Friday, November 5, 2010

No-Career Woman

I'm tall.

Four times a year, my alma mater publishes its Alumnae Quarterly. So four times a year, I get a message in my inbox inviting me to send in an "update" that details my current goings-on.

I almost never know how to respond to these invitations. When Westley was born, it was easy; I sent in the "I had a baby! Here are his stats!" update. But most the the updates are from alumnae living in such-and-such a city, doing important-and-or-interesting work for such-and-so a company, and seeing fellow alumna So-and-So on a regular basis. Now that I'm not working, not changing cities, and not doing anything particularly interesting, I feel like I have nothing to contribute.

Noelle continues to live in the Seattle area with her husband and son.


I struggle with the emotional push-pull of trying to believe that what I'm doing really is important, while knowing that the world doesn't give a shit.

Why is having a job and making money somehow better and more interesting than making a home and raising a child? (Because we all got together as a society and decided that money is the shit, and if you're not making any, you don't matter?) Why is this work perceived as so valueless - even by those who do it willingly?

Noelle is putting off finding a preschool for her son, because she feels grossly unqualified to shop for preschools, and probably can't afford a decent one anyway.

So I'm not working, not interning somewhere cool, not teaching abroad. I'm not studying to be anything. I'm not sure I want to be doing any of those things, and yet, I feel less than because I'm not doing them. And because my "job" comprises so many things that employed, earning, interesting women have to do also, at the end of their workdays.

Noelle is staring down a mountain of clean laundry that is actually last week's laundry, because it's impossible to fold laundry while the kid is awake, and in the evenings, by the time Noelle cooks a nutritious dinner, cleans up the kitchen, attempts to enforce a bedtime routine, sings three-to-five pop songs as lullabies, cleans up the kitchen again, showers, and has a three-to-five-minute conversation with her husband, it's time to go to bed and there is never any time to fold laundry ever.

On one hand, I feel like ignoring this idea of alumnae updates is the best policy. No one outside of my small circle of college friends really cares whether I'm married, homemaking, child-rearing, or anything else. On the other hand, by leaving the updating to the lawyers and doctors and world-travelers, I perpetuate the notion - to myself and anyone else who might be paying attention - that "no career" is synonymous with "not worthwhile."

Noelle writes a blog where she occasionally navel-gazes into her feminist dilemma.