Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why wait?

I am 100% part of Gen X, the generation of women who agonize over the "work/family" balance. We are sandwiched between two interesting generations. The ones that have gone before us--the baby boomers--were busy smashing down glass ceilings and proving their worth in the work place (sounds exhausting!). The ones that are coming of age now are being referred to as Generation Y or "the Millenium Generation". Apparantly, they are the confident ones who were brought up to 'question' everything. They won't be tied down to a job that is unfulfilling, and they see Gen X's preocupation with balance as superfluous. According to a USA Today article from back in 2005, Generation Y: They've arrived at work with a new attitude, they simply choose jobs with flexibility and seek out telecommuting options or working from home if children come on the scene.

Many of my peers have also sought such options. But I wonder if the difference between generation Y and X is that we Xers still have a tendency to feel a deeper sense of identity in our chosen work field and place of employment (apparantly the Yers feel that work is one of many facets of who they "are", not to be outdone by competing interests for their time: sports, organizations, hobbies, etc. Work will never be the isolated, main activity for them). We feel a loyalty to stay at the job, where it seems that the Yers are much more open to the idea that technology moves people around, and that can include changing jobs with relative frequency.

This all leads to the point of our angnst with "work/life balance". We were brought up to believe that we could have it all, that in fact we should go to college and pursue a career. At the same time we knew we wanted families, and just assumed they would fit in there sometime. Yet we scratched our heads in our twenties, wondering how the two were supposed to fit together in reasonable harmony? So we waited for kids. And a lot of us waited until our thirties to get started. And we still questioned ourselves constantly, wondering if we had made the right decisions. (It's amazing how many books you can find on this subject! I have a prominent one on my bookshelf, from my mid-twenties when I was already starting to think about such things called Mid-Life Crisis at 30 by Lia Macko and Kerri Rubin).

A little life experience can open a person up to just a tad bit of wisdom. After many years of waiting and wondering, I'm not in the thick of trying to live this "balance" thing. And what have I come away with? I now know that we can't and won't always "have it all" during life...that there are seasons for some things, and there are disappointments along the road, no matter the road chosen. Yet, as I've said before, there is also incredible joy to be found on the way, in places most unexpected. I still work, but I now have a different perspective and attitude. I now understand what the Y-ers seem to have intuited: work is good, work is fun, but it doesn't define who I am. It will never be the Main Thing. Priorities are now much more visible, from the meeting I walked out on half-way through because my 3-month old wouldn't take a bottle. I went home and nursed her, and that was that. I know that some colleages may look at me (one even said it) with a slight look of disdain--"You're pregnant AGAIN?!" but that's okay. Work is what I do; motherhood has had a huge part of stealing my heart.

Getting back to the generational thing. We still chose to wait before having kids. Here are some reasons:

1. It gave us time to settle down, eventually buy our condo, and know the natural rhythms of life together.
2. We traveled...a lot (although--always on the cheap!) We took trips to Italy, France, Canada, and Brazil, not to mention Mexico several times to visit my husband's family.
3. I got so much experience working that I started to get burned out, and realized that I wasn't cut out to be the type to put my energies into climbing up the latter. I was pretty "stagnant" (in terms of upward mobility) at the position where I was, and really, not all that upset about it.
4. I had "finished" a lot of things once Angelica did come a long. School, getting into the work routine, the marriage routine, etc. She didn't rock our world as much as she could have, had she shown up a few years before.

Yet, I can't help but wonder sometimes how things might have been different if we hadn't long. I'm now 32, and this pregnancy will most likely be my last. If I had started in my mid-twenties, would I now be pondering #3? Would I have had more physical stamina during pregnancies and the young baby-toddler years? My friend, who had #1 and #2 in her twenties, seeems to think so (for herself). She told me back then that she was so glad she had them when she did, so she could keep up with them physically. I know there's truth to that!

The point is, I can argue back and forth with myself about it in my head, or realize that honestly--when it all comes down to it--I don't really have the control I like to think I have in life. (Hence the disappointments and joyful surpises along the way). God gave us Angelica exactly when the time was right for her to be born; the same thing for Baby #2. I respect my generation for striving to be the best that we can be in all aspects all the time, but I also find peace in the knowledge that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Instead of trying to have it all, I think we Gen Xers can start to be content with giving it our all in each of life's seasons. Good enough.