K is for Kids
I grew up in a sexist age. This is what every little girl was expected to have as her grand ambition: to get married and have kids. "Make-believe play" when my friends and I were very young was how many babies we were going to have and their names. The dichotomy that was also going on was that many women had been working to support their families during World War II, and some (including my mother) continued to work after, for various reasons, mostly economic. In the process, they were getting a taste of independence and self-worth, and beginning to question the status quo of women having a "place" in society, which was always in the background, behaving themselves. There were really only a few professions that were considered "womanly" -- nurse, schoolteacher or librarian, or secretary. In the meantime, the women's lib movement was growing and by the time I was nearing 20, women were burning bras -- and not just figuratively. My mother wanted a different life for me and always steered me toward college and "practical" professions, mainly nursing. But I had a deathly fear of needles, born from an episode when I was about 5 and very sick and getting shots once a week or so, and at the same time, watching my father, who was diabetic, stick himself in the stomach every single day with one of those needles that hurt me so much. So nursing was out of the picture in my mind. But still, while many of my friends always talked about kids and how many they were going to have, I didn't really want any. I didn't babysit during my teens like some of my friends, nor did I have younger brothers or sisters to care for. So imagine my surprise when I did become a mother and discover how much I liked it. Having kids was the transforming experience in my life. I found my great ambition was to stay home and take care of my kids, and I felt a great amount of guilt over that, like I was doing something less or demeaning. I really only meant to stay home until they started school, but by the time that happened, I was enjoying my "new" life of volunteer work. Now my life is wrapped up again in kids, but grandkids this time. And they're even more precious. Sometimes now I regret that I never went back to work, especially now that retirement is looming. But it is what it is, and overall, I wouldn't go back and change a thing.