June 18, 2010

Toughest question for mommy

I'm staring down one of the toughest questions I can fathom hearing from a daughter (or a son, once boys realize they're getting short changed).  She's asked it several times in a variety of ways and I answer in short, vague snip-its, just praying she doesn't ask again until I have a better answer for her.  How can I stay home with my kids and have a career?  That's what she wants to know.

I have a brilliant daughter who has dreams of talking the Russians into sending her to live on the space station since Obama just sent his last crew and she missed the opportunity to go with the Americans (it's so unfair that they never consider 6 year olds for the job!)  She wants to be the one to finally find space bacteria.  Sounds great, right?

But she also loves home schooling and says she wants her kids to be home schooled too.  She asked me how she's going to be able to home school her kids and fly into space.  She asked if I'd do it for her.  I politely declined the honor and for now we've entertained the notion that she'll be the first woman to get to take her whole family into space with her and they'll learn all the need to know about math and science out there on the job.  But how long will she believe that?

Once she asked if she really needed to go to college if she was just going to stay home and be with her kids.  I told her that there's no way to know what she'll want to do when she grows up and she needs to make sure she doesn't limit her options by deciding too early that she doesn't need to get an education. Luckily she quickly goes back to her space dreams and declares her mission to be the most over-educated woman alive.

The question of "can I really have it all?" probably started when the first person left home to make money or trade goods.  It's a question that seemed to get tied to women during the whole women's lib thing.  But now I am hearing a few men here and there ask, "Why can't I stay home with my kids?"  If men and women are equal, why do we assume that the women get to stay home?  Don't get me wrong.  I'm glad I get to be the one!  I can't imagine having to head off to work every day and miss out on all the things the kids say and do.  I doubt that being a man makes that act an easier.

But it seems true that you can't have it all.  I am so glad I went to college even though I'm not earning money with my degree, but that seems like an insufficient answer.  That's where I met Joe and we began our lives together, but the idea of going to college to find a husband makes me want to throw up.  I think college is important.  Knowledge is important.  You'll use knowledge even if it's only imparted on your gaggle of kids and not earning you 6 figures.  But I wish I had an even better answer. 

I  guess I wish I could look at her and tell her, without lying, that yes, there is a way to have it all.  You can walk on the moon and never miss a minute of your childrens' lives.  But I can't.  It breaks my heart that someday she'll have to choose between such exciting options. 

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