I’m 71 years old (yikes, that happened quickly), and since graduating from college, marrying and moving out of my parents’ house 50 years ago, I’ve never been financially supported by a man. I’ve earned my own money for half a century, and continue to work as hard as I ever have. That’s not what I was brought up to do, but that’s what’s happened.
And, I confess that while I thrive on work, and am proud of myself for forging a fairly successful career, I’m envious of women who don’t have the pressures, challenges and anxieties that working inevitability brings, not to mention the worries about supporting a family. When I see young women pushing strollers down the streets of Manhattan, or anywhere else, in the middle of the day, I remember what a different life I led when I was their age. And when I see a woman of my generation pushing her grandchild’s stroller down the street in the middle of the day, I think what a different life I lead now.
Of course, when I snap back into reality, I know I would have hated endlessly pushing a stroller down the street and going to playgrounds while my husband earned money and had a successful career. But recognizing that still doesn’t stop me from wishing I could have eliminated the angst I’ve felt for decades, about everything from making sales quotas to writing thousands of articles on deadline, from strategizing how to beat competition to putting up with more insufferable bosses, clients, coworkers and employees than I care to count.
I wonder, do women whose husbands financially support them, happily and heartily, feel differently deep down than women who support themselves or their families? Do they look enviously at women who work, wishing they could have calm lunches, grown-up conversions, and their own money?
Are some of us simply born to be full-time mothers, while others push proposals instead of strollers? Or do our circumstances propel us in such diverse directions?
I had a luncheon meeting yesterday with two young men, both of whom had twins. One set of twins is only two years old, and when I asked that man if his wife “works,” he chuckled and answered, “my wife would say she does!”
With children comes great responsibility. With a career comes great responsibility. Worlds of women manage to have both, whether out of necessity or out of desire. I applaud any woman who works hard at either, or balances the two.