’t imagine spending my days any other way.

  48. Sarah responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 1:09 am #

    Hillary, I Love this: “We’ve been misled into thinking that we can have it all… And now we are figuring out that we might not want it all.”

    It seems to me that we have also been conned in to the idea that we HAVE TO DO IT ALL or else… what? we’ve let down feminism? we’re not REAL women? we’re failing our children by spending time away from them?

    Why is it that men don’t get heaped with all this expectation? why are they only given the option of being the “bread winner” and viewed with suspicion when they want to be a stay at home dad or be more involved.

    I don’t have children, I’m in my late 20′s and while this is the time when I’m supposed to be “climbing the ladder” all I really want is to work 3 days a week, at the most so I have time to actually live. I look at co-workers that are nearing retirement, and I just don’t know how they managed to stay in the rat race for so long. I’ve only been in “proper” work for about 6 years…and I think I’m already burnt out. I simply cannot imagine doing this for another 30 or 40 years. It is just too depressing to even contemplate.

    So I’m trying to work out what the alternative is. I’m doing a masters degree in something I think I may find interesting, and trying to work out how to score a work from home job, or how to become a consultant in my field.

    Ideally, in the next 5 years, my fiance and I will have a baby, and we will both be able to work part time and share the work/caring roles. Otherwise, I think it would be really easy for resentment to build up on both sides.

  49. Alana responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 5:09 am #

    Hilary E, can you elaborate what you mean by: “As an educator, I can see how essential it is to have a parent (or two) at home.”

    I got an immediate defensive reaction – “well, clearly it isn’t essential as many very happy and effective families (such as my own) have no stay-at-home parent” – but perhaps I misunderstood. Do you mean it’s essential to have a stay-at-home or work-from-home parent? Or just that it’s important that the parents are fully engaged and present in creating a loving home, whatever configuration or labour and childcare they might choose?

    I always get twitchy in these conversations over the terminology as well. If I could, I would ban the use of the word “mothering”! My feeeling is that it’s parenting, whether it’s done by a male or a female…

  50. jenna responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 5:56 am #

    I say, enjoy your motherhood and do it really well, because you won’t have time to do anything else anyway. And if you do ‘find’ the time to do something else, then you won’t be doing it to your best ability anyhow. You’ll be squeezing and forcing it in. You don’t need permission to ‘not work’, you wanted a baby, you’re having a baby, be the best damn mom you can be!

    I really wish we’d stop teaching girls they can have a family, a good homelife and a full time engaging career at the same time- everything interplays and thus interbalances with the other – so excelling at one means lacking in the other. I know my opinion will cause a storm of protest, but you only have to go to the supermarket to see how badly soooo many mothers are doing.

    Imagine how great the world would be if we embraced motherhood as another stage of our lives that liberated us to be…..you know, mothers?!! Not just women with babies trying to work.

    Kate, you’re awesome, you’re going to be a great mom, don’t apolagise for not working!

  51. Mrs Stay At Home Says responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 6:12 am #

    Kate, you’re wonderful – so why are you so worried about your career? Most writers don’t take off until they’re in their late 40s and beyond…so what’s your hurry? What do you have to prove? When you have something to write it will hurl itself out of you. You can’t force it anyway.

    I wrote romance novels and made pretty good money in my early 20s. Like you, I was holding out for a book contract (in my mind, a real book contract) but then I met my husband. And I married him. And on the day I married him I retired. Yes, retired. AND I LOVE IT.

    But here’s the only bit that’s relevant: EVERYONE goes out of their way to question and criticise the fact that I do nothing. By nothing, I mean, I have no job or career. Personally I think being a fabulous wife is a full time job. I spend all day working on myself -but hell, I don’t work. And it amazes me that something which was so normal 30 years ago is so shocking to my peers. That because I married a successful man, I don’t have to work. All the while they are working away the best years of their lives in jobs where they are completely replaceable – yet they believe they are satisfied because they work.

    Well, good for them. I’m satisfied not to work. And to add insult to injury, I don’t even have kids to justify my lack of career climbing.

    I spent a few months being, I dont know, embaressed I guess when everyone kept asking me what I do. But now I just smile and say, being a woman is a full time job! And I leave it at at and I let them stew in their own jealous juices. Because if it’s not jealously kate, what is it? And what does it have to do with anyone else?

    You’re going to be fine, enjoy your new role. It’ll be your most important one. And the book contract will come…when the time is right.

  52. Jiminy responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 6:57 am #

    As so very often, you have written my feelings and my insecurities better than I could. One of your commenters said: `I think a rotten truth about being female is that no matter what choice you make regarding your career and family, people will feel free to tell you it’s wrong.` And while I realise that it’s the outside pressure of images about what and how and when a woman MUST… what I struggle with most is that `the rotten truth about being female is that no matter what choice you make you will always feel guilty to yourself`.
    It feels as if every time you open the door of a choice, you leave behind a hallway full of so many other doors (just as in the travel-before-kids paradigm someone exposed before). The post-thirty realisation I personally had was that you don’t need to keep running to meet the plans you have made or the world has made you make (and which are a premapped succession of doors you need to take). You can be a physicist and a movie director at the same time. You can travel with your kids as soon as they are moveable enough, and it will be something you do together. You can hold a job just in order to feed yourself, with low energy expenditure, and write on top of it, or any other combination. The fear of every choice we make has become so paralising that we have created a culture of postponing choice. I now believe that life is more fruitful if we choose one thing at a time, and leave the door open to choose again – after all, not every option in life is similar to investing 12 years fulltime in medical school that you can never take back. Every choice teaches you something about who you are and what you do and do not enjoy doing, what your limits are, where your passions lie, therefore it enriches you, not only strips you of other potential. It makes you better at being yourself, as (I love it when) you say. And it opens smarter choices down the road. This realisation must have struck you along the way, every time you thought you were meant to do something but something else turned out to be more appropriate.

    Politically, I think there is a strong movement towards stepping out of the ratrace and actually thinking about what you want to do as an individual. Your parents seem a great model that you can map out your path in life the way your conscience dictates, and not the way the mainstream pressure says you should. Making IT? You are IT. Making sure you wake up in the morning and want to live that day, that it fills you with purpose and usefulness and peace. Your blog is making IT every day that we all come here.

  53. Alana responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 8:10 am #

    Jenna – “you only have to go to the supermarket to see how badly soooo many mothers are doing.”

    This sentence baffles me – what on earth are you seeing between the cereal aisle and the canned goods that allows you to make such a broad judgment about people’s parenting? Also – why are the MOTHERS doing badly and the fathers just fine? Double also, how do you know these terrible mothers aren’t stay-at-home, super-devoted mothers that have nonetheless botched the job?

    My parents both worked and I can’t imagine better, more loving or more effective parents. They would have been great if they stayed home/worked part time/whatever as well, because of the people they are. That’s what it’s about.

    This is always such a difficult conversation for me. I think everyone should do what suits them, and we shouldn’t be made to feel badly for deciding how to allocate our parenting resources either way. But I get quite upset by the people who insinuate that parenting A) is essentially the woman’s job, and B) requires a stay-at-home parent.

    Yes, it is possible have it all, if having it all means a career and a loving, healthy family. You can also have one and not the other if that is more fulfilling for you. And let’s be honest, you can make a total hash of parenting no matter which path you choose! Do whatever works for you, but easy on the self righteousness.

    FYI – recent study finds “Controlling for perceived family social support, the belief that women are the essential parent was related to lower life satisfaction, and believing that parenting is challenging was related to greater depression and stress.” See the paper here http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10826-012-9615-z

  54. anya responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 10:41 am #

    I have a good carrer. I’ve worked since I was twenty ( I’m 25 now) . Had a variety of jobs , all related somehow to Computer Science and now IT. I’ve worked in designing and implementing electronic prototypes, database programming, busines intelligence, business analysis/developer and now tehnical support. My degree is in computer science but i started with electronics. It was difficult for me to just find a niche and stick with it. I am curious . Intreseted in everything. Fearful of missing out! The worst job hopper ever. :) . And now i am really set on what I do ( a year and not wanting out :) ) So, i started to read/pursue training and stuff to make me even better and more accomplished and certified in my field.
    Also , my hubs and I decided we will try and make a baby . I AM SCARED and Terrified . In my country you can take a year ( up to two) paid leave. But i don’t want to do that. I feel like i would loose so much. 1 year in tech is A LOT. I am afraid of putting this leave in a CV. I am afraid how to make the job switch to a even more fulfilling position i’m looking forward. WHO will hire a girl with a newborn? Will i get stuck and resentful?
    My hubs offered to stay with the baby for 4 months up to 2 years. We’ll then have to find a nanny/expensive long hours daycare ( we work 9-6 or 10-7). He think i should just get a baby, that i’m young enough to bounce back career wise. And also, putting your life on hold because of the career is stupid. I want to make the baby but i am terrified what the world will think about me.

  55. Maureen responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 10:55 am #

    I echo some of the earlier posters who state that it does get easier to settle into your life and your choices (career or personal) in your thirties. I will also say that I lived in New York for a number of years and found it easier to get off the ‘your career is your life’ train when I left the city. New York attracts so many people looking to make it in whatever their industry (theater, art, investment banking/hedge funds) and I think that the number of type A personalities can make it a little difficult to get out of the echo chamber. That said, we live in a country with very little support for having and raising children and the reality is that you will have to make choices as a couple and as a family, as to what is most important. Hopefully, you and Bear can make those choices in a way that is supportive of who you both are, what makes you happy and what is best for you as both individuals and as a family unit. These are really tough issues and I’m glad to see you covering them in your usual thoughtful style.

  56. Kande responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    I had a ton of ideas, dreams, and aspirations.

    Then I had a child, and my focus became more about her, and less about my career. And I offer no apologies for making raising my child more important than furthering my career, the same way I expect no woman who put her career first to offer an apology to me.

    Different choices are – just different choices. That is the beauty of living in a democracy, not a dictatorship.

    Anyway, I then went through three years of trying to have a second child, and my focus became trying to have a second while not making that my focus, and missing out on the “now” with my child who was already here. An opportunity came for a promotion, and I chose not to apply – as thought nope – at this time, my focus is trying for a second, not furthering my career, as that is what will make me truly happy.

    And in the end, isn’t it – shouldn’t it? – be about that? What makes you TRULY happy. Then embrace it, no apologies, no regrets.

    Then I had a second child and my Dad got really sick then died, and where I had been balancing being a mom with working fulltime, I decided to switch to parttime.

    Because my Dad worked full time, and missed a lot of our childhood, and then retired and had two young grandchildren and lots of time – but then died.

    Because my kids were getting busier, and my husbands job was getting busier, and I could work fulltime and pay people to babysit them, feed them, chauffeur them, etc.; or I could work parttime, and do it myself while fitting in quality time.

    Because when I retire in 20 odd years, I know I will not regret spending time with my kids over time in the office – the older one gets the more apparent it becomes the the one commidity that should be most coveted is the one that can never be bought – time. We are smart with our investments so will be comfortable in our golden years, and really? How many cruises/vacations does one have to afford each year anyway, I want to be comfortable in money to not want, but I would much rather spend my time with my family than on a cruise – and spending time with family is pretty cheap!

    So in the end – I am happy to invest more time into my heart, than my brain.I am fine with having a stagnated career outside the home, while flourishing my career inside the home.

    And I can fully embrace the someecard saying ” I know some women who are able to do everything and have it all, and I think – I should really get them to do some shit for me” ;)

  57. stephanie thomas berry responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    I am 40 years old, and I am at the beginning of my career. In my 20s I just lived life the way I wanted, which is good, because when I was 28 I married a single father of three kids, and then we had two more. Now the older three are grown, and my two middle-school-aged kids are at home. They do not participate in institutionalized learning, so they are free-spirited, creative people. We spend a lot of time together, and I love that. My husband has worked hard to build his business, and in the early years I worked hard right alongside him. We did what we had to do, and now the business is successful enough that I hardly work in it at all. I have a very free life.

    My struggles as a mom revolved around my creativity rather than my career. It was so hard to get time alone to write and paint, and I felt like I was going to burn from the inside out sometimes. We have to find our own way to balance the needs of our children with our own needs, and that is tricky work.
    Still, I am deeply satisfied with the path I have walked thus far, and I feel like I am really at the beginning of my career as an artist & poet, though I’ve been working at my craft for a long, long time. I don’t feel the need to make my life fit into any outside idea of what it should look like, but I know I must honor my creative fire.

  58. Alicia Cumming responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    “I get just as much of my identity and self-worth from my out-of-work life and friends and relationships. I don’t see why one way or the other should be more highly-valued. I see value in both”. This. THIS is what I think too and wish others would as well-thanks for validating this absolute truth, @Meg.

  59. cami responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    We put too much value on what the world thinks. I feel that if you are happy why should it matter what other people say. Everyone has his or her opinions and that is that. We need to stop listening to the chatter and push forward and do what we feel is best for us. Everyone is different. I know this is a simple thing to say but sometimes you need a basic reminder to just do what is best for you. I have been living by that simple rule and could not be happier in my personal and professional life.

  60. Amy responded on 22 Feb 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    So interesting that I should find this post right now. My son is 8 months old. When I found out I was pregnant sheer terror consumed me. I had been a very dedicated career woman and was wondering how I would be able to mesh the career me with the mother me. I doubted I would be able to take the standard 12 weeks off for maternity leave and that I would be dying to get back to work. Being a stay at home mom didn’t enter my mind for a single second.

    Guess what I’m doing now….I’m a stay at home mom.

    Do I have anxiety about having left my career behind albeit temporarily? Without a doubt. I worked my ass off for 15 years and I just walked away. The money I was bringing in was great and sometimes I see flashes of my paycheck in my head and think I must have been crazy to leave. All I can tell you is that in ways I never thought possible I felt an overwhelming feeling of calm and focus that what I needed to do was take some time to raise this baby and to spend as much time with him as possible. This calm and focus is not typical of me and it didn’t happen until I held my son. I went from being a neurotic worried mess to a calm, in control mother who just knew how to make sure this baby had what he needed in a matter of seconds. If someone had told me this would happen I would have doubted them and thought that I’m not the typical mothering type and that I was never focused on being defined solely as someone’s mother. But it happened and, for all the anxiety about my now languishing career, it is the best thing that has ever happened to me. There hasn’t been one moment that I would be willing to give up in order to be working. I will likely only have this one child and I want to soak up every minute and have him know that I didn’t want to miss a minute.

    I am lucky to have this choice as I know not everyone has this option. I also know its not the right option for everyone. A happy mother is the best thing you can give to your child and if work helps a mother provide a happier home than more power to her. In my case I just had a gut feeling that I had to follow. Its terrifying still if I think too much about what im going to do next but I will never regret having this time with him.

    My best advice to you is to try to relax. Try not to read too much about motherhood or pregnancy. Read what you need to in order to best take care of yourself and your baby but try not to read too much. There is a massive amount of paranoia and guilt roaming around in the form of judgment from others and it only serves to make you insane. Having a baby will change you in ways you can’t possible anticipate or plan for so try to stay in the moment and not get too far ahead of yourself. You will have the confidence you don’t feel now and will know what is right for you and your family when the time comes.

    Best of luck and congratulations. It’s an awesome ride.

  61. Jessie responded on 23 Feb 2013 at 12:02 am #

    I’m so glad I read this. Two weeks ago I officially finished my last paper of my degree. Unfortunately I did a Bachelor of Arts majoring in media studies and no one is very desperate to hire me. First I applied for media related jobs, but after rejection after rejection I’ve become less fussy. Interestingly enough, the job I’m most hopeful for at the moment is a simple Front of House position. There’s heaps of variety, it’d be social, easy and fun. But now I think about it, every time I’ve mentioned that I’d like to get this job I add “it’ll be good in the short term, until I can afford to study more.” But I don’t have to say that! I also think it’s interesting that we often want to succeed to prove others wrong. I at times live by the phrase “success is the best revenge,” but maybe it’s not the wisest idea. Thanks for prompting this thought! Love your site and I always get excited when a new post arrives in my inbox!

  62. Ashley T. responded on 23 Feb 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    Honestly, this topic is no different from your usual body image topic- in each scenario we have a choice to either listen to the voices outside of us, or listen to the one that matters- our own. I have 6 children, all born in the last 6 years and I homeschool…I do not have a job and haven’t had one since I had my first. The outside voices say my body is ruined and I am wasting my college education by not working. But my own voice? My own voice says that I am a freakin awesome woman who is trumping an office job by raising the next generation. And as for my body?…sexier than ever because I am wholly and completely myself. Don’t sweat it girl…listen to the right voices.

  63. mel responded on 23 Feb 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    This hits real close to home.

    Perhaps it’s the Gen Y in me speaking, but I’m so incredibly unsatisfied career-wise.

    It’s strange, when our entire life, we are told that all we had to do was be good people, stay clean and get good grades, we could do anything we wanted.

    I went to an inner city type school and totally drifted through it. Never studied, did all my homework, got A’s.

    Upon graduation, I had no idea how the world worked at all. My plan was to be dead by 18 but that didn’t pan out. Did the college thing a little bit, but college is just a money pit these days.

    Did some retail and then some really low-rung restaurant work and there I stay. The most common question that strangers ask me is “what do you do for a living?” How cruel! I am so full of shame at the first question that I usually break off the conversation right away and leave. I have disappointed every adult I knew in my young life by turning out to be such a loser. I’m going to be a 30 year old dishwasher, because now I’ve been pigeonholed here.

    On the other hand, I am an unsuccessful artist outside of work, so I do occasionally feel like I’m contributing in a special way. And I love my coworkers, and I only work 30 hours a week, and I walk to work, and everything else seems to come so easily for us despite everything.

    So it’s kind of weird. If I was my own person, I think I would be pretty ok with my life. It’s only when I think of our professional friends and societal pressure that I feel truly worthless.

    Do we have to live in a vacuum with no contact with the outside world in order to be happy?

  64. Jennn responded on 24 Feb 2013 at 10:17 am #

    I have finally made it to the part of my career I’ve always looked forward to – being a mom, while the money-earning waits. I know I’m a rare bird for this, but I’m happy, and have no desire to do anything that would prevent me from being my own kids caregiver.

  65. Kim responded on 24 Feb 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Anyone who doesn’t think taking care of a baby is work, clearly hasn’t had a baby. You will be working your ass off when that little one arrives. That being said, I think it is important for women to retain a sense of self after becoming mothers. My biggest fear when I had kids was that I would just become “mom”, that I would lose the things that made me unique because I had to focus all my energy on their needs, and always put them before me, especially since I stay at home with them. And I know lots of moms who have the opposite fear–that they will be so focused on their careers that they will miss being a mom, or that people accuse them of not being “real” moms or of letting other people raise their children. It’s all a load of bullshit. There is no right or wrong way. There is no one definition of success. Success is how you perceive it. As long as you are on the path that gets you where you want to go, or even if you aren’t on the path, but plan on getting there, then that is all that matters. Screw whatever someone else thinks you should be doing. There will be Judgey McJudgerson’s everywhere (especially among moms), and you have to just ignore them and focus on doing what makes you happy, and what you feel is best for your family. Easier said than done, I know, and it’s a crazy balancing act. But I think you will be a better mom by showing your kids that you value yourself and your own happiness, so that they can learn to value themselves. If that means you work full time/part time/not at all in addition to being a mom, then that is your decision and anyone who thinks it is wrong can suck it and butt out.

  66. SaDonna responded on 24 Feb 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Hi Kate, I enjoy your blog and this is the first time that I have commented. ;-) As a 30 something mom of three, whose brain countlessly goes to the ‘Am I doing enough’ scenario. Let me reassure you. Pregnancy was one of those moments where it hit me that I was actually DOING something 24/7. Even while sleeping! I was growing a whole person inside me, and frankly for the first time in my life it seems to change who I was. I could actually sit down and not feel like every moment had to be given over to the act of accomplishment.

    I read books, I watched cooking channels, we had the BEST meals during those times. During my 2nd trimester I came up with original ideas, blogs, new businesses, and had 3x the energy I would normally say that I had. I think it was because I had let myself off the hook so to speak. I KNEW I was doing something, so anything else was just bonus. lol

    I remember well (almost 12 years ago) being pregnant with my first. Enjoy the time, enjoy the experience, enjoy the experience of sleeping in when you can and just taking care of YOU. It will likely be the last time you don’t have to compete for ME time. ;-) Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good. I still carve out time for the things that are essential and meaningful to me, even with 3 kids and a hubby! I home schooled them up until this year and I am definitely in that mode of self discovery again.

    I would just urge you not to let anyone take your joy away from you. You will find or create balance with this new little one in the mix. He or she will bring unbelievable joy & exhaustion with them at the same time. That’s part of the journey. It’s all worth it, and you will learn so much about yourself. For now though .. remember .. you ARE working! So take a moment to kick up your feet and relish in it. ;-)

  67. Josh responded on 24 Feb 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    I’ve read your blog for a while, and I think that you do fantastic work here. Hard to feel like I have much space to chime in as a guy sometimes, but I felt a particular attachment to this post in an unexpected way.

    I suppose I’m one of the “lucky” 20-somethings who has what our age group seems to be searching for after college; high-paying job with a stable/reputable company, decent social life, occasional weekends where I can do things I enjoy. But I’m not happy, I’m not proud of where I am in life. I want to be a writer, I want my time to feel like my own, I want to invest in my own dreams of creation, so to speak. But there are big-kid responsibilities to take care of: poor family, student loans, the expectations from all angles to be “mature.” And there’s also a little bit of guilt, to be honest: I’ve got a job situation that tons of people our age would love to have, so what right do I have to be unhappy?

    The fears that you have about parenthood are many of the same ones I have about pursuing writing full-time, blogging, doing journalism, making comics… What if I stop doing everything else for a while and spend time writing? Will I then be doing nothing? I know that I won’t be “doing nothing,” but will it feel like that? Will the people around me acknowledge that I’m doing “something?” And really, why does that matter? The fears feel valid, but maybe they’re not so much. Even so, they’re likely the reasons I’m still working at this place.

    I write all this because I know that, regardless of the fears, you will be “doing something,” something phenomenal and wonderful when you raise your child. Maybe there was a time when you thought that spending time creating this blog wasn’t “doing something,” and look at how many lives you’ve brought light and positivity to, even in some of your darker hours.

    You’ve worked hard and you should be proud of what you’re doing and where you are in life. I’m looking forward to all the stories you’ll hopefully share with us out here in the blog-world as you trek forward, and I hope nobody ever makes you feel like you’re “doing nothing” (including yourself :) ).

  68. Penny responded on 24 Feb 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Today is the first day in a very long time that I have decided to read your blog. Randomly running across your writing a good while ago inspired me to begin blogging in an honest sort of way, the way you do.

    I’m glad I clicked that “Eat the Damn Cake” icon on my list of bookmarks today because THIS is exactly what I needed to read.

    I’m nowhere near close to where I want to be, professionally. I’m even vague on the what I want part. All I know is something beyond THIS; something beyond part-time, just-over-min-wage retail where I am the bottom rung on the corporate ladder. I want something that makes me WANT to call it a career! Something that carries a paycheck that actually pays bills, rent and groceries, even if only just. I have yet to make anything of myself professionally. The fact that my parents, who had such high expectations of me growing up, are proud of me even though I am failing….it is maddening.

    I have no doubt that you will balance baby and job well, in due time. I see women do it all the time. I see men do it sometimes too. Thank you for your words.

  69. zoe responded on 24 Feb 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    yes! all of this!

    i am still an early twenty-something (23!) yet i feel such an intense pressure to have life — work, relationships, direction — nailed out. older people ask me all the time, “what are you doing? where are going?” and the truth is, i don’t know! i have a vague idea, but i personally don’t know. i’m still quite young, still learning, still growing into my womanhood. as are the million other twenty-somethings. no one i know in their twenties understands yet where they are headed. i think that’s okay but the pressure we collectively feel is immense! the success of a handful of young twenty-somethings almost prompts the rest of us to think we’re wasting time, that we’re not “good enough”, that we’ll never “make it” (whatever THAT means!).

    basically i guess what life boils down to is: living a life YOU are proud of and happy with, without regard to the patterns and routines other people follow. perhaps comparison is what traps us within the idea of ‘failure’. truthfully we all have different ideas of success and what it looks, sounds, feels like!

    also, kate, do you have any idea whether you’d like to unschool your little one? i know that’s a long ways off i’m just curious :)

  70. fran responded on 25 Feb 2013 at 8:39 am #

    I just want to chime in and agree with those who said that these issues are less fraught as you get older. For this (and for so many other reasons!), my thirties were better than my twenties, and my forties are — so far — even better than my thirties. It does in fact become easier to not fall into the trap of what we as women must do, should do, have to do. It becomes more about what you as an individual want and need to do. And that’s going to vary wildly by individual. Of course some people will still want to tell you exactly what you are doing wrong, but you will give less of a fuck.

  71. Kate responded on 25 Feb 2013 at 9:08 am #

    I like the way you boil life down. You’re right. Isn’t it funny how it’s possible to know that that’s the truth, and still do a million contradicting things?

    And I don’t know, about unschooling/homeschooling, and my baby. I guess because it’s so tiny and still inside me now. But when I try to imagine the future, I have a hard time imagining my kid going to school, just because I was really happy as a kid not to. And I’m also not sure I want to make the huge commitment to not sending my kid to school. But stay posted!

  72. Kate responded on 25 Feb 2013 at 9:10 am #

    It doesn’t sound like you’re failing, it sounds like you’re thinking things through. The idea that we should just immediately figure out exactly what we should do with all of our days for most of our lives is kind of insane. But I hope that you find a career path that feels meaningful and good, because fulfilling work is, well, fulfilling. And I’m glad your parents are supportive!! So important!!!

  73. Jen responded on 25 Feb 2013 at 9:24 am #

    A few thoughts on an excellent article and important topic:

    1. People can be massive asshats. Your rude commenter is a good example.

    2. Parenting is hard work. It is challenging and rewarding work. Heck, pregnancy and giving birth are very hard work. I’m not a mother and, thanks to celiac disease, might never have this life experience, but my first niece was born last weekend. I am in awe of my sister-in-law. That is work. So are post-birth recovery and caring for a child. If those are the only forms of work that she, or you, or any other woman want to focus on for days/weeks/months/years/decades, who are any of the rest of us to question it? Some women feel that they do a better job at parenting if they can break it up with other work. Others need to focus on parenting without distractions from other work. Neither is wrong. All families are a little different.

    3. I feel like Meg (#4) might be a long-lost twin or something. I could have written her comment, right down to Lake Superior (albeit from the Michigan side). I had good grades and test scores all through school. I was tracked into science since I was “smart” and it seemed like a responsible choice (unlike music, my first love as a child). I did come to love science and don’t regret my PhD, but I regret feeling like I needed to chase an academic path. I really, really don’t want that life or the personal issues that come with it. I don’t give a damn about financial success beyond paying the bills. I want to work a normal job that will leave me with time to spend with family and friends, not one in which a 60-hr work week in lab is considered “light work”. I want to be able to jump in the car and visit my niece without worrying that I should be working. I want to read non-science literature. I want to work in my kitchen and garden, practice at the yoga studio, and sing in a choir. I allowed academic science to take those things from me and I was miserable, even though I knew that was how it was supposed to be if I wanted “success”. So I left. I’d be lying if I said I was completely okay with it. Sometimes I feel like I failed as a scientist, and maybe if I’d tried just a little harder… As a new freelancer, I’m on my husband’s insurance for the first time and i feel like I should apologize for that (never mind that I ensured him for nearly 10 years). However, in my mid-30s, I am mostly okay with it. I wouldn’t have been at 25. Life is too damn short to spend so much time worrying whether others think I’m a failure.

  74. Jen responded on 25 Feb 2013 at 9:33 am #

    Hillary E.: “Everyone asked me why I was “giving up” my career… And send me job postings, because surely after almost an entire school year I’m ready to go back to work.”

    Ugh. I had to ask a friend to stop sending me job postings after I decided to leave my post-doc research job because I don’t want a corporate or industry research job. It will be more of the same that I’m trying to escape. I know people mean well, but sheesh. It was difficult to explain that I am no longer willing to kill myself for a job just because it is what other people think I should be doing.

  75. Kate responded on 25 Feb 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Kate, this is a fantastically thoughtful piece and it is SO relevant to all of us in our 20s-30s. We’ve come of age in a society that tells us to go bigger, faster, better, or go home – and we’re making ourselves crazy. It’s a legit competition to see who’s busiest, most stressed, closest to a nervous breakdown. The idea of slowing down and finding some actual PLEASURE in life has been turned into a sin – gluttony. Laziness. And yet, buying into it doesn’t actually make you more productive. Or happy, obviously. It’s taken a long time, but I finally find myself believing (even for myself) that it’s better to let go of some of the ambition and just BE. Whatever that is, for each of us. Savor every moment with your baby. Those moments won’t exist again. Own it, and never apologize for it.

  76. Alpana Trivedi responded on 26 Feb 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Kate, I never looked forward to the real world. It seems that college is what I looked forward to since I was in grade school and after that……..well, I didn’t know. I guess college signifies possibilities and different things to study and the last thing I wanted to do was narrow myself down to a choice (shrink my horizons???). I milked it for nine years and got two Bachelors Degrees out of it.

    Right now, I’m in the Navy and making good enough money. Is that all there is to me? Of course not, just like any of your jobs don’t solely define you. You write a wonderful blog about stuff that most people are afraid to say out loud. You think about perspectives that nobody has thought about. And now you’ll be sharing all of who you are with a baby.

  77. karen responded on 28 Feb 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    I’m a firm believer in the idea that life is a series of phases. In this phase of my life I’m a stay at home mom. Before this phase I had many others: wife, full time employee, graduate student, undergraduate, etc.

    I find it helps to keep in mind that being a mother also is a series of phases – at first they need you every second of every day, but that passes so quickly.

    I have a 4.5 year old & a 4 month old right now. The high intensity phase will pass & both my girls will spend the rest of their lives moving away from me. So while I feel a bit overwhelmed with MOMMYNESS of my life right now, I know I can go back to being more of just ME again in a year or two. I only have to look at my own mother (of 3 girls) and see how her life has evolved. She chose to stay home for the early years of our lives & then returned to work. She & my dad are retired and travel all over the world – it’s wonderful to see how much they are enjoying life!

    And to be honest, being a stay at home mom of two is the hardest damn WORK I have ever done. Exhausted doesn’t even begin to cover it! It is also the most satisfying. I will never regret these years being home with my girls. I feel so fortunate my circumstances allow it.

  78. Jon N responded on 28 Feb 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    When I was young, there was never a doubt in my mind that life was going to take me somewhere and I would end up doing something amazing. This delusion lasted all the way through my college application process, thinking that a degree from this or that school would mean I would have a different future profession and a subsequently different life. The better the school, the better the future.
    But since then I have come to understand that the measure of success in my life shouldn’t be based upon the job that I have or the money I make, but instead upon my personal happiness. My view of the future has changed a lot since that realization. Now instead of picturing myself in a specific career ten years down the line, I picture myself living a holistic lifestyle from which I can derive meaning and joy. It’s not having a “real job” that defines the worth of your life. It’s about doing something you love each and every day, whether thats being a writer, a blogger, or a parent. Thanks for believing the same thing.

  79. sami responded on 01 Mar 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    I connected a lot with Emmi’s comment above. I don’t have or want a career. I have no skills, no passions, no interests. I am just a regular boring person and I am perfectly content with that. Once a manager said to me, during my yearly review, that it’s okay to not want to climb the ladder. Not everyone is ambitious or cut out for it, so why push yourself to be something you don’t want to be? I don’t want that stressful life. Thankfully I love my job and my workplace, and I blagged my way into a decent position which I should really have a tertiary qualification for (for some reason- it’s not THAT hard of a job). I enjoy turning up to work each day, and I have no desire for children, so no doubt I’ll be doing my semi-menial office job for, like, eternity. But who gives a shit? Someone’s got to do these jobs. Not all of us can be glass ceiling smashing superstars. I’ll cheer anyone on if they want to be one but I am not one. And that’s my choice. And it’s rad. Go me! Mediocrity, woooo!

    PS not having the stress or focus of a ‘career’ and ‘plans’ means I can be super lazy and uncommitted at any point in my life. Today is saturday and I slept in and am now just lying on the couch after eating a delicious pie. The cats are hanging out in patches of sun on the floor and I haven’t cleaned the kitchen. I might go mess it up some more. I have a 4 day weekend, so, whatever ;)

    My point is, your life is your life and if you’re hating it and feeling pressured, what’s the point? You do you. What makes you happy at this moment in time? Do that. If it’s career, go for gold. If it’s babies, go for gold. Fuck all the people who think you ‘should’ be doing whatever. Isn’t this what feminism is? You get to live your own life. Choose your own adventure!

  80. birdy responded on 02 Mar 2013 at 7:34 am #

    The other day I was talking to my sister about someone she knows and I asked her “what do they do again?”

    And I realized, for some reason as adults thats all we end up knowing about each other a lot of times and it’s stupid. When we were kids you knew all kinds of details about other kids, even if you didn’t spend a lot of time with them. Now as adults we have this crazy idea that our jobs define us.

    I struggled with that a lot after I realized I couldn’t continue doing the job that I thought defined me. But you know what? I do something completely different for a living now and people still like me.

    There are 168 hours in a week, and I only work for 35 of them – which does sound lazy I guess. But I am so much more than my job! I’m also a wife, a volunteer EMT, a homesteader, a daughter, a friend, an entrepreneur – the list goes on and I am free to decide what I want my list to include.

    So I guess this doesn’t make a lot of sense, but what I’m trying to get at is, we only get one shot at this life thing and we need to be doing what is important to US. Not stupid people on the internet, or people in the store, or even sometimes our well-meaning friends and family. I know its harder than that, and I’m saying this to myself too.

    One more thing – if you look at the people that are actually in your life that you really admire, is their career what you admire most about them? Or is it that they live life the way they want?

    OK, one more more thing, they say that “no ones last words were ever “I wish I spent more time at the office!” :)

  81. Kande responded on 02 Mar 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Birdy your comment really resonated with me, even though I somewhat disagree with it. I mean, I completely agree that the afult “what do they do?” is bang on – w ask that first and from then on, the answer to that question frames how we view the person. The part I disagre with is that kids are interested in so much more – I think it is so much less! If I think of it, my daughters describe friends as (1) are they nice (2) will they play with me and be my friend. If any other factor do com into play, they are around common interests (though that really blends into (2)) and physical appearance (as at some point the rose-coloured glasses of youth are gone, saddest day ever when kids forget how to look at oeople’s souls first and physical being scond or not at all …

    Also re:all the comments on feminism. How can we say we are feminists if we devalue one of the very roles that is core to a woman … getting pregnant, giving birth, raising offspring. This is NOT meant in a negative way towards women who can’t or choose not too; I mean in reference to the fact as the one role men can never achieve – getting pregnant, giving birth, being a mom. Men can’t do it ( yes I read about the pregnant man … um “he” had a uterus, ergo his body was NOT male, that story always irritated me) so as a society it is suddenly not valued nearly as much as a “real” job! Suddenly it is so much better to raise a company than raise a family? Give me a break!

    In the same light I TOTALLY agree with the poster re: “menial” jobs … so right, someone does have to do them! And why shouldn’t we be happy to have people who are happy to rather than people who resent the work? And what does “menial” mean anyway? Just because anyone can do something, doesn’t mean they would be able to do it well day after day after day, and still bring sunshine into the world rather than negativity. And I tell you this – while I do love a fantastic meal from a talented chef, I would never love it enough to eat it on a dirty plate …

  82. Stacy Jen responded on 13 Mar 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Your post really meant a lot to me. I know the struggles with jobs and why we are going to school. Great post! Hope to hear more from you soon!