Dropping out of Columbia Law School in 1971 was a turning point in my life. After a year of soul-searching journal writing, I realized that I had been denying my emotional, nurturant, sensitive nature, never considering careers like psychology or social work. Closer to my dad and having 5 younger brothers, I had raised myself as a Koch male, In the jargon of early consciousness-raising groups, I was male identified. I got very involved in the feminist movement in New York City and recognized the sexism of “thinking like a man.”
I had always assumed that professional success was far more important to me than traditional motherhood. I had seen how my mother postponed her dreams until the youngest of her six children entered school. Instead of being a lawyer, as she had originally planned, she settled for high school teaching.
A few months later a good friend got pregnant, and I became intensely involved in her pregnancy. For the first time in my life, I wanted to have a baby. I questioned my motives, wondering if I was merely postponing the inevitable return to grad school. I assured myself I would go back to work when the baby was a few months old. I got pregnant the first month we tried, and I loved being pregnant. I was able to achieve my goal of natural childbirth. I felt terrific immediately after birth. Breastfeeding was easy.
Nothing prepared me for drowning in an overwhelming surge of love, tenderness, protectiveness the minute I looked into my new daughter’s bright eager eyes. I had never believed in the myths of fulfilling motherhood, and yet mothering young children was the most fascinating, creative job of my life.
Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine I would love being full-time mother from 1973 to 1988 and my grandson’s nanny from 20007 to 2009.
But if anything, I am more of a feminist than I was in 1971.