August 26, 2008 by Judith Liebaert
When I was young, I believed that I would marry a man I loved, have children, work hard to raise a family and make a life, and then grow old bouncing my grandchildren on my knee. Not surprisingly, there were a few detours along the way.
Perhaps I was naïve. Devoting 30 years to a career with no paycheck and no pension plan is risky business. Now that I am 50, my trip has been seriously side-tracked. Instead of enjoying the life I’ve made and spending my time spoiling my grandchildren, I am weighing the benefits of going back to school to improve my employment prospects.
I don’t think my traditional choices were wrong; I’m still very satisfied with my degree in motherhood, even though I have no diploma for lessons learned – nor gold watch for retirement, and in fact, any retirement seems out of the picture now.
Here is fair warning: It matters little whether you or your spouse are the primary wage earner, or even if you depend on both incomes equally; divorce, illness or death can still bring your dreams to a screeching halt. Don’t talk to me about planning for emergencies. One major illness or serious accident can wipe out a life savings in the blink of an eye. There is good reason middle-aged bankruptcy is becoming a buzz-word phrase.
Whatever comes next, I’ll figure it out – I’ve always been adaptable. What I can’t figure out are the judgmental comments from women who chose to work outside of their home. I’ve been summarily told, “You’ll have to get a real job now.” I guess because I didn’t receive a paycheck, it didn’t count. Even more insulting, I’ve been asked, “So, what are going to be when you grow up?” Do they really think that raising three children was just one long recess in the school yard?
I had idealistic dreams 30 years ago. Most of what I planned worked out, some of it didn’t, but I’m not down for the count yet. Perhaps continuing to believe I can find a way to preserve and pursue that dream is still naïve. But if growing up means giving up, just book me a one-way fare to Never-Never Land.