Friday, August 24, 2012

Flux - Peggy Orenstein

I first read this book after I had just graduated from law school.  I was single and fairly certain that I never wanted to have children.  As the book looks at professional women and their choices involving raising families, I felt like it reinforced my belief that it is impossible to have it all, and that having children would only derail what I hoped would be a focused and successful legal career.  Years later, the book was still on my shelves.  But, this time around, I'd been praticing law for almost 12 years, I had a young son, and plans for more children in the future.  I have a husband who supports my career- but who definitely has one of his own.  And so, the majority of the child-care falls to me.  In many ways, I feel like I am the disappointment that Orenstein predicted in women with professional potential who choose to take time to have children.  Re-reading this book while in a completely different place in my life was very interesting.  I found it frustrating and almost hopeless - sad to realize that I'd stepped off the competitive career track that I always saw myself on - or maybe sad to realize that I'm the stereotype of the woman who decided that a high-powered legal career wasn't giving me the satisfaction I thought I deserved. While having a family certainly isn't the be-all-end-all, I enjoy it.  And I enjoy having a job that I love as opposed to one that other people think that I am supposed to have.  I do wonder if it's possible to "have it all" and still get sleep at night.  I feel like I've made the right choices for me that have led to more happiness in my career and personal life than I thought I'd ever have, but still feel like it came at the sacrifice of being a trail blazer or making things any easier for the women who come after me - that feeling still gnaws at me often.  Other women I've spoken to about this book found it comforting - to know that there are other women who struggle with the same doubts as they do.  I found it frustrating - wishing that more people could find a way to have pieces of everything they want, or to be happy in what they have.  Mostly, I wish that we could all find a way to feel comfortable in our decisions, and support others who make ones that are not the same as ours - and for those of us that have choices, to appreciate that reality.  This is a conversation I think will be going on for decades to come, as women wrestle with what we want and what we are willing to give up to achieve it.  This is a great book for sparking debate and serious thought about the life one wants to lead - but getting through it was definitely (for me) no walk in the park.

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