My Novels

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

We spent a very, very busy week working around our house/yard. DH built new fencing on one side of the house, and replaced some worn places on the other side. We also put stucco on our cement-block foundation, and a huge aluminum pillar on the small front porch, which turned out great. Somehow it made the house look more modern, and the pillar was a nice touch. Still have to do the foundation at the back of the house, but we'll do that as time permits.

I took in one of the stray cats I've been feeding, a female black-and-white tuxedo cat. And I think she may be pregnant. It was a bit of adjustment for the other cats and her, but now they've more or less accepted each other. If the female, "Pretty," is pregnant, I'll just try to find the kittens good homes like I did the mother/three kittens I rescued last summer. Lots of work, but fun to have kittens around. And having them from birth means I can tame them, and make each one a great pet for potential owners.

Last Tuesday we drove over near the stateline, quite a trip...DH bought some saddles wholesale, and then resales them for a profit. It was a good outing.

Unfortunately the weather turned unseasonably warm last week, and we hit 90 before the weekend. NOT pleasant. It has cooled down by now, back in the 70s, and I've been riding the bike each morning regularly.

We decided not to buy the land, and are just going to continue saving and see if we can't find something better in the future. Or just stay here. I don't know if I could move, since we've lived here over 20 years -- and that's a long time! I took the 'for sale' sign out of the yard, since we were getting too many calls and were not sure we wanted to sell.

I paid the $15.00 tuition today for the Virtual University courses to start on May 5th. Several course on writing, one about memoir writing, one on breaking writer's block, and one as writing as a healing process. Should help me get back in the writing mood!

Here's an excellent article about not having children:

Childless and Ms. understood


Saturday, April 20, 2002 – Page A19

The other night I got together with a couple of girlfriends (okay, so they're a little long in the tooth) to enjoy the unseasonably balmy weather and a glass of wine or three. They both have neat jobs and nice husbands, just like me. So I told them I needed to conduct a focus group.

"Are you miserable?" I asked. "Does your grief come in layers of bitterness and regret because you missed out on Mother Nature's gift?"

They looked at me blankly.

"Maybe you need more of this lovely Chardonnay to get in touch with your feelings," I said.

But it was no good. They kept arguing about the Middle East and swapping recipes for creamy no-fat chicken sauce. Finally, I had to confront them outright.

"It says here," I said, "that there is an epidemic of misery among successful women because we never got around to having babies. It's the hidden social tragedy of our time. So confess, already."

The person who diagnosed this epidemic is an American economist named Sylvia Ann Hewlett, who has a bestselling book called Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children.

Maybe you saw the cover story about it in Time. That would be the cover featuring a sad-looking woman with a baby blanket and a Palm Pilot where the baby's supposed to be. Or maybe you caught the item on 60 Minutes,where a bunch of women with Harvard MBAs groused about how they can't get dates. As soon as they mention the H-word, the guys vamoose.

"Nowadays," writes Ms. Hewlett, "the rule of thumb seems to be that the more successful the woman, the less likely it is she will find a husband or bear a child. For men, the reverse is true. The more successful the man, the more likely he is to be married with children."

According to her, 33 per cent of women who are "high achievers" are still childless at age 40. Among the "ultra-achievers" the figure is 49 per cent. "Childlessness," she mourns, "haunts the executive suite."

I contemplated our three nice-guy husbands, who had gathered in the kitchen, the way men do, to yak away about wine and gardening. Poor saps. They got a raw deal when they got stuck with us.

In case anybody cares, Ms. Hewlett's statistics are just a little bit dubious. It turns out that she confined her survey to large corporations of more than 5,000 people. Most of the high-achieving women I know, both mothers and non, don't work at places like that. They're lawyers, doctors, consultants, fundraisers and TV producers. Some of them took one look at life in the executive suite, decided it was hell on Earth, and bailed.

But never mind. The premise of the book feeds several robust myths.

The first myth is that women never get an even break. Either we have kids young and stay on the Mommy Track forever, or leave it till too late and endure the heartbreak of infertility. Men don't have to choose. They can have it all: the little wife, the kids, the big career. Better yet, there's always someone else to do the housework. (Okay. This part is definitely true.)

The second myth is that women who put work ahead of family are misguided careerists who will wind up feeling cruelly duped.

People who don't like capitalism like this one. So do social conservatives, who think that our best and brightest are weakening the gene pool by refusing to reproduce. This fear goes back at least as far as Teddy Roosevelt, father of six, who warned: "If Americans of the old stock lead lives of celibate selfishness . . . disaster awaits the nation."

Other people have found other whipping boys. If only we had better workplace legislation like the Swedes do, then women wouldn't have to quit their jobs when they have kids. And society wouldn't have to squander all that precious brainpower on menial activities such as child-rearing.

"What an incredible loss of social capital," mourned one highly placed female academic, who discovered that women with PhDs are more inclined than men are to slow down their careers when they have kids.

Which raises a couple of interesting questions. Do these people think that only stupid women should stay home with the kids? Or do they think that only stupid women would want to?

Oh well. One thing I've learned is that whatever phase of life I'm in, someone's going to diss it. I have a favourite headline from the 1980s, back when I was single. "Singles Lead Lives of Quiet Despair that Sometimes Lead to Morgue," it said.

Somehow, I escaped the morgue. But reliable statistics said that women over 35 were more likely to be struck by lightning than to find a husband.

This, too, was interpreted as the penalty for selfish careerism, or else as further proof of life's raw deal for women (take your pick). It turned out not to be true, and eventually even I got married.

But that won't stop people from chewing over the fresh insult to our sex exposed by Ms. Hewlett. Even Maureen Dowd is doing it. She blames men, too, because they won't date up. They don't want us, they want a little wife. Smart career women are too much challenge to their ego.

But she forgot the women's part in it. All those female Harvard MBAs want to marry male Harvard MBAs, and PhDs want to marry other PhDs. And that's their problem. Smart career women won't date down.

If they really wanted what the guys have, they'd go to different bars, where they could meet a nice carpenter or kindergarten teacher or artistic type. You know, a nurturing guy, maybe a few years younger, who's happy to stay home with the kids while the high-achieving one tends the big career. A guy who says things like, "I'm happy my wife works, because the more money she makes, the less I have to." But will they do it? Hah.

So what about my focus group? Well, that brings me to the third myth. In spite of what the experts say, being childless is not necessarily devastating. At times, it's even rather pleasant. It turns out that all three of us tried for babies once, and we were disappointed when it didn't work. But we recovered with unseemly haste.

Maybe we're just shallow. Or maybe we know that anyone, man or woman, who claims to have it all in life is probably lying.


Till next time...

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