Sunday, June 18, 2006

Here's to you, Linda Hirshman

In honor of Linda Hirshman's article in Sunday's Washington Post, I am reposting one of my favorite entries, "Choosing Home". It is my personal story of how I left the life of the educated elite; to become an uncomplicated, unfulfilled simpleton, with nothing better to do than have babies and blog.

I was raised in the 70's in a suburb just minutes from downtown Detroit. I vaguely remember the '68 riots and vividly remember the day Nixon resigned. Abortion became legal. And in the era of ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) and the feminine mystique, women were declaring their independence. Ant that is exactly the way I was raised. To be self sufficient and ready to tackle life head on. My dad used to introduce me to his collegues as "the future president of IBM". That sounded nice, but there was one problem - I was not very outgoing. A true wall flower. In high school, I would have been voted "the girl most likely to be forgotten" had anyone remembered to vote for me. But I got good grades and did what I was told. That was enough to keep me out of trouble and get me into the Universityof Michigan.

When I left home, I told my parents that I was going to college to get a degree. And if by chance I decided to get married, it would be to a doctor. That way, we could live in a large house and I would never see him only his money. And I would be free to pursue my own interests.

God had other ideas.

I gave my life to Christ my first year there. Through excellent discipleship and fellowship God was able to root out many false notions that had been deposited in my youth. Christ also gave me an inner confidence that I had lacked. But I held firm on marriage. It wasn't for me. Many others were there for an "Mrs." degree but I was all business. I majored in computers. This suited my logical and analaytical skills fairly well. And as an added bonus, the corporations were hungry for women in this field so I figured finding a job would be easy after graduation.

But then I had to go and meet Steve. So marriage was for me after all. We met in January of 84, my junior year. He was dating someone else and had recently become a Christian. I had no time for a social life. I was working 2 jobs and with my studies I didn't want to think about a serious relationship. God, however, had other plans. By September he was available and by October we were engaged. I couldn't believe it. (And neither could he.) We set a date for May 31, 1986.

This was also the time when I took my first "real" job as a computer sales representative for a company in our area. I quickly excelled. I was earning nearly $4000 a month selling computers. The PC industry was booming and so was my career. Full steam ahead. Maybe I would be president of IBM after all. But then came the choice.

Choosing Home

We had been married about 6 months. With graduation finally behind me, I was free to build a career in the growing computer industry. Steve also took his first job as a sales representative for a trucking company. We both loved what were doing but something didn't seem quite right to me. We would go to work, come home in the evening, eat, catch up on stuff, fall into bed exhausted, and wake up to do it all over again. I began to pray that God would lead me in the ways he desired. I made a commitment when we were married to do everything I could to make Steve successful and not be a hinderance to God's plans for him. But I felt like that's what I was becoming. My career was taking up more and more of my time and I had less time to focus on being his wife. I realized that if it came down to a choice between my husband needing me at home on a given day and my boss needing me at work I would probably choose the job over my husband. After all I reasoned, Steve's a grown man. He can take care of himself. But the tug was still there despite my best efforts to pretend otherwise. I needed to put my marriage ahead of my career even before I had a child to care for. I discussed with Steve my decision to leave my career behind. He was very supportive. We had previously decided that I would work until we had children. This change would mean a substantial loss of income. Steve encouraged me to do what God was leading me to do.

So one Monday morning, I went into my boss's office and put in my notice. He was stunned. He questioned why I would leave such a lucrative job and the beginnings of a great career just to be a help mate to my husband. I didn't expect him to understand but his bewilderment was slightly unsettling. He tried to convince me to stay. I felt somewhat doubtful myself to be honest. This did seem kind of foolish. But in the end I knew that I had to "choose home" and trust where God desired me to be. So I held firm and told him I couldn't be persuaded to stay.

Later that same day, my boss came over to my desk. He asked if I could watch the office for a little while. He seemed kind of agitated. I asked if everything was okay with their newborn daughter. He said yes she was fine but that the babysitter didn't show up and his wife needed to go to work. She needed him to come and watch the baby and find a replacement. As the words were leaving his lips, his face showed a new understanding of my decision. He realized I was choosing to go home to support my husband while his wife was choosing to leave. He got it and I never had to explain my convictions to him again. I had chosen to be home, where a wife needs to be.

As for my boss, I found out years later that he and his wife were divorced. For some reason that didn't surprise me. Women cannot have it all.

In saying so, I probably won't win many popularity contests with the "in" crowd. But that's okay I've gotten kind of used to being the girl most likely to be forgetten anyway.

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