On Not Having It All (At Once)

We’re moving. Not, mind you, moving very far. We’re moving 18 miles and across a body of water, but we are moving out of our very first apartment together.

It goes something like this. When I got home from my book tour in February, I was ready for a change. Specifically, I thought it would be a very good idea to pack up everything we owned and move back to Brooklyn immediately, because I missed it, and because I was 110% sure that I couldn’t take another goddamn summer of not seeing the sun for three months running. David thought this was a slightly less good idea. He had a job he said (details), he didn’t miss Brooklyn with quite the consuming passion that I did, and he’d really gotten used to the non-horrible winters and relative nearness of family in California. I pouted (obviously). He suggested we try Oakland, the Brooklyn of the West and see how a 20-mile move worked for us before we tried a 3,000-mile move.


So, of course, we spent the last two months looking for apartments, every single weekend. First, let me just mention that the rental market in the Bay Area is currently completely out of control. The city is being swept with Facebook money and one-billion-dollar Instagram deals (and sadly has become virtually unrecognizable when compared to the city of my childhood… and noticeably different than the city we moved to five years ago). And East Bay is being swept by foreclosures and speculators, which in turn have whipped the rental market into a frenzy. So even though we were ostensibly moving to the part of the Bay Area where we could get more space (because I also needed a damn desk, no more working on the kitchen table for me), we looked at more than our fair share of cramped basement apartments and two bedrooms where the second bedroom was actually a corner of the living room (surprise!), that all cost way more than our current, spacious, lovely, one bedroom. (Also, argument: if you take my one bedroom, and put a wall up to divide the bedroom into two, I’m probably not going to want to pay you $500 more a month.) And then. Just about the time I decided I didn’t care anymore, and I could work on a kitchen table forever, we found our house.

That’s right. I said HOUSE. (And no, we’re not buying.) Suddenly, we stumbled on a free standing, lovely little house, with a front and back garden, in exactly the neighborhood we wanted to be in… for the same price as all those depressing tiny basement apartments. And then by some miracle, we got it. So we’re moving early next month, and we’ll have a vegetable garden, sun, rosebushes, and be closer to restaurants and cafes (and downtown San Francisco) than we currently are.

I’ll tell you how it goes, because right now, I have no idea.

But here is what I do have a grip on: the last five years. I move very rarely. This will be the third home I’ve lived in since graduating college 10 years ago, because when I move, I stay put. So moving is always a huge opportunity for psychic cleaning for me. I go through all the scraps of paper I’ve collected while living in a home. I glance at notes I’ve scribbled down (unsurprisingly I keep a lot of notebooks). And this year, I decided to take on The Picture Project. Since this is the first home I’ve lived in only owning a digital camera, I suddenly realized that we have five years of unprinted pictures. So, since we signed the lease on the new home, I’ve been gathering them up from hard drives, cell phones, and social messaging sites. I’ve been uploading them, and getting ready to print them and make scrapbooks.

And here is what I’ve realized, looking at countless pictures of our faces: the last five years have been difficult. Yes, the last year and a half has been damn good (if insane, stressful, and packed full). Yes, getting married and honeymooning was a high point. Yes, starting this blog was one of the big gifts of my life. But all in: it’s been a tough five years. You can see it in my face, in almost every picture (except the more recent ones). I’m struggling, and in a very different way than my flat-broke-and-struggling-twenties.

So, as I’ve started to sort through these pictures and scribbled notes, I’ve tried to figure out why that is. And I think, interestingly enough, it’s because San Francisco is the first time we bought in (even a little bit) to the idea of “What our lives should be like.” I’m struggling in these pictures, because I’m trying to cram myself into a box of happy-successful-grown-up-life, and I hate it there.

Long time readers know the story. We moved to San Francisco from New York for David to go to law school, and a New York City temp job I had right before the move turned into a gig as a research writer at an investment bank. I made good money, I worked totally insane hours, and by the time I realized I hated it, the economy had collapsed and I had a partner to get through law school. I was stuck. (Until, of course, I sold a book, and left my job to work for myself and run APW. Winning all the things.)

Looking back at the pictures of the last five years, I can see just what a toll “having it all” had. Yes, I had a job that sounded fancy. Yes, I made reasonably good money. But I woke up at five am, I barely had time to see David, and I was miserable every day but Saturday (the day I didn’t have to dread going back to work, and only had to check my Blackberry three times).

When I was growing up, my feminist mom, who stayed home with us when we were small used to tell me, “I figured out I could have it all, but I realized I didn’t want it all. At least not all at once.” She worked when I was tiny, and used to sob her way through her commute to work after dropping tiny baby me off at daycare. For the record, I stayed at daycare long enough to remember it, and I didn’t mind it in the slightest. But she minded, so eventually she quit to stay home for awhile. Cate Subrosa‘s mom has an excellent line about women and careers, that there are “many ways to skin a cat.” And sure enough, when we were a bit older, my mom wrote a published a book, and then ended up going back to have an extremely successful teaching career. So did she have it all? Sure. In the end. But not all at the same time.

I don’t have kids (obviously). And probably because of my mom, I remain totally baffled that, as women, we’ve decided there are battle lines between “working moms” and “stay at home moms.” (Battle lines so stark that at various points over writing APW I’ve been accused of being in one camp or the other based on a throwaway line, when really, I understand both choices as totally valid and don’t understand why we need camps). But I do think that, in very real ways, kids or no kids, all of us in this country have been sucked into this very insane, very rigged game of trying to have it all. And having it all in 21st century America looks a lot like working way too much, making a lot of money, buying flashy things while we try to pay off mountains of debt (student loan and other), and having minimal time to devote to our personal and family life.

And in the end, I wonder if we’re being scammed a bit. People in most other countries don’t work this much (or have as many cars, I suppose). I wonder if maybe the game isn’t rigged. Because why do I care about making more money if I can never enjoy my time with my family? For me, the answer was working for myself. (Though, frankly, I still buy into it all far more than I should. I feel guilty on days that I could take it easy because my work load is light, because I equate working hard with self worth.) But I don’t think that’s the solution for everyone, or even most people. But perhaps we should all start by burning our Blackberries, and then figure it out from there.

But in the meantime, I’m going to keep putting my photos into photo albums and trying to figure out the last five years.

Oh, yeah. And I’m moving to a house where there are actual blackberries. The kind you eat off bushes. That seems like a good step in the right direction. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Photos of our first apartment together by Maddie, AKA Hart & Sol West. I never show pictures of our house, but now we’re moving so I’m showing you a snippet…

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  • Good luck with the move Meg! And you’re so right, we can have it all, but not necessarily all at once. And why rush it anyway? Life is (hopefully) long, we can be many different things at many different times. We’re not one thing or the other, we’re all constantly changing.

  • Yup. That’s exactly it, as logical as it may sound, it is very hard to try and grasp it all at the same time.
    Good luck on the move, it sounds like a great place, also fresh blueberries and a garden :) and sitting in the sun to chill !

  • PA

    My mother was another have-it-all-but-not-all-at-once person (also my father, who absolutely loved being primary childcare when I was a baby). The way my mother put it for me, when I called her crying about my career stagnating (at…24…yeah, it seems ridiculous NOW), was, “Usually not all parts of your life are in focus at the same time.”

    And I do have to say that I think you’re onto something about working too much. My first working (and living on my own) experience was in Europe. I made less than I do now, and cost of living was far higher – I could afford my rent, groceries, and my bus pass. Going out to eat? Oh, heck no. New clothes? Stick it out until the sale month. Random crap? Nope. And I was so happy. We worked a 7 or 8 hour day, were fully expected to take breaks and socialize, and after work we’d buy a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, and some cheese, and we’d go sit at the edge of Lake Geneva and chill out. I look at my coworkers now, who go out to eat all the time (“luxury”), buy new clothes every week, and take their work laptops home every day…and I don’t think they’re happier than I was.

    Excellent piece – one I’ll be re-reading as I start into an apartment-to-house move next week! I hope the next few years are filled with sunshine, gardening, and the wonderful struggles of following dreams!

    • “Usually not all parts of your life are in focus at the same time.”


      • Best thing to hear right now. Yes.

      • kayakgirl73

        Someday needs to make a printable or small poster of this saying.

        • PA

          Hmm, she’s been wanting to start an etsy shop … !

    • meg

      “Usually not all parts of your life are in focus at the same time.” Why are moms so SMART? That’s three smart mom quotes in one post.

      And exactly. I’ve been pondering lately the idea that I think American’s have a very mistaken idea of luxury. To me sitting on the edge of a lake with a bottle of wine, bread, and cheese is REAL luxury. Fancy clothes are just the bait that keeps us in the trap.

      • Amen to wine, bread and cheese as real luxury. Especially with a sweet view in front of you.

        For similar luxuries see: French press coffee and the NYT on a snowy Sunday morning. A sandwich on top of a mountain. Looking over at your partner in the car and grinning like a maniac for no reason other than they’re there.

        • PA

          “Why are moms so SMART?”

          Exactly! And she’s so very sweet about simply smiling when I work my way around to something she’s been suggesting, gently, for years.

          I’ve have an economic study rattling around in my head for a few years, that money has a really strong impact on quality of life … up to when your basic needs are met. Then its importance starts dropping off sharply. I try to remember how incredibly blessed (or, depending on one’s view, lucky) I am to have time for leisure in my life, and try at the same time to remind myself that what I need is ENOUGH, not EVERYTHING. (In fact, that what truly creates more happiness is “enough” and not “all the things.”)

          • Maggie

            Was it this study? (http://blogs.wsj.com/wealth/2010/09/07/the-perfect-salary-for-happiness-75000-a-year/)

            (Also fascinating to me because it still sounds like a lot of money compared to where we are–happily–right now! Not that we’re necessarily going to turn down a raise or anything… ;) but beyond the basic needs, it’s amazing how little my happiness is related to owning Nice Stuff…)

          • Everyone is reading about that lately! But it’s so true. Money is great in that it gets the necessitites met … but once you have those, it’s really what you do with your time and how you fill your life that make the difference.

      • Maria-Andrea

        I agree, but I think it’s difficult to embrace that concept living in the midst of the consumer and work driven culture that we do. Things have become the way we enjoy the fruits of our labor because we don’t have real time to spend anymore. Can’t take time off of work to go to the Bahamas for 2 weeks? Buy a BMW instead and at least, you get to enjoy that while you drive to that workhorse job everyday.

        • meg

          God, RIGHT? I will say, that of all the stuff we’ve chosen to spend money on in the last few years, the smartest choice we made was travel. It’s what I look back to when I’m having a bad day, and it’s the stuff that no one can take back. It’s interesting that not only did it make me happier and our marriage better while we were doing it, it made us happier and our marriage stronger AFTER we did it. It’s the whole thing about how experiences (whatever they are, it’s not travel for everyone) make you happier than things.

          As for a fancy car, I just don’t care. Not that I don’t like fancy things, but fancy cars are NOT my thing. As long as it drives, I’m pretty oblivious.

          • kc

            Travel is our one big luxury. We aim for one big trip a year and a handful of small ones if we can swing it. So worth the number crunching and penny counting.

    • DKR

      “We worked a 7 or 8 hour day, were fully expected to take breaks and socialize, and after work we’d buy a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, and some cheese, and we’d go sit at the edge of Lake Geneva and chill out. I look at my coworkers now … and I don’t think they’re happier than I was.”
      This. I spent some time in Italy on a brief study abroad, and loved it there. I noticed the same thing: Italians work to live, Americans live to work (generally). I think they have the right idea.

      Awesome post, Meg. Good luck with the move!

      • Umpteenth Sarah

        It’s a balance, I think. I agree, America’s too go-go-go, but for me, I find that I need some 60 hour work weeks in there to make those days off all the better. And, it’s not even just that, but I love the type of exhaustion you get after working REALLY hard on something just as much as I love the Friday afternoon you take off because it’s gorgeous out and you want to go walk by the river.

      • Angie B.

        “Italians work to live, Americans live to work.” After studying abroad in Italy for a semester, I returned to write my thesis titled “Work to Live, or Live to Work.” It discussed this huge cultural difference and what influences caused it. So I have spent A LOT of time thinking about how we work more more more so we can buy more more more stuff.

        But for some reason, I still struggle with not having it ALL at once.

  • LifeSheWrote

    Congratulations, Meg! That’s awesome news and the blackberry bushes sound wonderful!

    In case you haven’t had a chance to yet, you should read Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift (http://www.amazon.com/The-Second-Shift-Arlie-Hochschild/dp/B000CDG842/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334232400&sr=8-1). It hits on a lot of these ideas of balancing home vs. work life and the gender divide in the feeling GUILTY for working. It was published in 1989, so some things are certainly dated, but most concepts in the book are still extremely relevant today.

    Good luck and best wishes for your next new adventure!

    • meg

      I’m already through chapter one, actually! It’s an interesting read for me, because I do less housework than my husband, for sure. And, thanks to my parents gender reversed on chores marriage, I have very little guilt about it. But fascinating in terms of the fucked up way we deal with motherhood and careers. (Also a little depressing ;)

  • Yes! That! Exactly!

    I had almost the same realization this week, although it came at me from a different angle. It came as I was sitting on the train with a handful of colleagues. It was 7 PM and we were going back to the office from a conference. They started talking about the boats they owned. And expensive cars they wanted, had or were getting. I had nothing to say. Made a joke about it too (“I’d get one with four wheels and working brakes”).

    Then came home and expressed my puzzlement to my husband, who told me how his colleagues own big houses, boats, and cars and yet they’re clamoring over weekend shifts because they _need_ an additional $160 a month to make ends meet. And these are people who make an estimated two-to-three times the median income in our country. Meaning that this $160 bucks is maybe a 3% increase on their monthly income. Yet they insist they need it.

    It then suddenly dawned on me that my idea of priorities must be alien to many people around me and that working for the joy of satisfaction and saving money because you feel no need to own All The Things are just… rare things.

    Anyway. I hope you enjoy your move. Your new place sounds adorable. Maybe get a doormat that says “The only blackberries allowed inside are edible ones?”

    • PA

      One thing I’ve found from working in the business world is that a lot of people have not slowed down enough to ask themselves what they really, truly want from life. Some of them truly want to move up in the workplace to become more and more important, to drive fancy cars, to own expensive houses and designer clothes, and to eat gourmet food every night – that’s what they want out of life, those are the most important things to them. But I’ve learned from watching that that’s a very small sub-set of the people who try to achieve that lifestyle; the vast majority go through the motions, vaguely dissatisfied and bitter and never understanding WHY.

      I suppose my point is that people who have identified their priorities and goals through careful thought tend to be more satisfied with their life, whether or not they’ve reached those goals yet.

  • Sass

    I hope the move goes smoothly for you. I always find it so unsettling.

    I agree the game of having it all is totally rigged. But if you’re not playing the game you’re often seen as a traitor. I am a stay at home wife. I have been for 7 years. I cook, I clean, but I’m not very good at it. I run our household of two, pay the bills, keep our life organised. I volunteer and keep busy with different projects from time to time. This is not the life I planned, but me putting aside my career – it started because we were doing infertility treatment – has meant my husband has been able to take on additional contracts and risks at work which have payed off for him. I plan to go back to study, but it’s not a priority right now. It’s also meant we get to spend more time together, with friends, living slower and spending more time doing what we enjoy. It’s not going to be forever, but it works for us for now.

    Most people think I’m a horrible lazy wife sponging off my husband (which is hilarious given I out earned him earlier in our relationship) and don’t hesitate to tell me. Living like this has been so good for each of us, and our marriage. But it’s not an easy road to go down purely because of the way others treat our decision. How I wish we could each just support each other in finding what works instead of working so hard to justify our own choices and fears.

    • Sass, if you’re ever into writing a real post, I for one would be really interested in the whole quitting job to do fertility treatments thing. Sorry to hear you’re feeling judged, but I’m surprised more people don’t do this.

    • Daynya

      Sass, I agree about wanting a post on this. I’d love to hear more. I am highly interested in (at some point) staying home, and I’d love real life examples of what this actually looks like. I think I’m a bigger critic of me doing that than anyone else would be. I feel like I’d be letting everyone down by not being the career woman/mom/housekeeper/cook/everything. But, I know myself enough to know I would get the greatest enjoyment out of slowing down, making less money, and focusing on doing what I love, and what keeps our family running smoothly.

    • L

      Sass I am thirding the request to hear more about this! I have always wanted to stay at home (or work part-time, whichever fits better), when we have kids but more and more I am trying to figure out if it is feasible even before that. I was raised by a work-15-hours-a-day-Mom (and live-in nannies) and I really don’t have any model for staying at home and feeling empowered by that decision. I am feeling a little bit like our lives are snowballing along and if I don’t make careful decisions I am going to take on too many things at once. Please tell us how you made your decisions and what the steps were along the way!

  • KW

    Thank you for sharing, and good luck with the move! The part that stuck with me the most was going through your pictures from the last 5 years and seeing your struggles in them. I’m smack in the middle of my five years right now, and I’ll be able to remember that in the future by the _lack_ of photos that I’m accumulating.

    • meg

      HA. Yeah, I didn’t have a ton of photos either. But the ones I have… not so happy. Trying, but not so happy.

  • Lauren

    I love when I read something on APW (which, let’s face it, is everyday) that at the end causes me to breathe a big sigh of relief. A little cloud of stress floats away and I feel lighter. Congrats on the upcoming move and on real blackberries! Yum.

  • Andrea

    My mom worked full-time, but had a flexible enough job that she could come on field trips, bring my forgotten lunch/homework into school, adjust her schedule to be home after school, etc. I’ve always admired her for that. I’m not sure if her job was like that initially, or if she just demanded that it be that way–just not accepting anything less from her employer. And she had a great career.

    I graduated from law school last May, and everyday think about how LUCKY I am to have found a 9-5 job at a great company. I’m not sure what I was thinking with law school, but I would never have been happy working the hours the large law firms demand. And really, the only reason I am here is because of the economy. I would not have considered the other opportunities out there if it had not been so difficult to find a job.

  • Kess

    Ok, I’m jealous. 3 moves in 10 years?! I’ve moved 9 times in 3.5 years….ah the joys of being a college student who does co-ops and internships…

    But I did really need to hear this. Sometimes I get a little annoyed when I read APW and other blogs where the person works for themselves finally doing the job they want. This is particularly rampant in any sort of blog that includes children. I don’t have that option. You can’t work for yourself if you’re an engineer – unless you also want to take on the stresses of staring your own company that requires a LOT of start-up capital.

    But just because I don’t have that option with my interests doesn’t mean that I can’t have it all – it just can’t happen all at once. What I really want to do is become a prof. As most people who are in academia know, the prime years for childbearing are also the prime years for getting tenure. It’s not terribly compatible. But I’m just going to make it work.

    Thankfully for engineering profs, experience in industry is a definite plus. I’ll be working on getting my masters in the next couple years and then going out to industry for a few years. Hopefully at that point some babies may enter the picture and I can have a real maternity leave before going back for a PhD that hopefully will have a flexible schedule so I don’t completely miss my children growing up.

    So it’s going to take longer, I’m not going to get tenure when I’m 35 and that’s OK. Thanks for reassuring me it is.

    • Meredith

      “You can’t work for yourself if you’re an engineer”

      While that may seem true, I disagree. I don’t know what type of engineer you are, but you can certainly work for yourself, without starting an engineering firm. I’m a ChemE, working in biopharma, and we contract engineers all the time for automation, validation, project management etc etc.

      Some of these engineers are contracted through large consulting firms. Basically, the consulting firm takes on a large project and they contract whoever they need for that project. These contractors tend to be experts in a specific field and the vast majority of them work for themselves. If the contractor doesn’t want to work on that project, they don’t have to. I’m not explaining this well but my point is, it’s entirely possible to be a self-employed engineer that doesn’t start a firm. I was surrounded by them for 2 summers. I’ve thought about doing it myself.

      If you’re still in college it’s hard to see the variety of work available. This is particularly true if you are at a large research university where most professors did not work in industry for any appreciable amount of time (and therefore don’t know what’s available).

      • MM

        I’m also a ChemE, and you’re right… the majority of our professors had very little industry experience and were not the most helpful in helping us understand exactly how broad the opportunities are.

      • Kess

        Yeah, I should re-phase that: you can’t work for yourself doing the sort of engineering I prefer (slash have the knowledge to do so).

    • Lauren K.

      I want to put in a plug for working for yourself is not right the right move for everyone, and it’s possible to find balance without working for yourself. My office job has a lot of flexibility and has a LOT of working mothers. (And, yes, I appreciate it.)

      • Where do you find jobs where they actually respect life/work balance?

        • Anon

          My current job seems to respect work/life balance. It doesn’t pay a lot, even at the highest level, and there are often funding concerns… but when the end of the day rolls around, no one puts in overtime, and the higher-ups seem to be pretty accommodating when it comes to the employees w/kids needing to switch schedules or take maternity leave.

          (I work at a public library)

    • Marie

      Hi Kess,

      I like your plan and I hope you get to have some really great experiences in industry before going back to pursue your PhD. Good luck with it all! I’m reading APW to distract me from writing emails to look for a job in industry since I’m completing my PhD in engineering this summer and now it’s time for a job in the real world. It’s a little terrifying, and I struggled with the decision to not stay in academics, but reading this post and other comments made me feel better. I’ll not have it all right now, but hopefully someday I will have had it all. Best of luck to you again, your future students will benefit from your experience!

      • Kess

        Aw thanks!

    • meg

      I mostly think that working for yourself is not right for the vast majority of people. It’s really hard, and takes a very particular and odd skill set (ie, I have to be able to write well enough to be published, but be naturally good at business). I worry a lot that when I write about self employment I’m glamorizing something that’s not right for most people (which I’ve talked about a lot). But the real point is that hopefully, by writing about my experiences, there are bits that can be applied to other people’s lives.

      • I appreciate you writing about your life. It’s really interesting and useful to hear how other people in my demographic are grappling with different life choices. Even if our lives are different. Thanks for sharing!

      • carrie

        If anything, you’ve emphasized how much hard work it is. I’ll never forget when you talked about looking at successful people with book deals (or whatever) thinking those thing just “happened.” And they absolutely don’t, you haul your own ladder to your own star. Personally, your talks about how hard it can be and how motivated you are serve as reminders to me that I’m nowhere near that. And that’s totally okay. But I love to hear that you can work hard to make things happen for yourself that make you truly happy. We need those stories.

      • Kess

        Yeah, I’m 100% not a business person (I feel that I could do it but I would just hate every minute of it) and I generally need some outside pressure to do anything well. I am not an entrepreneur or business owner, and I never will be. Still, that freedom is a strong pull – and honestly part of the reason why I may not want to stay in industry and instead go to academia – not because it’s actually more freeing, simply because it feels that way.

      • RJ

        I agree. I was self-employed for 5 years, and have been surprised by the tremendous peace of mind being able to rely on a fortnightly salary has given me. I know I can leave work at the office. There are compromises, but I’ve chosen them – for now.

  • Alicia

    This post made me laugh. I work in agriculture and my organization received a report on blackberries a while ago and people automatically called IT. It wasn’t until someone read the report that they realized it was a report about an actual blackberry crop. Super funny. Well, to ag people, it was super funny. ;)

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      Go aggies!!

    • This makes me think of when I called a “help line” at work to report a mouse in my office. They thought I meant a computer mouse, but I said no, a real live mousey mouse!

  • Oh Meg, you get a garden! I really hope your new home is full of peace and comfort, and insight into the past five years and the next fifteen. Cheers!

  • Carbon Girl

    Wow. This post was well-timed in so many ways. First, we have to make a huge cross-country move within the next 8 months. I am graduating and we are definitely not staying in the southeast, so wherever we go will be far away. I have a potential amazing job opportunity in Berkeley but I know the rental market in the Bay Area is insane and I was hoping Oakland would be the solution, but your story sounds horrifying (2 months of looking at basement apartments). I can imagine us not being able to find a place that allows our dog and cat and my husband balking out about the whole thing as cities make him skittish already. I get worked up just thinking about it. Well if I do get offered the job, maybe I can e-mail you for some renting tips.

    Then the whole thing about not having it all. I am a member of a listserve for ecologists and this week a grad student wrote in asking for tips on taking her baby to the field with her. Well, it set off a firestorm of responses that ranged from support to telling her she should either quit her career/give up her baby (what?) to warning her that she will now never be successful in her career due to the kid to saying her adviser made a bad decision by allowing this to happen (wait, my PhD adviser has a say in my reproductive decisions, again what?!). I was taken aback by the vitriol and strong opinions. And, as someone who wants to have a baby soonish, it made me rather depressed. The problem with babies and academic careers is that in your early 30’s you have to have it all at once because the early 30’s are the times to be establishing yourself in your career and getting jobs and also the time your eggs are reaching their expiration date (yes I know one can have children into their late 30’s and even early 40’s but the data on the chance of conceiving and birth defects after 34/35 shows a marked decline in the desirable outcome). There is also a bit of “common knowledge” that once you leave research, you can never go back. That is repeatedly told to us but I have to wonder if its true. Have there been enough scientists who were brave enough to try it? How big is a sample is that knowledge based on?

    • Vmed

      “a firestorm of responses that ranged from support to telling her she should either quit her career/give up her baby (what?) to warning her that she will now never be successful in her career due to the kid to saying her adviser made a bad decision by allowing this to happen (wait, my PhD adviser has a say in my reproductive decisions, again what?!)”

      That is… really insane. I am curious to know if these responses were from women. Especially the latter half.

      • Umpteenth Sarah

        Oh My God, I know this sounds crazy, but that’s the way it is in some parts of academia. I had a friend who was told that her pregnancy was “a mistake.”

        Not that it’s a huge help, but I know many women academics with children who are successful in their fields. I consider them to be major badasses. If you have a kid (and are a man or a woman) in most situations you’ll get some time added on to your tenure track, so think of baby as a mini-sabbatical. I know grad students who have had kids pre-job market and gone on to get successful placements.

        I think the leaving-research-and-can’t-get-back thing is trueish, but overstated — yeah, if you leave research for years and years, you won’t have enough TIME to be doing the sorts of things to get you back into research jobs, but if you’re out for a year, it’s totally possible to get back in. The glacial academic pace actually seems to serve this well. Or, so is the case in the social sciences, at least.

        • Anon

          I just told my PhD advisor I was getting married and the response (or lack of thereof) was, um, interesting. I can’t imagine what he’d say if I told him I was pregnant!

          • Umpteenth Sarah

            Yeah, the friend I mentioned was told that by her advisor. She dropped out a semester later… not surprising, given her obvious lack of support!

          • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

            almost makes you tempted to say it just for the look on his face…however, that could just be my immaturity showing!

            However I feel a lot of sympathy for those in graduate studies whose advisors aren’t more generally supportive. I really believe that the role of an advisor shouldn’t be strictly academic all the time.

        • PA

          I think all of the (quite high-achieving) professors in my department at college had children – and, male or female, it seemed that they played a major role in child care. One couple in particular arranged their schedules so that one taught MWF and the other taught TTh, and traded off on days. Academia and babies are not at ALL mutually exclusive.

          On the other hand, it IS important to plan these things out. A grad student in my friend’s program seemed to believe that her schedule would not change at all when her baby was born, and she would be able to do the same amount of work “while the baby was sleeping” (starting immediately). I admit that I am not a parent, but that seemed implausible to me.

          • Umpteenth Sarah

            I know — it used to drive me bonkers in my GS years that people would say “oh, shouldn’t it be easiest to have kids as a professor? because, like, you hardly ever have to be anywhere!”

            Yeah, true, BUT you’re always working AND children don’t necessarily like to sleep between the hours of 9-5 AND they occasionally want to eat/play/cry AND if you’re a grad student, you probably don’t have a ton of cash lying around to pay a babysitter or daycare… so… not THAT easy.

            Overall, though, I think it’s funny how the “line” in academia is often anti-kids, but in actuality, practically all of my profs at my R1 Uni, men and women, had kids.

          • KH_Tas

            ‘One couple in particular arranged their schedules so that one taught MWF and the other taught TTh, and traded off on days’

            This is what I hope we can do. It helps that our department has a lot of women with children in it (including the last 2 Heads of School) and the department I’m tangental to is trying to fix their gender equality issues.

      • EM

        In my field (medical research), I have heard those kinds of comments almost exclusively from women.

        I think a big part of the problem is that you’re not “supposed” to want to leave academia (and the training doesn’t really prepare you for other kinds of jobs which is SUCH a disservice!), but the prospects for faculty jobs right now are just frightful. People get really competitive trying to scramble to the top of the pile because there’s a sense that if you don’t, there are no jobs at all.

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      Gaaaaahhhh!!! Who is repeatedly telling you this stuff about leaving research, and not being able to come back, and that it’s common knowledge? I’m not going to say that it would be easy, but nothing is impossible. The outcome may not be exactly ideal, but it is not impossible. Compromises will have to made: that is life, you’d have to make some anyways, because you can’t walk through every door at the same time. Besides, maybe you’d only be out of the field for a short period of time. Do you know female academics with kids? Talk to them, because they show that it is possible. Perhaps they have advice on the best ways to keep your foot in your particular field even if you have to take some time off because you’ve had a child.

      • Vmed

        “you can’t walk through every door at the same time”

        I love this way of explaining the temporary compromises.

        • Paranoid Libra

          I’d say its another line to add to the many mantras of APW. “You can’t walk through every door at the same” because it’s true. It’s really difficult to do that so its really difficult to have it all at once.

        • Hypothetical Sarah

          I feel like there’s a wave/particle duality joke in there somewhere…

    • Lauren K.

      Wow! At the universities I’ve been affiliated with in the last 10 years or so, it seems like this has been a hot topic and like the universities are trying to come up with better, more flexible policies. Whether that trickles down to individual departments is another story, of course.

    • christa

      Give academics some credit here- we may not have good social skills, be good at managing work-life balance or respecting the validity of non-academic careers, but we ARE good at parsing data and figuring out the difference between “common knowledge” and statistically significant correlations.

      Sadly, the mommy track in academia is very real. It may or may not be fair and it may or may not be a result of overt gender bias, but a strong correlation between gender, childbearing and getting a tenure track job within 5 years of receiving a PhD exists. The rate of people who ever get a tenure track (TT) job more than 5 years after finishing a PhD has always been very very small. Men who have a child within 5 years of their Ph.D. are more likely (I don’t remember the percentage, but it is statistically significant) to get a TT job, and women are much less likely (also statistically significant). In most fields today, in the early career phases, women without dependents under age 5 are promoted at retained at the same rate as men without dependents, but when they have children their promotion and retention rates go way down. The Chronicle has long sections of articles on this, as does the blog University of Venus.

      • Umpteenth Sarah

        “Give academics some credit here- we may not have good social skills, be good at managing work-life balance or respecting the validity of non-academic careers, but we ARE good at parsing data and figuring out the difference between “common knowledge” and statistically significant correlations.”

        Hilarious. And too, too true!

      • EM

        So true! I wonder if things have gotten a lot worse over the years.

        For my mom, getting a tenure-track job as a law professor was an incredible blessing in terms of being juggle the work/family thing — although maybe it’s just that the mommy track was worse in most of the other jobs she might have gotten. The same was true in medicine: private practice = death to family time. But today, academia seems like the least family-friendly place I could take my biological sciences PhD, and all my classmates talk about how they wish they’d just bit the bullet and gone to med school.

    • Hey! I’m a grad student at Berkeley and live in Oakland. Oakland is totally the solution (our apartment is amazing and beautiful and a leeetle pricier than we were hoping but 100% worth it). It’s just not easy to find the right place. My advice would be to find a place for a year, then upgrade once you’re here and can look at things and convince people you’re awesome. If you can’t wait that long, you can sometimes find places month-to-month, but it’s harder. You can also usually get out of your lease by helping find a subletter: not hard in this crazy market.

      I found my apartment by emailing about a place that had been posted every week for three weeks and was listed as no pets. I wrote to the landlady with a few details about us and asked if she’d consider our dog. It worked out perfectly: we love our place, our landlady likes us, and the dog is welcome.

      Also: babies in academia. I don’t know about leaving research and going back, but I know the conventional wisdom is that grad school is an awesome time to have a baby because you can just make it look like your Ph.D. took longer. Then no one has to know! Which is depressing, but useful.

      • EM

        Yes and no. That’s definitely the perception, but it’s still not a great time.

        In my department, there was a golden child student who had a baby last year, and her “reputation” within the department has definitely taken a hit. Her mentor is upset with her lack of progress, and her committee is totally on her case about what she wasn’t getting accomplished *during her six week maternity leave!* I know it’s not true in every department, but the machismo about it all is just so depressing.

    • meg

      The rental market goes in waves… it could be better in a year or so. And Oakland is better than most. We found a few nice places, we just ended up deciding a lot of them were… SMALL. But, if you’re avoiding city life and don’t mind a commute, maybe northern Marin? It’s really lovely there.

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      Gah. Anecdotally, it can be hard to go back to research once you leave… but certainly not impossible.

      I haven’t figured out the whole baby making thing yet. I mean, as a scientist (and a woman), I know how it happens. But as a chemist who makes compounds that kill rapidly dividing cells (like cancer. or a developing baby.), it seems to require extra planning…

      • Lily Kasper White

        Good point, Sarah :-)

      • EM

        SUCH A GOOD POINT! My first mentor in science was pregnant when I met her, and was trying to finish up a project that involved radioactive isotopes. Oy.

    • MDBethann

      I work for the government, but I have a couple of colleagues who have bounced back and forth between academia and government over the years. One started in government, left to work on her PhD, came back to government to finish her dissertation, then sought teaching jobs while converting her dissertation into a book. She is now a tenure track history professor at a state school in Florida and she’s in her early 50s. She isn’t married and doesn’t have kids, but she’s really making a mark for herself in her field – she just received the equivalent of 2nd place for 2 major history awards for her book, and while history has always been her passion, it’s definitely her 3rd career. So it is definitely possible.

      And I have another co-worker who decided in her mid-30s to go back and get her PhD and she seems to be making it work, though she said she got some similar comments about children when she took a very, very short maternity leave to have her daughter. She’s back at it though and making it work.

      I really admire them. It isn’t easy, but it is doable. I wish all of you going for PhDs lots of luck – I’ve thought about doing it, but haven’t figured out how to make it work.

    • Nina

      Yes, if you’re comparing rent in Oakland to rent in the south-east, it’ll definitely knock your socks off. This year, Oakland was rating the #15 most expensive city to live in in the country (SF was #1). It’s especially bad to apartment hunt in July and August (right before Cal students move back in). The neighborhoods in North Oakland have also gotten a LOT more expensive recently, because Facebook and Google have started running shuttle buses from MacArthur BART. That said, I love it, it’s a great great place to be in your late 20s-30s.

    • Tiff

      Ahh, I know just the listserv you’re talking about! One of my friends is getting her master’s and is pregnant, another is pursing her Ph.D. We had… a LOT of conversations about this topic, and juggling the work/life/babies balance in general.

      One thing I actually took away from that were the impressive number of responses from women AND men telling people to step off of this grad student and stop judging her for daring to have a kid and wanting to still work. Obviously, we still have a way to go, but what I took away from it is that this is now an accepted issue that everyone (again, women and men) are talking about. I especially appreciated one guy who mentioned changing his baby’s diaper in front of an academic he was trying to interview.

  • ASH

    Thank you for talking about the two camps of working moms versus stay at home moms. I’m baffled by this, and thought I was the only one. I’m glad I’m not.

    All the best to you on your move!

  • Gillian

    This post really opened my mind (which is really the best part of reading APW!). I really struggle thinking about the coming years and how I’m going to balance, or choose between who’s going to stay at home and who’s going to work, or is it going to be different. I never considered that it could be ever evolving, or shifting, or whatever! This is really liberating I think, as long as I can let go of the fear of ‘not having it all figured out all at once and set in stone for life’. Because knowing is boring, right? And not knowing can be really freeing… *will continue to muse*

    • meg

      Yeah, I think it HAS to be evolving and shifting. I mean, tiny kids needs (and parents emotional needs) shift so damn fast, that it’s crazy to think one solution is going to work for say, five years, unchanged. Also, leaving an infant in daycare (not something I’m against, mind you!) is TOTALLY different than leaving a two year old in daycare. And there is part time daycare and god knows what else. Many ways to skin a cat.

    • Maria-Andrea

      Here’s something else that’s interesting to me. Before I became a mother, I went back and forth too about how we were going to manage it, what I was going to do, etc. But I also had no idea how I feel about motherhood and my child and the options available until baby girl got here. So I agree with Meg. I’ve realized that we (as humans) are too complex for a one size fits all answer.

  • JT

    “I’m trying to cram myself into a box of happy-successful-grown-up-life, and I hate it there.” This is where I am right now. And this post, about not being able to have it all at once, is what I think about every. single. day. I’m working hard to try to figure out what my priorities are- what I want most. The idea that the game is rigged makes total sense. I feel like no matter what I choose, I’ll be sad about giving something up. Thanks for being a reminder that it’s okay to make choices based on what will make me happiest and not what seems like it fits into some ideal of what’s “best.”

    • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

      Yes, Yes Yes!

      Up the page a little further, I made a comment about how ‘you can’t walk through every door at the same time’. But I feel as if ‘society’ expects me try and have EVERYTHING. Meanwhile, I’m looking around with a bewildered expression and saying “But I don’t want everything….” The game is totally rigged-rigged to make you feel guilty or sad about choosing one option over another.

      May I also make a comment on the ‘happy-successful-grown-up-life’? I mentioned to my future mother-in-law last week that I do not feel remotely grown-up, more like overwhelmed and unsure. She said ‘That’s ok, I never felt like a grown-up either’ I’m not going to complain about having many options to choose from regarding my life and future, but I am going to complain about being made to feel guilt and doubt over the necessity of actually choosing!

    • Yes, I was drawn to this too. Cramming oneself “into a box of happy-successful-grown-up life”sucks. So I’m figuring out what MY happy successful (grown-up?) life looks like and deciding what that is for my baby family. It probably doesn’t include a high powered job and definitely doesn’t include a big house but it will be one filled with happiness.

      • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

        Question? Do you ever feel like you need/or will need to defend that decision not to shoot for the high powered job or the big house, or whatever? Sometimes I really do feel like I should be defending my decision not go further with my graduate eduction etc, and should be defending my ‘modest’ career aspirations.

        • Maggie

          I feel somewhat defensive about my decision to take a low-level part-time job, especially considering that I have a graduate degree in an entirely different field. Sometimes it’s tricky to parse if that’s because of the messages I’m receiving from society, or if it’s in reaction to what family and friends have said, or if it’s because I’m still coming to terms with how I thought I wanted my adult life to look when I was 15 vs. 22 vs. now.

        • My answer is simultaneously “Sorta?” and “All the f*cking time.”

          I feel like I only have to sort of defend myself because it doesn’t make me happy. Being with Forrest and Sprocket (our dog) makes me happy. Seeing new places makes me happy. So why defend myself against the idea I should do something I dislike?

          But the “all the time” part is there too. I was a high achieving precocious child. I did well in college. I had a masters degree at 24. According to my family I was supposed to live in Seattle (my family is in Tacoma) and make lots of money which would make them proud.

          Instead, I’ve drifted. I moved to a small town and got a good job. Turns out I don’t like my job. So it’s time to make changes. And the only justification I need is that I think I’ll be happier. And those who love me need to respect that, you know?

        • Meredith

          YES! Definitely yes. I like my current job. I like the people I work with. I work a set schedule, make a good salary and have time for other activities. At least right now, I don’t want to be a manager, I don’t want to move up the corporate latter. I’m not looking ahead to the next career move. When I mentioned this to my mother she said (her voice dripping in disdain) “so are you just going to be a process engineer your whole life?”

          Maybe I am. And what is wrong with that? And why are you judging me for that? It makes me all rage-y again just thinking about it.

          • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

            Ahhh don’t get all rage-y again, ’cause I’ll get all rage-y about someone making APW ladies mad!

          • My husband is a civil engineer. And he’s firmly established that his chosen career ceiling, at least for the foreseeable future, is project lead. He doesn’t want to be area lead or middle management – figures that life is too short for the added stress and work. (Intermittent project lead in his industry generally means you’re lead on one project, and then a normal engineer on the next, so burn out is less of an issue.) And sure, this will eventually cap his salary in the low 6 figures, but so fucking what? That’s more than enough money, and even as lead right now he leaves work at 5:00 pm every day. There is NOTHING WRONG with “only being an engineer.” That’s crazy talk.

          • Kess

            I’m totally there with your husband… becoming a manager sounds like a special level of hell.

            But, that doesn’t mean that he necessarily has to stop ‘advancing’. A lot of companies realize that many people really don’t want to do the whole manager thing, so often there are more technical ways to advance your career. That being said, there is nothing wrong about staying at the ‘same level’ if you’re happy there.

          • Kess – totally agree, and technical specialists are super valuable in his industry, and it’s totally career progression. But if you don’t know much about the industry, it doesn’t look like much from the outside, and then you get Meredith’s mom’s bitchy comment about *only* being a process engineer.

            Even if you don’t change levels, you have to hope for some sort of growth or change or progress at work, because otherwise you eventually stagnate and get bitter. Or was that just me at my old job? :)

        • Meagan

          I feel like this all the time. I’m a public librarian, meaning I have a BA and a MLIS, and yet due to friends with PhDs, second masters, etc, I do sometimes feel like my decision to be done with formal education is criticized. In my mind, however, I raced through a lot of schooling in my young life (25) and I’m ready to learn about life *from* life. There are a lot of ways to learn and grow, and I’m ready for that. I just have to tell it to myself whenever someone comments on my decision to stop at one masters degree. (And yes, I know I’m insanely privileged to be in this position. It is one of the reasons I’ve never understood why people are critical of my choice. I have more education and opportunities than most people on this planet, can’t I just embrace that and be grateful and enjoy it???)

          • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

            That part about racing through schooling, and being ready to learn about life *from* life-I am right. there.

            Now that I feel all supported about my life decisions again, I’m going back to get more work done on the darn thesis…so then I can be done!

          • meg

            Girlfriend, I’m the only person in both our families who didn’t go to grad school (actually, most have PHDs). So I feel you on that. But you know what? I’m doing JUST FINE. It was the right choice for me.

          • Umpteenth Sarah

            You know what? I did go on through grad school (for ever and ever). And it was the WRONG choice for me! So, do what makes you feel right inside, not what exterior forces are making you feel is right.

          • Meagan

            Don’t worry, I am standing my ground on being done with school– but so glad to know others understand this feeling. And when friends or the future husband complain about doing homework, I just smile, because I can do anything I darn well please once I’m done with my workday. It. Feels. So. Good.

            One masters degree is enough for me, thanks.

            *I’d like to add that I did love grad school, but only because it was for something that I love and am now happily employed in full time. (PS Hi all the other Team Practical librarians. I know you are out there! We have awesome jobs.)

          • EM

            I agree with Umpteenth Sarah (even though I can’t reply to her directly!)

            a HUGE proportion of people getting PhDs end up regretting the choice — or doing something that doesn’t require the degree when all is said and done. I think some of the bravest people I know are the ones who said, “screw it, this is not the life I want” and found something that made them happier.

        • Yeah, I often feel like I have to defend those choices. Then, I procede to get angry that I have to defend the way I want to live my life.

          For me part of it comes from expectations that I set up for myself. Up until maybe five years ago I had made it clear that I wanted to be a Career Woman. I was highly academic, I was going to follow the BA with an MA and a PhD and I was going to be a professor. Law school was my well advertised backup plan. Because I was so adamant in my childhood and teenage years that that was my life goal everyone who knew me expected that of me and was really thrown a loop when I said “oh wait a second, that’s totally not happening. that’s going to make me not so very happy.”

          And I started telling people I was going to get a PhD when I was about five. Me deciding not to do that was a huge deal because I’d spent twenty years telling everyone it was what I wanted.

          So I have to be a little bit understanding when my mother expresses concerns that I’m making bad choices and that I’m not following my dreams. But at the same time, the dreams I had for my life when I was five don’t reflect who I am now and what makes me happy with an adult.

          • EXACTLY! Everyone expects me to be successful not because they need that of me but because I TOLD them to expect that of me. When I was seventeen.

            When I was seventeen and honestly pictured myself being single until I was at least thirty-five and owned a house by myself.

            Now, I’m twenty-six and engaged. My life is different than I expected, in an awesome way, and MY expectations have changed. Which I suppose means I should communicate more with those loved ones, huh?

    • Lily Kasper White

      Very true, for us all.

    • Lily Kasper White

      I think that is something we all deal with when reflecting on our lives.

  • yay so glad you found a great new home. i rarely comment here anymore but i relate. i’m 1.5 months into an apartment hunt in brooklyn, so you would have gone through the same thing had you come back here. i’m moving in with my boyfriend and his apartment is just a little too small, but everything we’re seeing is almost a full thousand more than what he currently pays, and i don’t want to pay that unless the apartment is nice enough to actually be worth it. it’s nice to know we’re not the only ones crazy enough to take on a long search and hold out for something good. plus i don’t want to be locked into higher rent because what if i want to take time off work or change to a lower paying job!

    • meg

      Ha, we would probably move back into our old ‘hood in Brooklyn, which is pretty cheap. Dicey, but cheap.

      • Sarah

        Not sure this exists anymore in Brooklyn :(

        My old Ditmas Park and Prospect Heights neighborhoods are so expensive and trendy now.

        However, I miss Brooklyn every day and will move back there in a heartbeat once the hubs and I can both find jobs that pay enough to do so – living in Portland just isn’t the same after loving the last decade in NY.

        I recognize this isn’t a helpful comment, just wanted to empathize with loving and missing Brooklyn. Good luck with your beautiful new home!

        • exactly sarah, we’re looking in prospect heights and it’s just as expensive as park slope now…and we are looking in crown heights but it’s almost as expensive and there’s not as much inventory. the rental market is just stupid insane in SF and BK.

  • Meg, you have just crystallised my recent muddled thinking regarding the link between hard work and self worth. Just last night I was gabbling to my husband about guilt, self esteem and underachieving in my workplace, trying to put a finger on why I feel so terrible about leaving the office of an evening, even though I’m currently working out my notice in a job I do not love or often even like. Sincerely, thank you.

    Maybe a reassessment of our sources of self esteem is part of the key to unlocking ‘having all that you can, right here right now’? Not that I think that it is always a bad thing to link self worth to a strong work ethic, of course, but self worth should be so much more multi-faceted than that.

    In any case, good luck with the move!

  • Senorita

    Talk about great timing. Boyfriend and I are moving from our first apartment together in the “hip” part of the city with loads of restaurants and bars and to a house on the lake that isn’t near anything but a pier and a field for our dog to run in.

    Actually, we made the choice after reading Maddie’s post on being married with roommates and all of the ensuing discussion. We had never thought about the benefits that roommate living could bring, and decided we would rather be in a home with a roommate than our generous-but-yardless apartment alone.

    AAannndd, I just sent an e-mail to my mom last night thanking her for raising me to live up to my potential and being such an incredible model of that herself (she really is superwoman and a half). I had “pinterested” the word marriage and this blog came up that was “Raising Homemakers: Teaching and preparing our daughters in the art of homemaking”. Now, I’m all for women having the freedom to choose whatever path feels right to them (and if that makes it harder for me to find a residency spot as a married fertile female, I can deal, go play with your baby) but the concept of raising them as if staying at home was all they would ever be capable of?? Made me a little sick.

    Thanks for always fighting the good fight Meg!

    and P.S. I’m all for a brooklyn move, then I might actually be able to meet you (please imagine that in the most creeptastic voice possible)

    • As a woman who grew up in that culture, I can definitely say that website (Raising Homemakers) is not all about women just being a stay at home wife/mom. Just because you are training your daughters (and sons too, hopefully) how to be a homemaker doesn’t mean that’s all they should ever be.

      Besides, homemaking is a dying art. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends call and ask for clarification on recipes or how to launder a special garment. I’m the one that sews buttons and repairs ripped seams and hems jeans for my girlfriends. I’m the one that schedules car maintenance, because I learned that in my homemaking studies, too.

      See, even though you may think, “Oh, all they think women should do is to be a homemaker,” that’s usually not true. A woman is not always married. And all the women I know that grew up in that culture have had careers until they’ve had children – many still do, just part time, or working from home. My mother even ran her own home school group, while being a stay at home mom AND taking care of my grandmother with Parkinson’s/dementia. Women in that culture have careers – definitely – but they are raised knowing practical matters of caring for the home.

      • Marina

        The phrase “raising DAUGHTERS to be homemakers” sends up red flags for me. I agree that homemaking is an incredibly valuable and rapidly disappearing art/skill/career, but excluding sons from learning it doesn’t make any sense to me.

      • Granola

        I didn’t grow up in that culture at all, but I have to say, man am I grateful that I know that cheap hairspray gets out pen stains, and how to sew on a button, etc. It makes me a little sad that what to me should me “life knowledge” is relegated to “homemaker.” I think domestic skills, along with plumbing and basic car maintenance, should be taught in high school.

        • Kess

          Exactly! My mother was very good and taught all of us (me, my sister and my two brothers) how to “homemake”. We all can cook, clean, sew, etc. Sadly neither she or my dad were terribly well-versed in cars, plumbing, or electronics, but I’ve learned those along the way. And hey, I’m now a mechanical engineer, so obviously something stuck.

          Although I do have to say that it has made it a bit surprising for the women my brothers have dated. They totally don’t expect them to be able to cook/clean/sew (one brother quits, the other knits) as well as they do. (They come across as very masculine if geeky, so it’s just always funny to see how people react when they smash expectations.)

  • Laura

    “And having it all in 21st century America looks a lot like working way too much, making a lot of money, buying flashy things while we try to pay off mountains of debt (student loan and other), and having minimal time to devote to our personal and family life.”

    This reminds me of a conversation about success we were having over at Lauren’s “I’m Better In Real Life” blog. I get the impression that many people measure success on a professional scale, which ultimately leaves them saying “I’m not successful.” But when they step back and look at their personal lives…success! But it’s so hard NOT to judge success based on the cars, job titles, amount of hours you work, etc. And not that professional success isn’t important–I take tremendous pride in my work–but it isn’t the be-all, end-all.

    And, not related—a GARDEN?? With BLACKBERRIES?? That is magical!

    • meg

      It’s interesting, and I’ve thought about this a ton. I think a LOT of that depends on personality, maybe? For me, some measure of success has always been (and probably always will be) tied up in my work. When I’m not doing fulfilling work, I’m pretty miserable. If I look at the past five years, I had a wonderful personal life, a great relationship, and was the least fulfilled professionally that I’d ever been… and I was a BALL OF MISERY. For me it doesn’t have to do with money… when I was running a theatre company in New York, doing work I was damn proud of, and making nothing, I felt plenty successful. But it does have to do with my work.

      But, that said, I think that’s NOT true of many, many people. But that’s ALWAYS been true of me… in High School I wasn’t happy unless I was killing myself taking the very hardest classes and churning out the very best work I could.

      So, yes, I think this is a profoundly interesting and important discussion to have. I just have found it very interesting to learn over the last 15 years that for me, fulfilling work (in whatever form) does equal a personal feeling of success.

      • Laura

        Totally agree on the “fulfilling” part–that is key. I think what I’m slowly learning for myself is that fulfilling does not necessarily equal Society’s Ideal Job. I’d be much happier (I think, at this point in my life), running my own business (where I may not make OODLES of money) than I would be at a high-paying corporate job. Because, despite the money, I’d find that work more personally fulfilling.

        It’s hard, too, because I think some people are in the position where they CAN’T take the fulfilling job right then–whether it be mortgage payments, kids to support, etc. etc. They slog through the job they hate to make ends meet. So then how do we find other ways to be fulfilled? No easy answers here, for better or worse!

      • KM

        “When I’m not doing fulfilling work, I’m pretty miserable.”

        Same here. I went to law school knowing exactly the kind of public interest legal services work I wanted to do, did that work all through law school, and then the economy crashed the year I graduated and my only option for immediate employment was with a large commercial firm at exactly the opposite end of the spectrum that I hoped and planned for. I’ve now been almost 2 years at the firm and I make way more money than I ever thought I would and I’m getting great reviews at the firm and I am engaged to my loving partner – and I’m miserable. I’ve been miserable the entire 2 years. Because the work is not fulfilling. And I never get to sleep or be present with my partner, let alone friends or family.

        I’ve been trying to get back to the work that IS fulfilling throughout the past 2 years, at first just for me – because I want to feel successful and fulfilled – but now also because it is abundantly clear I cannot be a present human being with my partner or my communities.

        I’m trying to hold on to the notion that we’ll bank some money (and, yes, some professional experience) from this zombie-period to benefit our future baby-family and that I’ll get the rest of the “All” sometime soon…the sooner the better.

        • meg

          I will say, banking money gives you freedom later. I’m not sure if it’s WORTH IT, but it’s nice to have after all the horribleness. You’ll get through it lady, you really really will. Knowing what you want to do is half the battle.

          • HH

            As someone who isn’t sure where to go, I’d say that knowing what you want to do is MORE than half the battle… even if it doesn’t feel like that right now.


      • Kess

        I’m still in that “not happy unless I’m taking the hardest classes” thing. Because of a scheduling conflict in high school, I couldn’t take AP government. I was really freaking annoyed. Now, you have to understand that I don’t actually like government, I don’t like politics, I could really care less about it and I’m sure if I had been in that class I would have moaned and complained. But because I couldn’t take the most advanced class, I was mad.

        I’m even doing that now. We have three tech electives in my major that we get to pick off a list. I’ve chosen all grad level courses…And now I’m sitting here at 1am annoyed because I have too much work to do. But really, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Faith

      I have always been the person that work does not define me and work really hard to keep it from infiltrating my personal life. It’s not always possible or healthy to do that, but my success is in cultivating the other areas of my life. The funny thing is that when I am slacking off in one area of my life, say work, the other areas tend to suffer as well. I’m still looking for that balance and I think that comes when I admit that I need to be content where I am in all areas and then make the best of it by enjoying all the little things that come with my great life. All while still seeking out those dreams of where I want my life to go.

  • I hope the move goes really well for you – the house sounds just wonderful.

    I worked so hard to have it all when I first came to London. I did not really want it all. I got lost in long days, lots of drinking and getting through by shoving something sugary into my mouth in the lunch break I skipped. I thought that was what having a career was like. I also stayed in a very unhappy relationship as I thought that was part of the package.

    Luckily I have met a wonderful range of people since who have shown me it really does not have to look like that, but I see lots of people who have not had that opportunity and who don’t know any other way (and others who really like it that way).

    I love my job. I work hard at it and it means a lot to me to do it well, but I do take lunch breaks most days now and don’t keep trying to get to the next spot. It means I can appreciate where I am.

    I think I’m beginning to get there with my relationship too (now we are getting married) in not thinking I need to get to the next milestone. But I think we are always pushed there. Get a job? Get a pay rise. Get a pay rise? Get a promotion. Get a boyfriend? Get engaged. Get engaged? Get married? Get married? Have children. Life is not a conveyor belt and it is nice to remember that sometimes.

    • “Life is not a conveyor belt.”

      Hell no, it shouldn’t be. Hear hear.

  • Great post! Please keep sharing these life reflections with us when you feel like it — I think they’re great and always manage to shed light on where I’m at. Brava!

  • My job is not what I want it to be, but I realized the other day that I so love and value having a house with my husband. Meg, I hope you love having a house too. After years of apartment living and constant moving, we are so proud of our messy old house. Something about it is much more meaningful than I expected. It really feels like home. Best wishes on the big move!

  • Meg–
    I love this post, and this phrase: having it all–but not all at the same time. This is helping me to reframe where I am right now. I pretty much “have it all” and have felt a little bit lost about what comes next when you have everything you always wanted, way earlier than you thought you’d get it.

    I guess the obvious answer is to settle in and enjoy the heck out of it all, but like so many Americans, I am so profoundly future-oriented, that it can feel somehow guilty about not knowing the next (arbitrary) rung on the ladder is to climb. WTF is that?

  • Faith

    Meg, i love this. first, congratulations! first home! so many reasons to celebrate!

    i love the way you put your dissatisfaction with 21st century america and all the expectations it holds. you have articulated what i’ve been mulling over in my head for months now.

  • Oh Meg, blackberries and a GARDEN?! Wonderful for the soul. And moving, which is also so good for clearing the air, sweeping away mental cobwebs — have a great pre-move “cleanse”!!

    So you got me thinking … Here’s a tiny perspective from the Elder Side — I’ve had three “careers”, four if you count parenting; and I’ve loved every one. I was full-tilt in each occupation, retail manager in 20’s and 30’s, parent in 40’s (overlapping with) graphic designer in 50’s and now I’ve started my own business designing custom wedding paper and loving that, too (oops, in my 60’s!). Being truly IN what you are doing, when you are doing it, to me, is what works to be a fulfilled individual. I’ve never been very good at multi-tasking, I think because I want/need the fullness of what I’m doing, right then. It’s incredibly gratifying to be in the flow of what you’re doing whether it’s cooing a baby to sleep, taking inventory or catching the light to take a great photo. That’s a gift. I’ve never had the big bucks nor do I ever expect to, but I feel happy, my kids are warm, happy adults and I look ahead in expectation of the Next Thing, whatever that is.

    I like that Boomers like me have changed the paradigm (god, I hate that word but it fits here). We wouldn’t go with the Father-Knows-Best culture, didn’t buy into the Work-Parent-Retire life “schedule,” questioned those societal expectations that stifled our souls and straight-jacketed our dreams. I love that this is part of the legacy we leave to you-all 20- and 30-somethings — you can really do it all, have it all; IF you want it all. Just do it your way — like your weddings, like your marriages. So good. I guess I’m a serial Have-It-All lady and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. What’s Next?!.

    • I really like what you said, especially this:
      “Being truly IN what you are doing, when you are doing it, to me, is what works to be a fulfilled individual. … It’s incredibly gratifying to be in the flow of what you’re doing whether it’s cooing a baby to sleep, taking inventory or catching the light to take a great photo. That’s a gift.”

  • “And in the end, I wonder if we’re being scammed a bit. People in most other countries don’t work this much”

    Yes, they do.

    Not all countries, but come visit Asia sometime. Whatever hours you think are bad, they work longer ones. 7am-10pm is not considered insane, it’s considered normal. Every project is “urgent”. People have rehearsal meetings before meetings (I AM NOT MAKING THAT UP). Working several weekends in a row, both days, is not out of the ordinary (although not everyone does this). If you work in the tech industry, which a lot of ’em do here in Taiwan, things like “it’s midnight, go home, let the night shift guys handle the server issue” doesn’t happen: the company whose server issue you’re trying to fix wants the same guy on the job, and that guy can’t necessarily sleep in the next day or take it off. It’s a place where the phrase “work yourself to death” is not said jokingly (the Chinese is 過勞死 if you want to know, and it’s not generally used lightly, because it actually happens).

    I get e-mails from work at 10pm. Sometimes on Saturday. (I don’t work those hours; I refuse and as a foreigner I can get away with it). I had a student fall asleep in a one-on-one training because she’d been working 7am-3am during tax season for two weeks straight. You notice it on weekends, when all the expats are doing things with their friends and their Taiwanese friends are catching up on sleep.

    For this they get the pleasure of fewer annual leave days – one week a year is considered “good” – and 30%-50% lower salaries than Americans earn (although cost of living is similarly lower).

    Not everyone works such insane hours, but many do. It’s not universal but also not abnormal. Across industries – banking, accounting, tech, pharmaceuticals…

    So, um, no.

    • PA

      Ah, yes. One of my friends works in the videogame industry in Japan and he is continually frustrated over the fact that everyone is expected to stay until 9pm WHETHER OR NOT they have any work to do. Also, he has very, very few days off.

      (My experience in Switzerland was very different from that.)

      • It’s totally racist (yessiree it is) but if you’re a foreigner working in Asia you can get away with flouting those expectations. People generally won’t say anything if the foreigner (even more racist – especially if that foreigner is white: American, Aussie, Europe etc. born people of Asian heritage don’t get the same privilege and it’s iffy if you’re foreign but neither Asian nor white) goes home at 6.

        I don’t have a standard office job, I’m more like a consultant, but even I occasionally get pressure to work insane hours. I was recently asked to take on a contract that would have me working until 9pm on Thursday in another city, then at 7:45am on Friday morning, then a break, then until 8:30pm on Friday evening, then again at 9am on Saturday morning until lunch.

        I had to say no three times, but eventually they let me get away with not doing the Saturday part (I get enough daytime time off that the other hours are acceptable). They really tried to push it on me, though.

        That’s Taiwan. Other Asian countries can be even worse.

    • meg

      AH, but there are *many* cultures and countries where this is not that case. Not all of them, for sure, but many. I think we have a lot to learn from those cultures.

      • That’s true, but the original post made it sound like all countries that are not America are havens of reasonable work hours and relaxation.

        Which is sooooo not true.

        There’s an entire continent of people who are jealous of how “little” Americans are expected to work That continent happens to have the world’s two most populous countries.

        It’s really a minority of people who live saner lifestyles.

        • Class of 1980

          Decades ago, there were studies about the number of hours worked in different countries.

          ONLY in Asia (especially Japan at the time) did people work longer hours than America. Other than Asia, Americans worked more hours on average than any other country.

          It was the same then and it’s the same now. But it’s nothing to aspire to. Employee suicide is common in China for instance, and I just read yesterday that these suicides are leading to reform.

  • The neighbourhood map of Brooklyn? My fiance has been drooling over the Toronto version of that map for about two years now.

    On another note, I’ve really realized recently that I am over the idea of needing to “have it all”. Because so many parts of the “everything” package are things that I don’t care about, so why do I need to go chasing after them? I would rather put the energy into a few aspects that I care deeply about, or that and work to make them fantastic and let the other pieces fall where they may.

  • Vmed

    Meg, I am so happy for you. I’ve been reading for two years, and I am so happy you are getting your garden at last.

    As for not having it all at once… This past year I got married and graduated from a master’s program. We didn’t have the ability to go on a honeymoon and planned to take a few weeks to travel on our elopement anniversary. In the meantime, I applied to med school while working as a teacher. The week I was invited to interview I found out I was pregnant, due in July (mere weeks before classes start). And eventually I was accepted to the MD class of 2016. It is so awesome that I get to have a baby and start my training, but it is too much to do simultaneously.

    It was hard letting go of my plans to travel with just my husband, but instead we’ll travel with an infant (!). There is a huge opportunity cost to postponing the start of my medical career, but I would rather pay the price than risk forever resenting my vocation for taking me away from my tiny human, or doing poorly due to sleep deprivation or post partum depression. My amazing school let me defer my matriculation by a year (so I’m now one of the first members of their class of 2017), and now I’m finally taking it slow. It makes sense to take a year and learn to be parents and nurture our little family while knowing I have my dreams waiting for me.

    • Jenn

      Nothing of note to say beyond “Wow.” You are a total badass, VMED.

    • That’s beautiful, VMED. I’m so happy for you. Congrats!

  • Congratulations (finding a great place in this market is truly a triumph)! My husband and I made a similar move ourselves last October (cramped Noe Valley basement apartment to small Berkeley house with a yard, whoa) and we are loving it. Everything you said in this post range true to me, and even though we are still in the process of figuring out exactly what we want, we’ve accepted that we don’t really want “it all”. We try to take one big trip per year, and venturing to societies with less of an emphasis on work definitely puts things in perspective. Anyway, thanks for this post. I know choosing a different life path has been touched on before, but it’s a message that bears repeating.

  • Stacy

    “all of us in this country have been sucked into this very insane, very rigged game of trying to have it all” -yes, yes, yes!

    This attitude is so much of what I love about your site Meg. It brings me right back to the Voltaire quote, “The best is the enemy of the good.” I often feel like the game is rigged but we don’t have to buy in. It’s not always easy but it is possible to work on shifting your attitude and perspective.

    In fact I just finished a month long discretionary spending fast as an attempt to refocus my priorities. It was great. And while all my coworkers endlessly questioned how I could do without a mid-afternoon cookie from the coffee shop or an evening at the movies I was more than fine. I felt empowered by knowing I could easily do without.

    As a side note I heartily recommend James Roberts’ book Shiny objects: why we spend money we don’t have in search of happiness we can’t buy.

  • KatieBeth

    “Looking back at the pictures of the last five years, I can see just what a toll “having it all” had. Yes, I had a job that sounded fancy. Yes, I made reasonably good money. But I woke up at five am, I barely had time to see David, and I was miserable every day but Saturday (the day I didn’t have to dread going back to work, and only had to check my Blackberry three times).”

    This part totally resonates with me – torn between a job that enables me to lead a more-privileged-life-than-most…and realizing I don’t have time to actually live that life, that I look forward to Friday with an irrational anticipation bordering on obsession. And that, even when you’re at home, you’re really still “at work” because of the BB.

  • Good luck with the new little house! When we moved to Seattle we were lucky enough to find a great little house with a small yard for the same price that we were paying for a condo in Capitola. It was a wonderful move for us – and being able to put in raised beds in a rental has been (and will be) AWESOME!

    In the past few months, I’ve found myself shedding all of my notions of what my life “should” look like before I turn 30. And oh my gosh I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders! There’s no more pressure to stick with the 9-5 career track I’m on, find a house to buy, or think about having to decide on putting roots down.

    So now I’m operating under the notion of pursing my passions and enjoying my wonderful life, husband, and puppy! It’s so freeing!!!

  • Janet

    First congrats on the house Meg! It must have been meant to be. Enjoy your new space and all the sunshine you can soak up in your yard!

    We’re in the process of fixing up the fiance’s (btw offically out of pre-engaged land as of this past Saturday when he proposed at a concert we were attending!) home he and his ex-wife had bought just after the economy crashed. The place is old and has some charm, but is a serious money pit and is so far my job it makes commuting impossible. So between two full time jobs, him in school to finish his degree, me living in another state 80% of the week, and now trying to start planning our fledgling wedding/baby family together we’re daunted by the growing “To Do List”.

    We’ve discussed our plans and a move to my state works better for us both, as he’ll have better access to public transportation to get to where the better jobs are and I’ll be close to my job as well. However, we haven’t even thought to look for a house yet as we have no idea how long it will take to sell his place and there’s no way we could afford two house payment at once. The added bonus is just like all the other major cities in the US, rental prices have gone sky high and its disturbing to see just how little $1200 plus will get you these days.

    We have some uphill battles to face in the next year and half, but thanks to Meg and all the APW girls I feel like I’m more prepared to handle them and can walk hand-in-hand into the future with my hubby-to-be confidently.

  • April

    Congrats on your new home, Meg and David! It sounds absolutely lovely and sweet. Enjoy!

  • I agree with you here! Sometimes its incredibly refreshing to not. need. all. the. things.

    Throughout undergrad and law school (when all my friends are killing each other to have a chance to work 100+ hour weeks), I always knew that I would be okay. I grew up in rural Kentucky, and I saw growing up that you can be happy with some good bread, beer, and an evening at the lake.

    It sounds simple — but society tends to over-complicate the idea of happiness. As if it’s supposed to be hard to achieve. Gah. (And perhaps at times it is, but not because you can’t afford an iPad.)

    • Carbon Girl

      Maybe it is because happiness is NOT an achievement but a mind set, a state of being. I think that gets lost in our consumerist culture. Happiness is internal and externalities like career success or parenting success are not needed to be happy. Happy is enjoying the moment for what its worth. I also don’t believe that happiness is an all or nothing, you either have it or you don’t, type of thing, it is a fluid state that comes and goes. You just have to be self aware enough to recognize it when its there.

      • Ah, yes, that’s what I was trying to express – it’s not hard to “achieve” because it’s not an “achievement” but more of a mindset, an intention.

  • KateM

    Great post. I am about a month out from the wedding and moved two weeks ago and am struggling at work. My to do list is huge and I just keep thinking about recovering the sofa. My head is so not in the game. I cannot fathom having a child right now and what that is going to be like, always having them in the back of your mind. Shit. I guess learning to be present takes on a whole new meaning.
    I loved the overall fluidity of the post, you take what comes as it comes and roll with it. I think most women struggle with the staying home question, wanting to and can’t, or not wanting to and doing it, or feeling guilty whatever choice they make. It is a good thing to not berate them for the decisions, we do it enough to ourselves, we don’t need to do it to each other.

  • Congrats congrats on both the move and the mental spring cleaning!

    I vote Team Practical starts a movement to liberate Americans from the “MustDoEverythingAllAtOnce or we’re not successful and happy” mindset. I realize its often more of an internal struggle. However, it doesn’t help that this economy is an added challenge to being peaceful and content!

  • Daynya

    Awww, yay! It sounds like you found just the right place for you guys. A yard, and a garden, and real live blackberries?! Amazing. Best wishes with the move! I know exactly what you mean about the cleansing properties of moving. It feels so refreshing to get rid of the old clutter and piles of ‘stuff’, and to just pick out what you absolutely need in your life for the next chapter. It’s one of my favorite things. In my mind. The reality of actually packing is kind of a pain in the ass, but totally worth it in the end. :)

  • Danielle

    Congratulations and welcome to Oakland! As a current Oakland resident, I love it here and have always said that Oakland is the Brooklyn of the Bay Area. (The print in the picture above of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, I actually have the same one, just of Oakland). So, again, welcome!

    • Kara

      Another Oakland resident here welcoming you to our side of the bridge. It is so great here, such a good sense of eclectic community, and yes, freestanding houses for rent! I moved here two years ago from SF and love it so much more than I could have imagined.

    • Ooh, Oakland map?! Want! Where is it sold? I’ve been googling and googling with no results. I’d love to support a local printmaker, if they’re made around here.

      • Danielle

        We got ours at the Oakland Museum of California. It was printed by Heart Your Hood. :)

  • ooh, congrats on the new place and the garden!

    also, i love everything else about this post. i have never, ever wanted to have it all, but i have only recently stopped feeling like that was an indication that there was something wrong with me. now, really, i feel like it’s an indication that i have a fairly good grasp on how to be happy in my life. after all, if i don’t want it all, i’m much more likely to have what i want. i think the same thing probably applies to deciding not to have it all *at once*.

  • Jess

    Oh, Meg. Thank you for writing this post, which just smacked me right in the forehead with its common sense & made me feel so less alone (a hallmark of many APW posts, for sure, but this post especially is *where I am* right now).

    Right about this line is where I thought, “well, DUH–how has this escaped me??” & then promptly started to cry:

    “…it’s because San Francisco is the first time we bought in (even a little bit) to the idea of ‘What our lives should be like.’ I’m struggling in these pictures, because I’m trying to cram myself into a box of happy-successful-grown-up-life, and I hate it there.”

    *More importantly*, can you share where you found the Bob Dylan/Paul Simon print?? First real concert I ever attended, so I’d love to hunt down a copy of the print. (The Brooklyn print is also fab).

    Best on the move. It sounds like life in your little house will be beautiful. & thanks for sharing this personal story & photos. xx.

    • meg

      Ah, David also attended the concert, and he bought it there! No help, those are just two of David’s old concert posters that we framed up.

  • Ah, Picture Projects. I also started a daunting picture project of my own two weeks ago. For at least the last three years, I have had the goal of going through almost a lifetime’s worth of photos and getting scrapbooks assembled and caught up. A couple of weeks ago I finished up a long-term work project, and suddenly felt “free” and more energized for that type of thing. So I have started in on the pictures and it’s nice to know I am not the only one embarking on a big picture project. Good luck with yours, Meg.

    Also…congrats on the house. It sounds absolutely wonderful….. I am so happy for you guys and wish you all the best as you move and get settled. (And I hope the Brooklyn of the West helps you miss Brooklyn less.)

    And about the idea of having it all, but not at once. Yeah…this is good stuff to think about and remember. Especially when I look around and most of the people we know have hit a few more “mile markers” than we have, and it’s easy to feel our difference…

    • Same here . . . although scrapbooking isn’t even in the cards, I just need to throw them into albums. Hell, I’ll consider it a personal achievement if I can just get our photos from our 2010 & 2012 travels onto the digital frame. Good luck to you!

  • Steph

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post!!! I’m in the middle of the five years figuratively, and literally have lived with my now hubby in Our First Apartment for the last five years. We are DINK (double income no kids) by choice and while not wealthy are financially comfortable…with the tradeoff of him working 6 days per week in a job he likes and me staying in a full time job I hate just for the health insurance. We are exploring together how to possibly restructure our time/money/life. But the part that makes me panic is realizing that walking away from my current lifestyle will mean also sacrificing some things I do enjoy. There is no easy choice, just two (maybe more) options that each have their pros and cons. I’m trying to evaluate which choices will truly work best for me in the longterm, and reading about your process always inspires me and reminds me that this doesn’t have to be my forever. Its also refreshing to interact with other thoughtful people who take the time to ask questions such as “maybe this game is rigged?”
    Thank you so much!

  • Maria-Andrea

    FIRST of all, having a vegetable garden and roses sounds like tons of fun. Enjoy.

    Your mom said it right and oh, by the way, having it all at the same time kind has always sounded kind of sucky to me. I think maybe the reason for that is how our culture defines what having it all looks like and frankly, it just always sounded exhausting to me; you have time for everything and nothing all at once. For me, having it all means that I am reasonably happy doing what I enjoy with enough time to enjoy the fruits of my efforts. This means, that while I adore my daughter, I don’t want to stay at home with her all day. Let me be clear: it’s not that I can’t stay at home with my daughter all day. It’s not that I’m torn between my desire to work and staying home. I LOVE work and I LOVE and NEED the hours away from my daughter each day where I am engaged in the stimulating pursuits of my profession. I cannot express enough how judgmental people are over the choices I’ve made with regard to my daughter. The battle lines between stay at home and working moms have been drawn and I am the world’s worst mother because I’m not fighting some irrepressible need to be with my baby constantly. A friend, shocked that I was back at work already, suggested that I’m suffering from postpartum depression.

    I think what is so important for this generation is that we allow ourselves the freedom of not having it all, but also that we define for ourselves what “it” looks like. I don’t think any of us knows what those narratives are going to look like (we’re living them right now), but from the comments on this post (and others), it looks like we’re well on our way to giving our daughters even more choices than we had.

    • meg

      You and me both, girlfriend. I think we’ve always been peas in a pod on that. Staying home all the time is not something I think I’m built for (I remember hating it when I WAS the kid… when would I get big enough that I could go do something exciting during the day?). And the amount of judgement around that is just terrible. I think if I hear one more comment like, “Why HAVE kids if you’re not going to raise them?” (like daycare raises kids) I’ll scream. NO ONE SAYS THAT TO MEN, BY THE WAY. Also, I recommend the book Brining Up Bebe. I just read it, and it’s totally refreshing to see how (admittedly pretty sexist) France handles it with their subsidized national daycare (ahhhh!) and no guilt.

      • Not Sarah

        This is exactly why I love being a grown-up. I get to leave the house and go do exciting things! No summer break! It is AWESOME.

        I am also incredibly thankful that I make far more money than daycare costs that it would not be financially logical for me to stay home with a kid. I could SO NOT imagine staying at home all day.

        (I do think it’s good for kids to have a parent at home and I am incredibly grateful to my mom for staying home with us, but I don’t see myself ever being able to do that. Or maybe I will have a change of heart after I have a kid. Who knows.)

      • I juuuuuuust finished the look and surprisingly loved it.

    • Staying home would make me cuh razy. I mean, who knows — it’s not like I have a kid, and the first rule of parenting is you don’t know what it’ll be like til you get there — but even working exclusively on research made me crazy. I need some day-to-day feedback, and I need work.

      BTW, reading some bioanth about human evolution (Sarah Hrdy’s stuff, especially Mothers and Others) made me realize just how universal it is for humans to have non-maternal caregivers, and how useful it is for kids to make connections with adults other than their parents. Obviously you can do that a lot of ways, but good child care is one of them.

    • My daughter is 5 weeks old and while I’m insanely grateful I’m Canadian and can stay home for the year, I miss work a lot. I kind of thought I might what to stay at home, but so far? Not so much. I even checked to make sure I can return to work before the full year is up. And it’s not that I don’t like being with her – it’s just, you know, I miss Talking with Grown Ups and Leaving the House and Wearing Shirts That Aren’t Covered in Milk. And feeling productive and challenged.

      I do feel lucky that it’s a choice I can make and it’s not made for me by the government/my company/anyone outside my family.


  • I am going to make this my mantra: “I figured out I could have it all, but I realized I didn’t want it all. At least not all at once.”

    Hopefully everytime I feel guilty about not bringing in the big bucks, or spending a day at the zoo with my kids instead of working I’ll remember this… I probably will only succeed half the time, but still.

    Thanks for this post!

  • Victwa

    East Bay FTW!!!

    That is all.

  • Alison

    Congrats on the new house! I can’t wait to see how the process goes. I hope you find your footing on that journey towards happiness.

    PS: You and David are so adorable. :)

    • meg

      Eh, forget journey towards happiness. Life is pretty imperfect, but I’m happy right now!

      I am overwhelmed by all the boxes I need to pack though, I’ll give you that.

      • Packing is the WORST. Good luck with it. We took two weeks to do it last time, which meant that by the time we moved I was thoroughly sick of anything to do with packing tape or newsprint.

        • In 2010, I moved six different times. Packing is THE WORST. Good luck on the move, and with the (edible) blackberries!!!

          Everything about this post hits home. Our collective idea of what “having it all” looks like is so skewed!

          Also, I just got inspired to start printing some of my thousands of digital photos for scrapbooks! Thanks!

          • Laurel

            You have me beat: my record for moves in a year is 4. It was epic. A great year in my life, but not in a way I want to repeat.

      • HH

        Admittedly, I’m crazy- but I love to pack. Honestly. I love packing and unpacking. For moving- for trips I hate unpacking (it just means it’s over and I have to do laundry). There’s something about the mental and physical cleanse of a fresh start that I LOVE.

        My two tried and true hints for moving success-

        1) use liquor store boxes. They will give them to you mostly put together (you use less tape AND it’s sturdier) and you cannot overpack them. Even with encyclopedias in ’em, you can carry one.

        2) don’t move anything that’s dirty- ie, clean laundry, dust-free books and decor, etc. It will make you feel so happy if you can unpack and just put away, and you won’t feel so gross (if you’re like me) while you’re doing it. This doesn’t so much work with dishes and newsprint, but that’s about it.

        Good luck!

        • Aims

          I love packing too! It’s like the real life version of Tetris. :) Ah, problem solving.
          Agreed on the small boxes. I just moved from Vancouver, BC to Sydney, Aus and wasn’t allowed to send anything in fruit or liquor boxes. Annoying.

      • Woman. I’ll pack for you if you unpack for me. I’ve been looking at “miscellaneous” boxes for far too many days now . . . .

  • OK, I’m a little pouty that you’re not moving to Brooklyn. *sigh* I was thinking the clubhouse + tea parties could become a reality. However, this house sounds incredible!! Congrats!! GARDEN, YARD, SUN – YAY! All beautiful things!

    • meg

      You and me both, girlfriend. I tell everyone to take it up with the husband ;)

      • He looks way too sweet & adorable to be upset with. Shucks, I guess you’ll have to write more books and come on more book tours to Brooklyn. ;-)

        • meg

          Done. Ok, not DONE, but plan.

  • bookgeekgirl

    Congrats on the move! Welcome to the sunny side of the Bay. We live in Oakland and love it so much!

  • <3

    • also, birch branch!

      • meg

        Huppah pole :) You know.

  • Stephanie S.

    Can I have your old SF apartment? Pretty please? Apartment searching in this city is killing me.

    • meg

      It’s in the Richmond, so little sun in the summer, but the listing will come up in a month, I’m sure :)

  • A friend of mine was literally JUST talking about how her therapist told her, “You can have it all. Just not all at once.” It is sooo true, and I think we need to remember that. Also – this sounds so similar to the grad post I just submitted to you last week – with the ideas we carry in our head of what life ‘should’ look like – even though that often equates to too much work, not enough quality time with loved ones. Thanks for the reminder. Also – WAY jealous of your outdoor space in your new place! I want a garden!

  • Woot! On the house! That is awesome.
    You know, I’ve been going through this sort of prioritization or reorganization of things myself about not having all the things at one time. Only for me, it’s more about social engagements and the time I get to spend with the Honey Duncan v. the time I spend with rando friend who barely talks to me anymore. When I finally got wise to the fact that I didn’t want to have my social card full and balance that with work, home life, the world’s cutest baby and building my baby family, I decided that my friends that are solid will be there no matter what. In the meantime, they can come over if they want and watch Duncan magically grow before their very eyes. (He’ll be ONE in two weeks!) Hanging with the girls to talk about whatever just isn’t my jam right now. But seeing that kid of mine smile from ear to ear when he goes down a slide for the first time. Well, turn that sh*t up!

    I’ll catch up with the girls down the line.

  • I can definitely relate to this post, especially these days. I find myself in this weird position of being happy but wanting more. I’ve learned that I don’t really need big, expensive material things to be happy, but the things that I do want cost more money than we have right now. I work 2 part time jobs (3 now, I guess, since I just signed up as a Pampered Chef consultant) as does my husband. We have no savings and no health insurance. But, for as little money as I make, I absolutely LOVE my jobs. I work for a wonderful and fantastic news organization that is totally in line with my values and journalistic ethics. We are coming so far so quickly and I’m just waiting for the day that we’ll have enough money in our operating budget to take on full time staff. This is the first time that I not only enjoyed what I did, but also who I do it for. At the same time, I want to be able to run back up to NY to visit friends and family during special occasions. I want a (small) house with a lot of sunlight and a garden. I want enough money in our savings to know that if my husband’s car breaks down we have the money to fix it.

    We have come so far in the 2 years we made an abrupt move 550 miles away from home, but I’m struggling with how much more we still have to go. I’m grateful for the things that I have, but I wish all the wonderful things that are coming our way would just happen more quickly. I know that sounds spoiled and impatient and maybe even a little bratty.

    • meg

      NOT spoiled. My life changed (slowly) when I realized in New York in my mid-twenties that I wanted more money than I was making. It was a pretty harsh wake up call, and I worried about it not fitting in with my values. But I added up the stuff I really wanted: hardwood floors, access to fresh local food, kids one day, and realized I just couldn’t get that on what I was making. So I made changes. Short term, I made some choices that made me miserable. Long term, I made some better choices. But I’m glad I realized that I wanted more at 26, and didn’t just keep beating my head against a wall that wasn’t going to get me what was going to make me happy.

      • I had a very similar realization when I was 25. When I was 15, I had decided that live theater was the only industry I wanted to work in. At 25 I realized that I was working really hard, and making this set design thing work as well as it could ever be expected to work. That was *just* enough money for a single 25 year old, with no possibility of ever getting any better. It was pretty scary to change life direction, and (10 years later) I am still working on the whole picture.
        I am so glad that I was able to let the life plan from my teenage years evolve. It seemed romantic to live with little money (but a dream!) until I did it for a few years.
        I am an optimistic person so yes, I was happy then, and I am happy now, but I would not be happy now if I had continued on that path.

  • Bitch, why aren’t you submitting to Offbeat Home? Oh wait, right: because you have your own blog. DAMN IT.

    • meg

      Aw man. I guess it’s too late to give you this post, huh?

      • Mm, we could syndicate! I’ll talk to Cat Rocketship about it.

        And now, I’ll stop cluttering your comments with editorial negotiations.

  • I blame Sex in the City.

    Just kidding.

    But not really.

    I don’t remember growing up with this idea that I had to have it all. In fact, I was so sure I couldn’t have it all that I picked a career that wouldn’t support a marriage because I wasn’t ever going to get married. Until I was. And I choose a different career. Someone between then and now I, too, bought into the idea of ‘what our lives should look like.’ And it hasn’t brought me any happiness. It’s brought comparison and jealously, fights with my husband because we aren’t where we’d hoped we would be at this point, six years in. I think your mom is very wise, and I think I’m going to write her words on my mirror today. (Dry erase markers and the mirror over your bathroom sink can do wonders for self-affirmation.)

    I also don’t get the two camps thing. I always thought straying hinge with my kids would be what I wanted to do, when the time comes. Now a as the time gets closer, I’ve realized I want to work. I’m such an all or nothing person that I’ve discovered that I’m pretty sure I’m going to need something else to keep a sense of self and not lose myself completely in my kids. Besides, I finally have a career I love that I want to grow and see where it goes. So it’s the right choice, for me, for right now. It wouldn’t have been a few years ago, and if I can change so quickly who am I to say what’s right for everyone? I can’t, not would I want to. I figure that kids are going to be all right as long as their parents are happy. That includes being happy together and happy with their lives. If I’m miserable staying home, that will outweigh all the good that comes from having time with my kids. That’s what I think, anyway.

    • meg

      “I also don’t get the two camps thing. I always thought straying hinge with my kids would be what I wanted to do, when the time comes. Now a as the time gets closer, I’ve realized I want to work. I’m such an all or nothing person that I’ve discovered that I’m pretty sure I’m going to need something else to keep a sense of self and not lose myself completely in my kids. Besides, I finally have a career I love that I want to grow and see where it goes.”

      Yup. I think having wanted both things at various points in my life is what makes me SO CONFUSED about the idea that it’s two camps fighting it out. Also, can’t you stay home awhile and then work awhile? Or work part time? Or work from home? Or. Yeah. The black and white dichotomy thing is a bullshit trap, if you ask me. A way to make women fight amongst themselves instead of pitch in and solve problems together.

      • My deal with my fiance is that I get to stay at home mom while our future kidlets are little. When we get to the point that they’re all in school we’ll re-evaluate what role my working outside the home takes in our lives but our ideal is for me to either work part time, freelance or help him run the business end of the mechanic shop he wants to own.

        Which to us makes perfect sense, because the needs of a family with toddlers are very different from the needs of a family with young schoolkids or teenagers. So how we fill our roles as parents and as each others’ spouses will change over the year, including our work situations.

  • Eric and I just moved from our apartment into a little rental house…with a garden and blackberries, as well. It’s a VERY VERY different feeling being in a house and we LOVE it. We made the exec decision to spend more on the house, and not travel…we live within walking distance to a beach, have a gorgeous backyard, and plenty of places to lie in the sun and read…who needs a vaycay away from the house?!

    I’ve found in my past 27 years of being on earth that life is about making the choices that are right for you (and your partner)…as long as you are happy, who cares?! :)

    • Amy

      I really liked reading that you prioritized your house over travel. My husband and I made the same choice, and sometimes the chorus of “travel ALL the places” gets a little overwhelming.

      • Kess

        You know what? Some people aren’t as into traveling as others. And I think that’s 100% ok. I don’t buy the thought that if you don’t travel, you can’t have an open mind. Bogus.

        I’m also in the camp of spending more money on a home than on other things. Perhaps it’s because I really do spend a fair amount of time at home (I’m not a really social kind of person) while others may just ‘come home to sleep’.

  • Lily Kasper White

    So happy for you Meg!

  • KA

    Oh, that sounds lovely. There is something so magical about just the right thing appearing after what feels like a hopeless search. Congratulations!

    (Also, I am kind of obsessed with that white elephants holding a ball confection. It reminds me of some vintage plastic jewelry of my grandmother’s I have. )

    • meg

      It’s carved ivory, and my grandmother gave it to me. She got it when they lived in Asia in the 60’s. The ball is actually four internal balls of all carved ivory. It’s pretty nuts.

      • KA

        Ooh, even fancier! What a fabulous piece.

  • Jo

    I feel so lucky that you choose to share your life with us. I hope that the next five years will be full of JOY JOY JOY for you at having some pieces, though potentially not “it all.” But the right pieces, for you.

    What an amazing piece. You just get better and better at writing, it seems.

  • kc

    This is something I’ve been thinking about A LOT lately. We live relatively simple lives, carry no debt and have even managed to have a savings. And yet sometimes it feels like we’ll never get to a point where I don’t wake up in the middle of the night with THE FEARS. I work 9-10 hour days (and the occasional weekend). M is self employed so if anything works 3x more than I do. Part of it is obviously where we’ve chosen to live (consistently in the top 3 most expensive cities in the US), but this is also where his business is so it’s not like we’re moving anytime soon. I can’t even imagine the pressure once we start a family. I have friends paying upwards of 18k a year for PRESCHOOL. Sometimes I want to sit in a corner and cry. It’s not even about having it all (though would’t that be nice!) but the holding on to what we have without sinking bit.

    • HH

      “It’s not even about having it all (though would’t that be nice!) but the holding on to what we have without sinking bit.”


  • Bethany

    Congrats on the new house & welcome to Oakland! Perhaps I’ll see you around. :)

    Also, I’m not sure whether you’re hiring movers or moving yourself, but if you do want to hire movers, I’ll recommend Stu Miller’s Movers (http://www.stumillersmovers.com/). We’ve used him for our last two moves and he made everything so incredibly smooth and non-stressful. Not only are he and his crew super competent, he’s also interested in the physical and mental process of moving and genuinely wants to help people get re-settled in their new spaces.

  • Genevieve

    Welcome to the East Bay, Meg!

  • Last winter, my friend told me that you can’t have the perfect love, career & home at the same time. I think she said a character on Sex & The City said something similar. It struck me because it was pretty true at the time & still rings true. I’ve got my husband & our beautiful home &, well, I’m working on the career. But two out of three isn’t bad & I don’t mind not having it all. I just appreciate what I have. Although a backyard & blackberry bushes would be nice . . .

  • rys

    Hmmm, blackberries. I miss living out west where blackberries were plentiful.

    One of the things I’ve found fascinating–and aggravating–about all the work-life balance seminars/workshops/whatever held at my university (for grad students) is that they all assume that the only people who struggle with (or need?) work-life balance are married couples or people with kids. The rhetoric about balance has been built up in such a way that when it’s discussed (poorly, in the case of these grad school workshops and mental health memos sent to departments), it never ever thinks that single people face any issues. One mental health person came to my department and claimed — I am not making this up — that graduate students either have self-sufficiency issues (the single people) or work-life balance issues (the coupled people). I walked out.

    So I can’t help but wonder what work-life balance discussions would look like if everyone’s work-life balance struggles and successes were made visible and if work-life narratives weren’t segmented by relationship status, stage in life, gender, etc.

  • Margaret

    Good luck with the move. I know you wrote about some big, meaty ideas, but I just wanted to comment on the act of physical moving. I have lived in three homes since I graduated from college nearly 10 years ago, and each move was its own kind of trauma. I guess I just don’t move well. But the last move was the worst. We bought a house (in Philadelphia, prices are reasonable, and one’s dollar goes a long way) this summer. The move was deeply emotionally unsettling. It was grueling, it was hard, it was physically demanding. But I was just so freaked out that on the first night in our new place, I just sobbed myself to sleep. Not because I was unhappy about the house, but because I just wasn’t comfortable and I wasn’t at home yet. I guess I just don’t like being uprooted. And since I’ve started my garden, I’ve learned about all the plants that don’t like being uprooted and prefer to stay put. I guess in this regard, I resemble a nasturtium or a sunflower.

    Anyway, I guess the upside is that while I hate moving, I tend to love where I am. And I really love where we wound up which is good because I never want to move again. All the trauma of the move was worth it a thousand times over to be in a place where I really feel settled. Also, never underestimate the power of a garden. Pottering about in the garden has been huge for my mood and sanity. It just makes life better, if you are garden inclined.

  • Someone recently asked me what my perfect day would entail. The no thought answer was “a full day with my husband.” I blogged about the full thought out answer earlier this week.

    Even after thinking about it my perfect day was simple – time with my husband, a bubble bath, time on the porch with a good book, fresh veggies from our garden, etc. And that’s my “all.”

    I guess you can have it all, you just have to decide what your all is. If what I’m doing for work or other commitments is taking away too much time from my all, then it’s not worth it.

    • “I guess you can have it all, you just have to decide what your all is.” EXACTLY. I totally blogged about this last week too, in a way. What “all” is has gotten decidedly smaller (but richer!) and therefore more attainable for me.

  • Meredith

    Ahh – the East Bay welcomes you!

    And did you read the latest Guardian article about how SF is losing it’s creative class to Oakland!?
    Pretty appropriate timing, eh? :)


  • lyn

    I love moving. There’s nothing like utterly dismantling your life and rebuilding anew.

    Great post. For me, the “having it all” thing is wrapped so much in ambition. Drive. Desire. Sacrifice. Success. I spent a huge portion of my 20s feeling guilty because I was so far “behind” everyone. My student loan debt was greater! Demerit! I didn’t make as much money! Demerit! I couldn’t afford to travel! Demerit! No savings! Demerit! I drove a shitty car and nothing I owned matched anything else! So many demerits everywhere, raining down like so much rain! From the sky! That was the American Dream! Shit, my American Dream had gone all cloudy and damp!

    And then I came across one of the many articles that have been written in the last few years that talk about dropping out of the success race, or rather redefining your success to be something that suits you and your lifestyle. And that article gave me permission to own not wanting “success.”

    So my ongoing life goal has become to achieve the best work-life balance I can possibly muster. I will have to make adjustments to redistribute the weight as I age and change and as curveballs in the form of babies and new employment get thrown, but that’s pretty much it. I had to have people smarter than me tell me it was OK to want to work as little and enjoy as much as I can, and to pursue it singularly as a goal. I am so glad they did.

    Your mother is a smart, smart, smart woman.

    And I doubt you need any further convincing about Oakland, but I’ll say nice choice. My best friend lives in the Lake Merritt neighborhood and couldn’t be happier. Diversity, cheap food, dive bars are still divey. And you’ve got nature in the form of Joaquin Miller park right up in the hills — I’ve loved watching the fog sweep over the city as I hike. Also, they’re supposed to be bringing back the Parkway Theatre, which… potentially awesome?

    • kc

      I love moving too! Every couple of years or so I get the itch. I’ve moved 6 times in the last 10 years (and that’s with owning 2 of the places!). It might be a sickness.

      I also love what you say about the success race. I realized years ago, when my friends and colleagues were going back to school for MBAs and MCSs that that wasn’t for me. Sure, I love my job and what I do but I don’t really have any desire to climb the management ladder. I felt badly about it for a few years, like I was failing somehow, but I got over it.

  • Rachel T.

    First, let me say that when you wrote “burn our Blackberries”, the first image in my head was burning blackberries… like on a bush… the fruit. Haha!

    But more importantly, I love your mother’s idea of “having it all” but not all at once. I needed to hear that. Liz, your Liz, wrote a great post today about the love of spouse versus love of child, and I think they actually connect a bit, especially the comment her husband made about women being expected to put away the make up, the heels, the dresses when baby comes, that somehow we are not allowed a prolonged “adolescence” the way men are and if we don’t put those things away, it somehow makes us “bad moms”. I feel the “having it all” comes along the same lines, especially when for some of us, all means kids and job, not just money and job or kids and “at home mom”. The more I think about a future family, having a family unit, and what I want that to mean, about being PRESENT in that decision making process and making a conscious CHOICE to take part in that instead of having family and children HAPPEN TO ME, the more I really think about the logistics of it. How will I do it? How will we? What will that look like? I love the idea of seeing my adulthood in compartments of what works for that period of time, what is best for me THEN, because it reinforces the changes that will occur as I grow older. Often, especially as children, I think we see life in parts of “baby, child, teenager, adult” and then somehow that’s it. But now that we’re here, that I’m here, I see it more in stages. Your post and your mother’s point are helping me to affirm my desire to have a job for now, maybe later have children and stay home until I don’t want to anymore, and then go back to work. And most importantly, that not doing the job and children thing at the same time, IF I DON’T WANT TO (not that anyone has to or should or can’t), does not somehow make me less of a feminist or less of a mother. Actually even more than that, that I can be a feminist and a mother at the same time and that I should be.

    Lots of thoughts and self-reflection going on in my head today… thanks for bringing these amazing conversations into my life, APW. Seriously, I love the use of my brain power for this stuff.

  • suzanna

    One of my favorite Greg Brown quotes: Time ain’t money when all you got is time.

  • Sara

    The problem of biology persists. As several people have already commented, women in academia face the conflict of prime career-building years being the same years as prime childbearing years. Women in demanding careers that are not in academia struggle with this issue as well. Of course you CAN take [limited] time off to be with your family in the middle of medical school and/or residency, and of course you CAN choose to pursue time- and labor-intensive careers such as medicine later in life, after childbearing is complete, but women who make these choices are still very much the exception, and the “system” is not really set up to accommodate them. Women still struggle with trying to have it all at the same time because, even though our society has changed to rightfully allow us all (or most of) the professional opportunities that traditionally were open only to men, our bodies have not.

  • Jill

    That’s why I can’t seem to afford a bigger apartment in SF! Stupid Facebook.

  • I love all of this. Awesome, awesome post.

  • Nina


    (Can I just say, there are a TON of awesome amazing smart ladies who live and love in Oakland. It is THE PLACE to be in the Bay Area right now. Not that I’m biased or anything.)

    And if you need any tips for amazing things to do/see/stroll/check out, just holla!

  • YES to this.

  • This is what that Exactly! button was made for.

    I am now supporting three people on my nonprofit salary (well, plus my husbands hard worked freelance art). Could I make more money somewhere else? Most likely. Would I have the same awesome benefits including maternity leave? Probably not. Would they be as family friendly and let me work from home a day a week and take off early because I miss my baby? Most definitely no. Do I still sometimes wish I worked for Instagram? You betcha.

    But, we’ve decided that staying at my job and my husband fitting in art when he can on top of taking care of our son is worth not being able to go on fancy trips or eat out a lot because we can be together as a family. Trips to the park are just as enriching and exciting as trips to grander places (though we will try and take them occasionally).

    Oh, and welcome to the east bay! Let me know when you need a tour of Alameda. Its my duty in life to convince everyone I know to move here and make it awesomer.

  • Audrey

    The interesting thing for me is that I think I’m currently having problems in the other direction. I started at a job I really care about ~1 year ago, and it definitely takes up a little more time and a lot more mental energy than my previous jobs. I’m not doing crazy weekend working, but I just don’t have the resources to do as much as I used to outside of work.

    So naturally I beat myself up for not keeping up with my hobbies.

  • Stephanie B

    “But I do think that, in very real ways, kids or no kids, all of us in this country have been sucked into this very insane, very rigged game of trying to have it all. And having it all in 21st century America looks a lot like working way too much, making a lot of money, buying flashy things while we try to pay off mountains of debt (student loan and other), and having minimal time to devote to our personal and family life.”

    YES! My fiance and I are dealing with the difference between what we want for ourselves and what our parents want for us. I understand parents want their kids to have it better than they did, but right now I’ve had anxiety attacks over what kind of job I will get when I graduate college. My parents have raised me with this idea that they will pay for my college, I will graduate, get a really great job, make lots of money and then be able to take care of them when my dad can’t work anymore. Do they KNOW how much pressure that is?

    I’ve come to terms with the job market. I understand that I probably won’t find a job with the B.A. in music that my father graciously paid for. Trying to tell my mom that a college degree isn’t a “shoe in” for a job anymore is hard, she constantly reminds me that these jobs I’m applying for won’t satisfy my father. What she doesn’t understand: they’re hiring, they’re paying, and I can find out what I REALLY want to do in my off time.

    This post makes me feel a lot better, to know there are people out there around my age who think the same way. My fiance made it clear that he is not buying a car any time soon; The paid off ’96 Camry clunker I have is good enough. We will probably not have a spacious house all to ourselves: A medium sized place with a room mate is what we can afford. We won’t be able to eat out every night: coupons will become my best friend. Honestly? I’m okay with that. My parents might not be, but I am.

  • Lauren

    OakTOWN! You are going to love it here, Meg. We weren’t rated #5 on a list of places to visit in 2012 by The New York Times for nothing. Great bookstores, farmers’ markets, bars, cafés… Enjoy!
    And, yes to not having it all (at once).

  • Sherry

    THANK YOU for this post. I needed it right now. I am just about to wrap up almost 5 years of school culminating in a BA. Days after my last class, I found myself freaking out about jobs, my future, more training, how to make money, how my fiance and I are ever going to have a wedding….you name it. The expectation is that you go to school, you graduate, and you get a good job and start “living”. But, what if the best times of your life were spent on unpaid internships and extremely low paid university reporter jobs? The years when you are flat broke and because you’re a student, it’s expected and even admired.

    What is it with the guilt about having free time, after years of working multiple jobs and taking multiple courses/internships? Why is it after one week off from it all, there is automatically so much pressure to find a career? I’m finding that a breather from it all (while working my crap student job) is a really great thing and it’s something that we all deserve. Unfortunately, there are bills, and there are mortgages and life expenses. We can live off of my fiances salary, but we would never be able to have a wedding or a honeymoon or anything extra. Indeed, we can’t have it all at once, but I can have my own little piece of happiness while I hunt for my “adult” job.

  • Husband and I moved to the Bay Area this January, found a nice apartment that’s *only* costing us an arm, and I plan on staying in it as long as possible. But, oh, do I envy your house!

    good luck with the move!

  • Angela

    Great post, Meg! Really made me think about a lot of important things. I can certainly relate to the feeling of not wanting to spend another winter wearing wool in SF. Congrats on the new house, enjoy the sunshine and the blackberries!

  • Catching up around here and so sparked and delighted I had to pause about twenty minutes ago to get a glass of wine so I can sit and read these posts proper-like, Meg-style, and enjoy the writing.

    Three things:

    1. I love you ever so much, Meg Keene.
    2. Congrats on the new house. Front AND back garden? YOU KILL ME. So exciting and so, so marvelous.
    3. Thank you for bringing some sanity to the feminist conversation, as always. xo