I am currently in a big how-did-my-career-dreams-end-up-like-this snit, so I probably focused on the wrong things while reading this article by Emily Stimpson. Mostly I am thinking, how come Emily (who writes about Single Life) turned her writing into "professional success" whereas I (who write about Single Life) have not? Seven shows with EWTN? I'm seriously impressed. Who does she know? Did she just call them up? Did she take the Catholic Match shilling? ARGH! I think she did.
But despite her success, Emily writes that she thinks everything she writes is ephemeral and means nothing in the long run because her blue eyes will not shine forth from a great-grandchild's face. This troubles me because every saint of the Classical world would shout, "Who cares? Children of the spirit are more important than children of the flesh! Arrrrrrrgh!" It also troubles me because now that nobody sews a big A on your chest for having a baby "on your own", having a baby "on your own" is a big enough temptation for Single professional women as it is. My goodness. When I was in theology school, a mother of two asked me if I would consider going down to a local bar on the right day of my cycle and "Just, you know..."
I wonder why men are not more terrified of women in bars than they are. EAVESDROPPERS! Stay away from women in bars!
The other thing that troubles me is that Emily (and, listen, in charity I am reminding you that this morning I envy Emily more than anyone on earth--writers envy each other, it is our besetting sin) is telling mothers that "they have it all" when she is not herself a mother and so can't possibly know what it is really like. As I wallow in my "What have I done with my life?" snit, I think of my own mother's frustrations with being a stay-at-home-mother-of-five-children-under-thirteen. She got married at age 23, which strikes me now as so young I am amazed, even though I hear a chorus of voices telling me this is still normal for Poland. (Twenty-THREE!)
In short, I am absolutely certain that my mother would have LOVED to have run away from the house, the children, the weekly grocery shop, the million shirts to be ironed, to write, speak and travel from time to time. Unfortunately, it would never have occurred to my mother that anyone would have been interested in what she wrote or had to say or in funding her travel. In the 1970s, nobody seemed to give a tinker's damn for housewives. Your value lay in how much money you made or how loud you were, and that was that.
That's when people should have been telling housewife-mothers how valuable their lives and work were. However, even so, there is the fact that 24 hour child-minding can be staggeringly boring, and if you are an intellectually honest woman like my mother, and really bad at lying, it is hard to hide from your children how staggeringly boring they are and how you wish you could have adult conversations beyond "I'll have 200 grams of the Black Forest ham." My mother is so much happier now that her children are adults, and two have married other adults, and now she is guaranteed adult conversation. My dad sent us all to university, too, so we all get the references to the things to which she thinks adults ought to get the references.
My mother also has a job now. I am not certain if it is a volunteer or a pin-money post, but she enjoys it. And she and my father travel a goodish bit. And I am tempted to say that my mother has it all, but only because--mark this--my parents are relatively well off--as well off as the average Canadian Baby Boomer couple could expect to be in their sixties if one made a good professional salary and the other was an incredibly good saver and manager of money. What my mother's life would have been like if my father had lost his job or died---well. I don't want to think about it.
When I was a child, I thought--and my classmates assumed--that we were rather poor. Ah ha ha ha! We weren't poor; for one thing, we lived in our own house. We just weren't consumers. And because we weren't consumers, my parents' so-called Golden Years are exactly that. In fact, I believe my mother now has it all, except--of course--youth and perfect health.
And there's the rub. Very few people start off rich when they're young. And very few people end up rich when they're old. And old age brings aches, pains, prescription drugs, insomnia--all kinds of things. The only sweeteners of old age that I can see are religious faith, money and family. And in countries where family means squat, you cannot rely on your children. And in an economy where, for the first time in history, American and Canadian children are expected to be worse off than their parents, you cannot rely on children to support you financially. And this is yet another reason why women must must must be rooted in reality and make their education and career decisions based not so much on dreams but on realities--realities than can be discovered with some research and expert opinion. (As for when to have children, science suggests that it's way hard if you start trying after age 35. And my mother loves to say, "I've had children at 24, and I've had children at 34. And at 24, it's easier.")
By the way, groundless fears are as dumb as groundless hopes. Instead of panicking that your education may have been useless, go talk to a professional career counsellor. No college education should be wasted; whatever communication skills they gave you will be useful to somebody.
Update: I will never write for a Catholic dating service because, to make a profit, Catholic dating services need Single people to feel badly about being Single. ("Don't be alone this Christmas!") And in her post, Emily denigrates her whole professional-single-lady career and holds up motherhood to a standard that goes even beyond Christian tradition. Could we always remember that the Catholic tradition holds up the lives of vowed religious, holds virginity preserved for the sake of the Kingdom, to be NUMERO UNO?
Update 2: I was going to say something snarky about the likelihood of your great-grandchildren sharing your recessive genes, but as a matter of fact I look a heck of a lot like my mother's father and not only do my great-grandfather's blue eyes shine from my face, his red hair springs from my head. So you never know. Meanwhile, I know next to nothing about his wife. My exciting great-grandmother was an unwed mother who fled Edinburgh with a bun in the oven, worked her whole life, never married and conveniently died before her savings ran out, at the age of 90. My Edinburgh ancestresses were reputedly all wicked working-class temptresses, and I love them.
Update 3: I think saving souls already made so much more important than making new ones, don't you? I'm darned sure St. Augustine did.