Lately I’ve had something in the back of my mind that just will not go away. Guilt. I am married with a five-month-old baby named Daisy. My husband, Paul, and I just bought our second house and have a lot of exciting travel planned for 2014. If you stalked me on Facebook, you’d probably think I looked super happy and satisfied. But you can’t hide everything with an above angle profile picture.
A month before I had Daisy, I birthed my book, Summerlandish: Do As I Say, Not As I Did. This was a huge accomplishment for me. However, it wasn't enough to just get it on shelves. Now I needed to sell the shit out of that book, write another one and break into film and television. I imagined a career with multiple books, TV shows and lots of writing festival appearances. But I felt guilty for needing to do these things while also trying to be a good partner and mother.
After weeks of internal anguish, I decided to pull Paul aside. With a deep breath, I told him that playing house in real life wasn't enough for me and that I felt guilty for needing to do more than just walk our dog, pick out new bathroom tiles and raise our child. He cheerfully responded, "That's good! You should never settle. I love that you're so driven." I immediately felt inspired, loved and content again.
Not 10 minutes later someone sent me an article entitled “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry.” The article begins, “Every time I hear someone say that feminism is about validating every choice a woman makes I have to fight back vomit.” I think the title and first line alone tells you everything you need to know about that piece.
Even though I disagreed with everything that essay had to say and found it almost laughably absurd, I still managed to foolishly start questioning my life choices. Maybe there was some right in all that wrong and that’s why I needed more than diapers and diamond rings. Maybe those things weren’t as important as I thought they were. Should I have saved my wedding money for a masters degree? Would that piece of paper be more valuable than my wedding license?
Deep down, I know that I don’t want to put love on the backburner for my career because I value those things equally. I have hormones telling me to mate for life. It's fine if you don't have those same feelings, but I don't want to be attacked for my biological drive.
Along with my need to procreate, I also have the drive to write. I’ve been working on becoming a published author for years. That’s why a week before I gave birth I drove four hours to speak on a panel at the New Young Writers Festival in an effort to promote my upcoming book. When Daisy was five weeks old, I took her and Paul down to Sydney so that I could attend an awards lunch where I was a nominee. Since I was breastfeeding, I nursed Daisy in the car before I went inside. As I sat at a table full of faces I only recognized from the Internet, I started to feel guilty. Why was I at this awards thing? I had a 35-day-old baby sitting in a running car with my husband. The guilt nestled deeper into the back of my mind as my boobs filled back up with milk.
When we got back to our tiny town, I went right back to my life which consists of dirty diapers, playdates and a whole lot of writing. The writing bit isn’t as easy as it used to be. As soon as I get on a roll, Daisy has a need. Instead of going to soothe her myself, my visiting mom will tend to her for me so that I can write. Boom. More guilt. Is writing a book about my pregnancy and birth of my child more important than watching her grow in real life? The first years are so fleeting. But then again, so is my chance to be a successful young author.
My guilt is becoming increasingly annoying. My inner monologue is constantly questioning, “Why isn't my family enough? I could die at any moment. Wouldn't I rather make memories with the people I love than live in an isolated world typing away?”
Well, no, actually. I want to have my cake and write about it too.
For me, having both a family and a career is having it all. I love having the option and resources to put my child in daycare to work on my other passions. For others maybe it's making a fabulous home or carving out an awesome career. Nobody should be taking a shot at anybody about her life choices. I think it’s interesting that such a challenging article floated into my inbox on the same day that I decided to acknowledge my guilt. It made me realize that I’m not sorry that I was willing to let my life happen and unfold. Yes, sometimes I feel lost or exhausted, but that’s okay. At least I have options.
Whatever the case, we need to respect each other. Feminism is about choice. It’s also most definitely about respect. Look down on me all you want but I’m a young woman with a husband and kid and I’m not sorry either.