Ok, so here we are in Rome and unfortunately only for a brief couple of…
Are you turning 60 soon? Join the crowd! It’s eerie for me to believe this incredible number with a 6 and even a zero after it is at my wake. I mean I’ve been flopping around for 60 years, oh my gosh, yikes!
Seems like yesterday, I was still in my blue jean overalls, which my Mom deplored, headed to classes and thinking with a youthful arrogance, I knew so much, and maybe I just knew it all. There’s this stage in our twenties were to let’s face it, we all sort of feel like our parents are a bit out of it now that we’ve become an adult. I’m quite sure at one time or another, almost all of us had this delusion for a short period; let’s call it, “Parent Pity.” I’ve witnessed the symptoms of it in my young adult children as well. That’s OK because you see, I know someday they’ll be thinking they have all the answers, and be telling one of their children something deemed to be paramount and they’ll get the “glazed over look.” The look that says “I love you Mom but?” “I’m busy…gotta go now…Love you.” The placation of all placations. So maybe turning 60 isn’t all that bad. Sure it gives you wrinkles, but what perspective!
I’m proud to say I was a member of the “hippie generation.” We were the ones who experimented with drugs, introduced free love, and Rock ‘n Roll. We were brash enough to know we would make the world such a cooler, hipper and more peace loving place. We were the young people of the 70’s. We weren’t as successful at these lofty goals, but we were pretty sure of ourselves. Funny, looking back at those times, how incredibly naive but refreshingly vigorous we were.
I can’t figure out what it is about this particular birthday this year that is such a transition for me.
Major birthday syndrome I guess, seems like as good a time to pull out the”score card, ” i.e., what have we accomplished, etc.?
Better yet, what were my goals when I was twenty or thirty years old?
Sometimes are you like me and wonder, if I knew then, what I know now, what would I have done differently? Sometimes I wonder, but who cares. There’s no going back; it’s simply not going to happen.
Doesn’t it seem like life is all about the hard stuff? The things in life that force you to invest the most of yourself that’s where the experiential living begins. When you stretch yourself to be something, it seems nothing goes unnoticed, and your real self-awakens. Efforts are not singular; they are like the tendrils of an octopus, in that they move others around us in ways often we have no clue we have even affected. The interconnectivity we all have with each other is fascinating, surprising and not to be dismissed. Shouldn’t the success of our lives also take into account how our actions have affected others along the way? The trouble is repercussions of given actions are such a misnomer.
As a woman of my generation, our careers took many of us on rather “patchlike” paths. Most of us found ourselves in a variety of occupations, having not made career choices with the same luminous intensity and focus as the men in our lives did at the time. Sure, there were those of us that were more directed, but in general, most of us looked at college as something “fun to do” before we got married and settled down. How about you?
Many of us had huge spans of years where being a Mom was front and center, our primary occupation. That affected overall what we accomplished monetarily on our own and to what levels we rose within corporate America. We were busy accomplishing other things like getting three kids to 2 different activities across town and breastfeeding one in the van while waiting. So for those of us who chose motherhood as our primary occupation, the job was consuming and never ending, the joys far reaching.
We were, as I think about it, literally the first generation of woman, unlike our moms, that were planning our entry into the workforce both before childbirth and after. But the priority was still marriage and children for many of us. Careers were more for that other woman, the ones opting out of having babies. The pull was enormous, given how we had those educations, yet our options were still limited, given we were the primary caregivers.
Our moms, on the other hand, had stayed home for most of their adult life; there was no choice, it was simply what expected. I remember my Mom contemplating working outside the home for fun, and my dad feeling quite ashamed of it. We didn’t need the money, and he didn’t see why she was even considering it. AAfter all what would the neighbors think, that he couldn’t provide? She stayed home.
Now jump forward about 24 years and along comes my generation, you know the girls born in the early 1950’s. These women are now in their 60’s today. For the first time, we were getting college degrees and intending on entering the workforce. Most of us (and I do say, most, as there were exceptions) were simply considering jobs that worked while raising children. It still wasn’t something we spent a good deal of time on analyzing, not in comparison to women of today.
Maybe we’d be fashion designers, flight attendants, sales reps or interior designers or better yet, teachers. Yes, teaching was entirely considered noble and a great occupation for a proper young woman graduating from college. After all, you could still do this and raise children quickly. We all knew once a baby or two became part of the picture, of course, our focus would be that. It didn’t matter if the pay was low, after all, your income was always going to be supplemental to your husbands.
But it looked good to have a degree, made us smarter and ” better catch.” As my mother said, “an intelligent man would want a smart woman.” “An education was never wasted” and it would make us a better asset to our new husband.” Whereas to my girls, I said: “of course college is the way to go, so you can make an educated decision about what you want to do in life.” Yes, smart people attract similar kind, but you get an education for yourself. It broadens you, enlightens you and enriches you.”
Most of us felt we couldn’t possibly consider being a doctor, lawyer or say, a politician as that wasn’t practical. It took too much time. Who had 4 to 5 more years after college for more education? We were going to be married and pregnant soon and dealing with Pampers, scouts, and soccer!
Comparatively, my two adult daughters, plus two stepdaughters, have deliberated over their career choices with such intensity. They have focused on not only getting their degrees but for several, their masters degrees as that gives them an even better edge to compete. They have worked for next to free with internships to qualify for the right positions after school and to qualify them for even more schooling. It is in stark contrast to how we deliberated. In general, we were way less concerned back then with being prepared for life on our own.
College choices for women were less about which top schools made sense to apply to, and more about which ones were situated closest to current boyfriends, most economical or better yet, which schools had the best-looking campuses or football teams.
Woman of today are focused in a way, we never dreamed of, thankfully. They are pursuing things with a tenacity and drive we haven’t seen. They are more likely to pick a career path that is linear with a projection that might go straight to the top. After all, they’ve been thinking about this since they were nine years old. Many are delaying having children much later and for many not picking the childbirth option. Of course, this has caused a whole new set of fertility issues as social changes evolve, the biology of ovary cycles have remained constant.
Thank God some things have changed, right, but not everything. Women will always face the dilemmas discussed in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In.
Here’s an honest read for women concerning family and career choices. To me, this book highlights how intensely personal the choices are for each woman. And that judgment about these decisions only serves to stand in our way.
We will always face the choices that childbirth places on us as women, as the current TV show Parenthood so aptly points out. It’s a unique program light, funny and poignant, in my opinion.
Our role is changing and yet in other ways, not so much. Young women, from what I hear and read, are wanting to stay home quite often with little ones and be full-time Moms. Nothing new there. The endless opportunities for women within their homes are exciting compared to yesteryear with online coursework and social media.
Roles of men and females are much more interchangeable, it seems, although my guess is still many of the Moms are still the actual stay-at-home Moms, if you looked at the numbers.
For example, here’s an enjoyable read by Gail Collins from the NY Times called: When Everything Changed that details how little life has changed for women over the last 50 years, and also how in other ways the differences from one generation to the next are incredible.
I’ll let you know what I think.
Has any of you read it?
As we roll into this time of hope and new life let’s celebrate women.
my House Finch to