(Today I needed to read this post I wrote in September of 2013 so I'm republishing it just on the off chance that others might be needing encouragement today, too).
There is so much to say on this subject, but I'm just going to touch on a few things from my experience because let's face it ... I'm not exactly a confrontational person, let alone a confrontational blogger.
Whatever "having it all" means ... does it include not waiting in line for the ladies room? And surprisingly, Ryan was not the toilet paper throwing culprit.
We eat lunch with Chris pretty much every day, which is one of my favorite parts about living so close to campus. Today, though, after I could see that Ryan wasn't going to accidentally trip one of the many students swarming around the dining hall while he chased a ball yelling, "Soooccer!" toward his dad, I slipped away and went up to the Oak Room in South Dining Hall to listen to a panel titled, "Professors for Lunch: Can Notre Dame Women Have It All? Career, Family & the Pursuit of Post-Graduation Happiness."
When I first arrived at college, I was floored when my future best friend told me confidently that she wanted to stay at home with her potential future children. I remember thinking, "We are allowed to say that?! We as in female college students could say that we wanted to stay at home?!" Her simple statement was the very beginning of my discovering why I couldn't seem to settle on one career choice or major for longer than a few months; I couldn't choose because what I truly wanted to do wasn't even offered as an acceptable potential option.
As the semesters passed in college, I became more confident about one thing that I wanted to do. Each semester starts with the usual what is your name, where are you from, what do you want to do introduction. I started to realize that if I truly wanted to be clear about my intentions and wanted to help normalize the concept of an educated parent being able to choose to stay at home with his or her children, I might as well be honest when it came to be my turn in the round of introductions in each class.
"Hi I'm Katrina, I'm from Ohio, I live in McGlinn, I'm majoring in Economics and I hope to be a consultant and then a stay at home mom." The consultant part would vary as I delved more into my career search, but the shocked reaction of silence and uncomfortable shifting remained consistent. Once, while introducing myself in French, the female professor double checked to see if I knew what I meant when I said, "une mère au foyer." When I assured her that I meant stay at home mom, her response was a perplexed, "Huh." Her reaction did not need a translation.
Now, here I am, living the dream one rendition of Old McDonald at a time. I get to stay at home. And I love it. And it is a luxury for us! We choose to have this luxury even if it means the rest of our life isn't luxurious. It works for our family.
What has surprised me the most since it became apparent that I was officially going to set up a home office of diapers and board books is the response from other girls, friends and acquaintances alike. A friend at work whispered to me behind the closed door of an elevator that she would love to stay at home. A friend at a tailgate whispered the same. Wherever the location or no matter the number of people around, revealing the desire to stay at home was treated like a confession rather than a declaration.
As I sat there at the table so not looking like a college student, I wondered what image I was giving off, sitting there pregnant with my Notre Dame necklace from freshman year hanging from my neck. That pregnant women can eat it all? Probably. What else does a combination of grilled cheese, lasagna and eggrolls say?
I enjoyed the first two panelists who basically said everything that I think (it's not about having it all, it's about balance, different definitions for each woman), but I had to slip out right as Coach Muffet McGraw took the mike since Chris had to get back to his job and Ryan isn't exactly office-friendly. I was delusional for a bit and thought that maybe, just maybe Ryan would stay quiet if I slipped back into the talk. We lasted maybe a minute of me reminding Ryan to be quiet or to whisper until Ryan proclaimed, "All done." But in that minute, I realized that while I was standing there in the doorway with my little boy on my hip with his leg draped over my expectant belly and praying that he whispered, I was hoping that all of the girls in the room who might be entertaining the idea of choosing to stay at home would stop whispering.
Save the whispers for lullabies and bedtime stories. Those are much better.