on having it all

by mraynes

when mr. mraynes and i were engaged to be married the plan was that both of us would be in graduate school together and would eventually become university professors. i was a good student, i had excellent recommendations but in trying to find schools that both of us could go to together, none were a perfect match and i was rejected from every program i applied to.

i was crushed. unable to believe that sometimes these things just happen i desperately grasped to the thought that maybe God was directing my life in ways i couldn’t understand. and since i am so very mormon the thing i thought God wanted from me was to have a child.

i was pregnant when we moved to arizona for mr. mraynes’ doctoral program. i often wonder what would have happened if i had decided to stay home from the beginning and live off mr. mraynes’ academic stipend, food stamps and the kindness of our parents. maybe i would have floated seemlessly into motherhood. maybe i would never have tasted the delicious fruit of a fulfilling career and would have been content to be at home. but i went to work and i was good at that work. if we had stayed in arizona i would have been the executive director of a domestic violence program or a vice president in my agency within ten years.

of course, i had enough support to be a successful working mother at that time. my parents lived ten minutes away and helped with childcare. when they couldn’t help we had an excellent, affordable babysitter who taught our son sign language. and for the last year and a half of our time there, mr. mraynes stayed at home while he wrote his dissertation. i never once worried about the welfare of my children. i never once worried about how to pay for childcare and rent. these are the privileges of the very few and unfortunately, i cannot count myself among them anymore.

when i chose to get pregnant instead of waiting a year to reapply to graduate school i had no idea of the compromises i would be forced to make in the future. when we left arizona and chose mr. mraynes’ career over mine i don’t think either of us believed that we were actually choosing mr. mraynes’ career over mine. but the reality is that my ambitions have taken a backseat to my roles as a wife and mother. i have made a series of decisions that have dramatically limited my ability to have it all without fully realizing what i was doing.

this didn’t happen to me because i am stupid or uneducated. this happened because we refuse as a society to talk about the very real sacrifices we force mothers to make.  i am incredibly ambitious, i want to have a career and i believe that i could make an important difference in this world but i wonder if i will be blocked from this because i made the choice to be a mother. choices that my church and society told me were good but had no intention of actually supporting in any meaningful way.

so when the atlantic published anne marie slaughter’s essay, why women still can’t have it all, i felt like my experience was validated. i am in that small percentage of women who are well educated and privileged enough to possibly have fulfilling careers but are trapped on the outside looking in.

i have begun to think about returning to work and all of the sudden the consequences for being a mother are painfully clear. i have taken time off to be with my children during their young childhood and even though i got a graduate degree during this time it is going to be difficult to re-enter the job market. and this doesn’t even account for the overwhelming reality of the childcare costs we will pay, our student loans, living expenses and the need for a flexible schedule so i can take care of my children.

i do feel like i have been sold a bill of goods–by society, by the church, by feminists–and now it’s time to pay and i have no idea how to even start. i love my children, i’m glad they’re here and most likely i would have made the same choices.

but i wish i had known what they were going to cost me.