In late 2019, my husband and I decided that 2020 would be our year to start a family. We were truly blessed that our plans came to fruition (on schedule, nonetheless), and we recently announced that we are, in fact, expecting our first child this November. We couldn't be more excited about what the future has in store and we were so touched that our announcement was greeted with an abundance of warmth and hearty congratulations from family, friends, co-workers, and the like.
While the majority of responses were overwhelmingly positive, there were also a few sentiments peppered in that — yes, I was prepared for — but couldn't help but feel disheartened upon hearing. "Wow! I'm surprised. I always thought you would be a career woman." "That's funny, you seemed so focused on your career right now." "Say goodbye to all of the things you enjoy!"
Yes, I was prepared for these responses, but that didn't make hearing them any easier. In defense of the respondents, for many years I had clearly communicated that children were never a part of my life plan. But how is it that in 2020 there is still an underlying belief that a woman can not be both a mother and a person with a healthy and successful career? How does one have an effect on the other?
This societal belief that women can not in fact do both has affected me my entire life. It was because of this larger mindset that I quickly adopted the phrase, "I'm never having children." Deep down, I knew this wasn't true. In fact, there was never a time in my life when I genuinely pictured my future without children. But I found this quick answer much simpler to reiterate than having to constantly explain to peers — and when I was a teenager, adults — that being a woman didn't automatically make me predestined for child-rearing and child-rearing only. I had a plan and children weren't a singular end-all-be-all. They were an item on a much larger list.
I realized early on that expressing my plans to have both a family and a career ("having it all" as some may refer to it) was more often than not greeted with negativity. It was often expressed to me by naysayers that a person simply does not have that much time or energy to do both "jobs" successfully. Or worse, that a pregnant woman or a woman with children would be less valued in the workplace as they would be seen as being less devoted to their work. (Unfortunately, this mindset is still deeply rooted in corporate America, but I won't get into all of that just now).
To be fair, I was greeted with the same negativity when I would communicate my plan to continue making art and practicing music into adulthood. "Just wait until you work full time, you'll be too exhausted to do any of those things. You'll see." I didn't argue and I still don't see. But I do teach art workshops out of my home and continue to take piano lessons (I'm much more adept now than I ever was as a teenager) and have no plans on stopping any time soon.
It's unfortunately true that when we told some people about the pregnancy I felt a subconscious victory or feeling of divine knowing unfolding in their minds. As if the announcement of our child were a negative or at the very least a period at the end of my life's sentence. But these individuals clearly don't know me that well. Because this isn't the end. In fact, this is just the beginning.
I have a miracle growing inside of me. And because of that miracle I am more motivated than ever. Choosing to be a mom doesn't mean giving up on my career. It means working harder than ever to pursue my chosen path. After all, I'm not just working for me and my husband anymore. I'm working for this little boy or girl that we're bringing into the world together.
It's important to me and my husband that they have every opportunity life has to offer. That they feel limitless in what they can accomplish. We want them to feel loved and valued, and to also be proud of both of their parents for having careers they are passionate about, and speaking frankly, pretty darn good at. My husband and I will be role models, demonstrating that good things come with hard work, patience, and the strength to pursue what you're capable of. Whether this child is a boy or a girl, I want them to know that they can be whoever they want to be. That their future is bright and not limited by their gender and the roles and connotations society continues to assign.
I know I have but a small influence over how others think or feel. But what kind of message are we sending our children when we continue to perpetuate the notion that women can not have both a family and a career? That raising a child is not a multi-person job? I'm fortunate that I have a loving, supportive and caring partner to journey through life with. There has never been a single second where I thought of this child as "my baby." It is and always will be "ours." We're in this together and plan to split responsibilities as equally as humanly possible and enjoy as much as we can as a unit, together. But everyone's life situation looks different. That's why:
It's time we stop judging women who don't want to have children. It's time we stop guilting moms who still want to have a career after their child is born. It's time we stop looking down on those destined to be stay-at-home parents. It's time we eradicate the ridiculous notion that we can't all "have it all." To all the moms and moms-to-be out there who can relate to being on the receiving end of one of these sentiments, I feel for you and I feel with you. But we can change the societal narrative, one story at a time. Stay true to yourself and your dreams. Together we can show the world just how amazing women are; what we're capable of. Together we can show the world that yes, we too, can have it all.