Thursday, November 10, 2011

Did you expect to have children?

I'm a child of the '50s. Born in 1952,I came of age at the peak of the women's movement, devouring every issue of Ms. Magazine, proudly telling people I was a feminist. I knew I wanted to be a writer. But I also expected to be a mother. From the time I was a toddler, my parents had trained me to follow my stay-at-home mother's example. Yes, writing and music were fine, as long as they didn't interfere with a woman's primary job: taking care of her home, husband and children. We're glad you're getting good grades in school, and it's nice that you got your poem published, but can you bake a cake? Can you hem a skirt? Can you diaper a baby? TV shows and movies from the 1950s and '60s formed me in the Doris Day mold. Whatever else I might want to do, I would get married and have children.

It didn't turn out that way.

How about you? I know I'm older than many of my readers, so maybe your experiences were different. Were you raised to be a mom or was that just one of many options? I'd love to hear what you have to say on this.

Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2011

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I graduated high school in the early nineties. Small town society you expected you to either go on to college or find full-time employment. Those who found employment were usually the ones who had been dating someone for ages and would likely marry a few years after graduation. A family would of course follow.

I was discouraged from going the college route. I wasn't great at anything and my parents felt college would be a waste of money. I hadn't been taking any administrative assistant classes so I really wasn't on a fast track to any "great" job. I was however dating an older guy at the time. I suppose my parents expected me to marry and move from their house to his.

My mother certainly groomed me for a life of grocery planning, how to run a cost efficient household, and how to use Saturday mornings for housecleaning, and Saturday nights for a date with the husband.

I felt like a fish out of water. My classmates were excited about college acceptance letters and summer jobs while I was trying to decide what the heck to do. I certainly didn't have money to have the usual college experience and no one was helping me to wrangle a student loan. I had no idea what I was good at so finding a full time job seemed pretty daunting. I didn't even really like my boyfriend but that didn't seem to matter to anyone either.

All I knew was that eventually my life would be preparing 3 meals a day, putting up with children and polishing the wood furniture on Saturday mornings.

Community college saved me. I found I was able to afford the first semester which was all I needed to get myself on a path. I was thrilled to find that I loved college so much more than high school. Doors were finally opening.

I spent the next 15 years doing my best but unhappily making poor choices based on what I thought I "should" do. I'm finally finding my way, based on what I "want" to do. Still, I'm nearing 40 and I don't have any children. My parents have mellowed and seem proud of me. Still, a little part of me feels like I let them down.

If I had better guidance maybe I wouldn't have made so many bad decisions. Perhaps I made poor choices because of an immature need to defy my parents? Either way, if I'm lucky enough to have a child I will do things quite differently.

Suelick said...

Anonymous, Thank you so much for sharing your story. My parents didn't encourage me to go to college either. Of course I graduated from high school a long time before you did, but the prevailing thought then was that education for girls was a waste because they'd just become moms anyway. Community college was a godsend for me, and I'm so grateful I went on to get a degree because I needed to support myself.
I know my parents wished they had grandchildren, but they were still proud of me. You have to live your own life and hope they'll be happy for you no matter what you do.

Elena said...

I'm exactly 20 years younger than you. For my generation, it was mostly normal that i should get as good an education as i could get. And also, make a good start in a career. We looked down on girls who said "I'll marry anyway". Our role models were our mums: Starting work again after a few years of "baby time". My mums generation certainly didn't have it easy. They were the generation to fight their way back into work after years of absence. They had to defend themselves from the suggestions that they were bad mums because they worked part time. They tried to make their own personal biography and reach their own goals even if that meant divorce.
So our role model was: Yes sure i'll have a good education and i won't stop working just because i will have kids.
Notice something? Yes. The kids are still in there.
Getting the good education and career start prolonged the time we waited for making them.
Not wanting to end up in marriages which would end in divorces, we also took our time finding a partner.
The pill helped us a lot to be free to make these choices (as you talked about in another post). No pressure to marry just to be able to have sex. You can even plan baby and career.
Nobody told us that you can actually wait too long.
Nobody told us that even if we were so clear about what, how and when we wanted, the men we found as partners hadn't given things so much thought as we did.
It sure is great not be an "old spinster" or divorcee not even able to support myself financially.
But nobody told me that when the "career plus baby"-plan failed, I would be left with NO plan. Because the "Just career" was never the plan. It's one big failure, not one part of a plan missing. I wonder if you can understand that.

Suelick said...

Thanks for sharing this, Elena. I'm older than you, but the plan was the same: career AND babies. My mother's career was being a wife and mother, and she did it well. But I went straight from high school into college and into a journalism career, always expecting I would combine the two. Thank God I had the career when marriage and motherhood didn't work out.