Two Stupid Roads Diverged in A Yellow Wood

Two roads diverged in a wood...

This weekend was officially our last weekend in DC.  And we spent it with (almost all of our friends), but the more time I spent with friends, the more confused I became about life.

First, we went to Mr. B’s friend and now ex-coworker at his house in the DC suburbs.  He and his wife have a beautiful house and two very, very cute little boys.  Mr. B’s other friends and ex-coworkers were there, and they are also all married and either have kids or are thinking about them very soon.  They live relatively far away from DC, far away enough that they can’t get in to see, say, the Kennedy Center at night, but that doesn’t matter, because being close to DC is not a priority for them.  Family is. Their house is full of love and the chaos that comes with having two small kids.

If you want to have this sort of atmosphere, you have to live far away from the city.  While the women were sitting in the kitchen, the conversation turned to childcare.  “I quit my job.  I just couldn’t justify the two-hour commute and by the time I got to work and paid for childcare, the net sum I made was less than if I stayed home,” one said.  “We’re thinking about kids in the near future, but I want to start my own business and I can’t do that if we have kids.  So I want to, but it’s going to be a long wait for my business to get off the ground.”

Second, we went to an engagement party in one of my favorite neighborhoods in DC, Adams Morgan,  for my two ex-coworkers, who also turned later into really, really good friends, and all of my other ex-coworkers, who also turned into really good friends were there. They are all not married or in serious relationships and kids are very, very far off.  They are doing awesome, exciting things like working for IMF/World Bank, getting their advanced degrees, and traveling to Ghana and Brunei. We talked about Patrice Lumumba, why diamonds are overpriced, think tanks, and how one of us had accidentally eaten goat while she was in India.  You know.  The shit I love.

Then my friend, the engaged one, said her future mother-in-law had already asked her when they were planning to have kids. My engaged friend is kickass at her job and loves it, so it won’t be anytime soon.  On the one hand, I was angry on her behalf that she was having to field these questions, but on the other, I was sad because I know my friends would make great parents and her job shouldn’t have to preclude her from setting priorities. And then I became angry at myself that I was sad, because this is the exact type of stuff that I don’t want to hear from other people.

When we got home on Saturday night, I thought about both of our groups of friends, and how conflicted I was because I want to be both of those groups of friends.  I want everything, and it is so unfair to women that we can’t have it but that men don’t give this a second thought.  If I could count the number of times just this weekend alone that I was asked when Mr. B and I are having kids, I could cry.

When I fumed to him about it, he laughed it off.  “Did anyone ask YOU when we were having kids?” I asked.  He remained quiet.  Because, obviously, it’s never up to the guy.  But what if I want to have a big happy family in a safe suburban environment AND I want to go to Israel and become an Israeli ice cream specialist? Or a train specialist that has to travel to Turkmenistan? Or a fruit specialist that has to fly to Finland?  It doesn’t work that way, I’m learning. Even if modern feminism says it does and it should, biology says SCREW YOU.

So, as we are closing in on day 0 in DC and beginning day 1 in Philadelphia together, it seems like, by not being able to choose both roads, I am taking one.  But really, I’m taking it as a challenge to split that one road into two more smaller, winding, paths and see what the hell happens.




21 thoughts on “Two Stupid Roads Diverged in A Yellow Wood

  1. Thank you for once again perfectly describing exactly what I’ve been thinking about. My trip to Israel really clarified this dilemma for me. I’m finding that the things I thought I wanted aren’t what I want now, though I still want them, just not yet.

  2. I understand just what you mean. In grad school women are always being asked or discussing among themselves how they plan to balance family and career. I certainly want a family, and I think about these things, too.

    But men? Men never do, because they don’t have to! It makes me so angry. They are certainly the other half of the couple, so how come it’s all up to the woman to justify her priorities and time allocation?

  3. I could write a novel as a response, but my twenty minutes of alloted time to myself is nearly up so I will say this…
    We (husband and I) choose for me to stay home with my kid and any future kids we have. Even though my MBA was really for shits and giggles, it feels like I’m giving up a lot but I know it’s temporary, it really is, I think kids are only this intensely needy when they are very small (under five) and later it will become about modeling for them that I am a person as well as a mother :)
    And my second thought is that the reason mothers (I say mothers because if you are breastfeeding then the kid will really only want the person that’s lactating for several months) feel like they are giving up career opportunities, fulfillment, etc is due to lack of support in our society and lack of acceptance of small children.
    Other people say it way better than me

    1. Are you thinking you’ll go back to work once they’re old enough? I agree with you that society does not do enough to accomodate and support moms, but on the other hand, it’s also a choice. But on the other hand, it’s a choice that, I would say, at least 60% of everyone makes so why not more accomodation. But on the other hand, if I don’t have kids, why should I have to do your work at work? I don’t know. It’s messy.

  4. Yup. It’s the way it is. And it sucks, but it also is just the way it is. Two pieces of advice:

    1. Be grateful that Mr B is healthy and willing/able to work for pay. Facing this dilemma with an adult dependent is really f-ing hard.

    2. You *can* have it all, but not all at the same time. You’re still young. You can have kids now, knowing that you’ll have to spend 5-7 intense years of small-child parenting, when they need you around all the time and daycare isn’t free from the government – although it might be free from grandparents, and that rocks. After that, things loosen up a bit.

    Also, think of this: The happiest retired couples I know either had NO kids, and had been spending their spare money on vacations etc. all along and saving for early retirement, or they had careers they loved that paid really well, well enough that childcare expenses were never burdensome.

    1. one more thing: economies of scale.
      1 kid, you can stay at work. 2 kids, you can stay at work if your work pays well. If not (or if you want more kids), it generally makes more sense to stay home with them. Unless they drive you batshit. Which is how it went with me, and I only have 1. And any kids at all reduce your ability to travel and/or be spontaneous, unless you’re very flexible and can afford help.

    2. 1. No thoughts because I have absolutely no experience with this and I can’t even imagine how hard it is. Just admiration.

      2. 5-7 years is a long and scary time to be gone from the job market and that is what scares me the most.

      1. You don’t have to be gone from the job market that long. That’s just the time when your options for travel, long hours, etc., will be the most limited. Unless you’re one of those childcare-is-evil kinds of people.

  5. Vicky – it is hard to do it all at the same time. Now, in my very late 30s after raising my kids to teenagers (oy shoot me now) I am able to focus on my career. I stayed home with the kids for 15 years even as a single mom, because that is what I wanted for my boys. I sacrificed those years career-wise because the investment in the kids and their emotional and physical growth was of more importance to me (and their dad) at that time. Now that it looks like they may just turn out fine, it’s time for me.

    in order to have a career you have to sacrifice on the family front. In order to have a family you have to sacrifice on the career front.

    That’s just the reality. You are the one that will carry a baby for 9 months and lactate afterwards. Men never have to be asked these questions because it isn’t their body being taken over by aliens….

    I know I am rambling, but you get my point.

  6. I never realized that the world was not equal until very recently. You know how, when you’re little, you’re told that when you’re grown you can do anything and look at all these fabulous women that break boundaries and do what they want. And then you get there and you’re still expected to have kids and clean the toilet. Now, I don’t want kids, but I still think it’s unfair that the choice largely rests on our shoulders, and involves our sacrifices. My mother told me about what it was like for her when she had me, having guilt both for not working more and for not spending more time with me. And then how that was sort of resolved when we moved to the States and she didn’t have a working visa at first so that choice was removed and therefore so was the guilt. It’s probably a good thing, at least right now, that I don’t want kids, because I love my boyfriend but he doesn’t even walk our dog. Really though, I don’t think we’ll get married because he’s against us both keeping our last names, and I won’t change mine. I just don’t get why I’m supposed to change my name and my identity and no one ever suggests that the man should have to instead, maybe sort of like how no one ever asks them when they’re having kids. Or maybe I’m just a stubborn feminist that way.

    1. Like I wrote in response to Marinka above, sometimes we have too much choice and I wish we could have less. Not all the time, but it would definitely help.

      I wrote a post about changing my last name if you’re interested:

      and it was also a huge decision for me, and again, even though Mr. B supported me no matter what I did, I caved into societal pressure. Because even if he doesn’t expect me to change it, society does.

      Society sucks.

      1. I didn’t change my last name, and the consideration was beyond the fact that going from Charney to Averbukh would be a terrible choice in the no-one-will-ever-know-how-to-spell-it department. Although we married at a fairly young age (I was 23 & he was 26), I had already had several accomplishments under my own name, including a portfolio of work that represented who I am professionally and intellectually. And as the eldest child, I wanted to continue to represent where I come from regardless of my marital situation. I do have a brother, so he’ll continue the patrilineal blood line, and my kids likely won’t have my last name (or we’ll hyphenate) …

  7. I think that the modern life places too many demands for a perfect scenario on us all. we want to be successful in career, we want to be perfect mothers, wives and hostesses. we also want to travel a lot and have me time…endless. In Britain, since I had a kid, I realized that this country is designed really badly for mothers. There is simply no way I could afford a full time job right now, unless I was on over 100k a year, which some of my very successful friends might be, but not me. By the time I commute, pay the nany and never see my child grow up, there is simply no point. The choices are hard, but often have to be made. Yet, I always feel that I am doing neither job well- I work part time, I try to become a writer, and I am a mother…nothing 100%, everything at the same time…Not easy!

  8. “And then you get there and you’re still expected to have kids and clean the toilet.”

    :) Exactly. For the record, I added my husband’s name to mine, no hyphen, so I now have a name that’s easy to spell but very long and consistently messes up every computer system since there’s a space in the middle.

  9. I took my husband’s last name and went from Eastern European/12 letters to very WASP/7 letters and people STILL misspell it. OTOH, I also have a professional pen name under which I continue to write (and post) so the issue was never that important to me.

    Re: kids, we have three. And I am currently working from home while my husband goes to work. Two years ago, he was unemployed, at which point he stayed home and I worked. I did continue to manage the kids’ schedules, playdates, school functions, parent-teacher conferences, homework, etc… I did the grocery shopping and cooking, too. BUT, even with a full-time job now, my husband is still the one who does the laundry and cleans the bathroom. Because I don’t want to. (Luckily, at 11, our oldest has been put in charge of washing the dishes and taking out the garbage, so we have an extra pair of hands, even if they need to be nagged. A lot.)

    The long-winded point I am trying to make is that there are no hard and fast rules about who MUST do what, when, and for how long; everyone has to find a compromise that works for them.

    And finally, at our house, the expression goes, “And I… I took the one less traveled by. And that is why I am lost.”

  10. You did meet a third group of people this weekend on Sunday. I am curious :which road do you think they took ?

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