I Did Not Set Out to Be a Mother of Four

Once upon a time, Janet posed four excellent questions. I seem to be tackling one a month.

In one of your posts you stated “I did not set out to be a mother of four.” Prior to becoming pregnant with your first child, how did you envision your life unfolding?

First, remember how old I am. I was a college freshman when Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique was published. I came of age at the birth of the second feminist movement. From age 12 until I met my first husband when I was 2o, I didn’t plan to be a wife or a mother. I believed women had to chose; guys didn’t fall in love with intellectual women. I envisioned a brilliant career, but I was unclear what that career would be. I certainly rejected the traditional female careers–nurse, teacher, librarian, social worker. In college my ambitions were clearer. I wanted to be a college professor of political science. John, my fiance, planned to be a professor of astrophysics. From the beginning, we planned to share childrearing and housework. Having 5 brothers makes a woman a feminist.

John was a year younger than I was, When I was applying to graduate schools, I was not yet sure of our relationship. I didn’t mention to my graduate advisor that love might be a complicating factor. So I applied to the best schools that would give me a fellowship. I eventually chose Stanford because John wanted to go to Berkeley. When I left for California in the fall 0f 1967, Peter, Paul, and Mary’s song, Leaving on a Jet Plane was popular. I can never hear it without remembering how heartbroken I was to leave John.

I didn’t last a semester at Stanford. How I interpret my leaving has varied tremendously over the years. At the time I convinced myself that I hated Stanford. They were trying to make political science scientific while huge anti-Vietnam War protests were occurring right outside the classroom doors. Accepting this interpretation meant I ruled out graduate school as a possible choice. Probably I just could not be 3000 miles away from my fiance; we got engaged over the phone. Still later, I interpreted my leaving as the first sign of my mood disorder. I decided to come back to NY and get a journalism job; I planned to go to Columbia School of Journalism.

I didn’t get a journalism job and wound up in book publishing. In my stupidest career move, I rejected a job at the New Yorker because it would involve too much typing. I was intimidated by the writing requirements of the Columbia application and didn’t apply. I advanced quickly in publishing, then got stuck as a Supervising Editing. I wanted to work with authors to acquire and develop books. Because I was a good supervising editor, I wasn’t being promoted. I felt I was editing the books I left graduate school to avoid writing.

So I decided to go to law school. It was an ill-thought out decision. Whose dreams was I fulfilling? Early in 1971, my brother Andrew commented: “Mom thinks you are wasting yourself in publishing. You should go to law school and make something of yourself.” When she retired from teaching, my mom told the interview from the school paper that she would have been a lawyer if she had come of age in the 60s. I had a vague picture of myself as a public defender fighting for the rights of the poor.

About maryjograves

Children are my passion. I have 4 daughters, 5 grandkids under 5 with another on the way, 5 younger brothers, 11 nieces and nephews, 8 great nieces and nephews. I advocate a revolution for a child friendly US. I have been an editor, public librarian, social worker, and internet educator. Tweet @RedstockingGran @ChildrensWings
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