If I am completely honest, the thing that I would like to do right now more than anything in the world is be a mom. I am 24-years-old and I have always loved kids, but recently it has become quite clear that parenting is what I would rather be doing with my time and energy.
I've never had visions of the boardroom, in fact I pretty much completely disagree with American corporate work ethic. My dream "job," would be creating. I would love to write, sing, dance... these are all things I do well, probably better than anything else (not including general multitasking). My mind functions on what society says is a high level, and I always felt an indescribable need to get out of the suburbs. That combination of intelligence and restlessness has landed me in the land of the working woman, among other 20-somethings who are exactly where they want to be (focused on their careers).
I feel differently. And I know I'm not the only one. When people talk about women having it all, I always find myself wondering where this idea came from in the first place. Are we saying we think men have it all? Because from what I know a lot of kids whose fathers "leaned" all the way in missed out on A LOT of their childhood. Their dads didn't have it all -- they chose: work, family, or balance.
Of course, balance seems like the best option and probably what most women think when they talk about having it all. But the reality is that our culture is not set up for people who live balanced lives to become CEOs. People who live balanced lives do not become Beyonce, and they do not become Mark Zuckerberg. Our system requires living in the extreme to achieve high-level career success -- it's just how you separate yourself from the pack.
Child rearing is, historically, a full-time job. Because most human societies function in the male-as-breadwinner/ food gatherer setup, the responsibility for raising children usually falls on the mother. If you haven't noticed, men in our society aren't really going out to gather food anymore, and many women are breadwinning either alone or in tandem with their partner. Some people view nannies as a solution to this obstacle, but that is basically outsourcing the creation of the human you made, which is a whole other post for a different day.
I want to be a mother, but I want to be a mother when I've gotten me out of my system. I've never really been particularly selfish, but humans are inherently selfish thanks to a little thing called self-preservation. I'm not talking selfish as in I can't go out drinking anymore, I mean selfish as in focusing only on me to understand who I am. It is astounding how much you learn about the world when you spend time with yourself trying to figure it out. If the city I am in now isn't working, if I can't spend enough time among the trees, or if too many people need Xanax for my liking -- I can move. It may be easier said than done, but the only person I am uprooting is myself. That is selfish because I am keeping the option of mobility open for MY OWN happiness, but ultimately finding my own happiness and understanding of the world will benefit any child I have, ten fold.
I also find the idea of locking a man down VERY unappealing. I have no desire to be in a relationship where I am the main person wanting to be in it. I want to be with someone who is my equal partner, or I don't want anyone at all. Selfish? Maybe. But once again, the way I see it mature and equal partnerships work best for raising good humans. As far as I can tell the best way to find an equal partner is to surround myself with people whose heart's desires are closest to my own. I should note here that in my view this entire conversation is not gendered. I think any modern male aspiring to fatherhood should consider the EXACT same things about how they want to approach work/life in relation to raising kids.
I don't have it all right now, and if I'm realistic about it I probably never will. What I want in my life is balance. I want to see the world, find a way to make money that doesn't feel like work, be a lover, be a friend, and be a mother. I acknowledge that at different points in my life each aspiration will take precedent over another, because I am only human. So no, I am not currently living out my number one fantasy, but I am finding new, real ones. I had no idea when I left my suburban town for the northeast that I had a summer in Kenya, a performance at the Irish president's house, or happily living in New York in my future. But all of those things came to pass and they make me who I am, and one day they will make me a kickass parent.