Feminism In The Time Of Recession

Image and video hosting by TinyPicIt’s no secret that I was laid off back in November. It’s also no secret that I’m a bit of an optimist, viewing every skinned knee as a chance to get a cheery, smiley-face Band-Aid. So it’s no surprise that I would embrace unemployment as the nudge I needed to stop planning my career and create it.
The surprising thing is, I came to the conclusion that I don’t actually want a career, at least not in the traditional sense. I’m not saying I want to sit on my couch in ratty sweats (I don’t even own a pair of sweats!) and eat bonbons (refined sugar is a no-no, except for gummy worms, yum), but I’m tired of taking the crowded road to the top, doing what I’m “supposed” to do. I finally realized that perhaps the thing I had been chasing—a spot atop the masthead of a magazine of my own creation—might actually suck once I caught it.
This wasn’t the first time I’d had this thought. A few years ago, I had a touch of the quarter-life crisis. I was toiling away as an assistant-level editor making no money and working until my brain hurt every day, when one weekend I started to worry that I would never achieve the things I’d long said I would, to wonder if I would let down the people who had helped me along the way and, worse, to contemplate if I even still wanted those things. But I pushed those thoughts away and went to work the next day.

What changed? I guess the difference is that when the questions came up again in November, I actually took the time to answer them. Why? I’ve learned a lot since then, and experienced even more. Five years later, it’s a lot easier for me to recognize that I have things in my life that matter more than that career. And those things, the good and the bad, have helped me put things into perspective and made it harder to ignore the voices in my head. Now, there’s a very specific freedom in scrapping my whole plan; deciding to live my life off the page and just deciding to be happy every day, rather than waiting for my happiness to come “one day.” Right now, that means writing for mags and websites, working on my books and connecting with you lovely Parlouristas each week.

Wanna hear something else that’s surprising? I plan to continue living this way. I think some folks think the widespread embrace of the full-time freelance life is a defense mechanism since there aren’t any mag jobs out there anyway, so why pine after them, sour grapes, blah, blah, blah. And, really, who’s to say what may happen and what my financial needs may be in the future; I’ll do whatever is necessary to help take care of my family. But for now, my new plan is to live the life I want to live, and to be—wait for it—a stay at home mom.

Yup. I wanna have brown babies, breast feed ’em ’til they get teeth, coerce my hubby into changing their poopy diapers and be here for their milestones, rather than trusting them to the babysitter and a shitty digital camera.

To many (namely, those same folks who think turning away from the career ladder is a fad brought on by the recession), it may seem like I’m stepping out of the bright lights of women’s lib to lurk in the shadows of the man’s world, flushing the gains of feminism down my scrubbed-with-a-toothbrush toilet. But the truth as I see it, is that feminism is what allows me to make choices, what gives me the autonomy to use my skills to take care of my family in the way that I choose. Am I setting the struggle back 40 years? Maybe to some. But I’m happy, and that’s all that matters to me.

Do you think I’m stomping all over Gloria Steinem’s agenda? Were you pushed into a major life decision this year? Are you in the throes of your own quarter-life crisis? Do share!

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