Thursday, October 16, 2014

Finding Contentment

I spent part of this past weekend with a group of wonderful Mount Holyoke College alumnae. Our ages span the generations and our current homes are located in all parts of Europe but collectively we are smart, funny, intellectually curious and well travelled. We are all well spoken, opinionated and strive to be the best at whatever we do. As is the case whenever I spend time with fellow alumnae, I return from a gathering feeling intellectually stimulated and emotionally rejuvenated. And as is also always the case, a part of me feels slightly out of sorts and unsettled, simultaneously being proud of what I have accomplished yet wondering whether I could have or should be doing more with my life.

But this feeling and questioning isn't new as I've always second guessed my life choices and decisions and sometimes, but not always, regretted those that I've made or wished for spontaneous "re-dos". (Wouldn't life be wonderful if our 40 something year old voices could guide our 20 something year old minds in their decision making process?). There is something about being around such accomplished and (at least outwardly) confident women that causes me to step back, pause and reevaluate. And that is just what I've been doing this past week.

Its been years since I've had what I would consider a career. I gave up a full time job--one I didn't love but that was at least in my career field since the pickings were slim in our area-- shortly before Sidney was born and have only worked sporadically since then. In the past five years we've moved three times, including two over seas moves, I became competent in a new language and am refreshing my skills in another and for two and a half years I did work in a job that filled my time yet left me feeling inadequate in many ways. Now I am my all accounts a stay-at-home mom. I used to wonder what it was that these mothers did all day and I know that days are busier than I ever imagined they could be. And my hat goes off to stay-at-home moms, but it is the hardest, and least intellectually fulfilling, job I have ever had. I spend too much time driving around and sitting in traffic, have learned all of the popular songs with the five year old set and can now add soccer mom / playground referee / cheer leader in chief to my resume. Yes, my days are busy running from one place to another yet my routine leaves me feeling lacking and needing more. In an attempt to fill that need I'm taking both French and painting classes, spend hours at the gym and volunteering for a variety of activities. But this past weekend, as I explained what it was I did all day to inquiring minds, I realized how inadequate it all sounded. Of course my audience was career driven women who owned their own businesses or were racing up the promotion ladder at their international corporations while juggling multi-faceted family lives. In comparison my day just sounded so simple. The very idea that I would be the one following my spouse rather than having him follow me seemed confusing to some.

But despite our current differences, we all shared a common alma mater and conversation naturally turned to our college days. When posed with the question of what I wish I had done differently in college, I paused. What would I have done differently? I loved my American history major and can play a mean game of Jeopardy but well into my senior year I realized how unspecific and not really marketably it was. The year I graduated I was one of thousands of liberal arts majors hustling for a job. In hindsight would I have selected a different major? I don't know. Do I wish I had gone to law school after working for a couple of years the way I wrote in my graduation announcement that was sent to my home town newspaper? Not really. Should I have pursued a more mobile career path? Probably, but then again my twenty year old self never imagined that I'd be living the life I am today. Do I regret jumping off of the career track to move to Virginia when I met my now husband? Absolutely not. Sure I wish there had been real job opportunities for me there but I can say with confidence that I knew what I was getting into when I said "yes". And being a mother? Despite the moments when I simply want to pull out my hair, it is the most rewarding (and scary) endeavor I have ever taken on.

So am I content? Mostly......Time with Mount Holyoke alumnae does make me question where I am, what I am doing and how things could have been different. But it also makes me appreciate where I am and what I have. All of the decisions I have made to date bring me to the place I am today. For a brief moment I missed being the one who had the job, the fancy title and the professional responsibility but then I reconsidered. After all, I don't miss being attached to a Blackberry, having to put on suits every day and having to endure the stress of missing deadlines that are out of my control. The only organization I will ever be CEO of is Household Brown and despite Glenn's musings, we won't be able to live off of the earnings from my blogging in our post-military life.  I am not by any stretch of the imagination an uber wife, mother, housekeeper and cook but I can happily hold my own on all of those fronts. I have an amazing and diverse network of friends that span the globe. Because of the decisions that have been made I have the opportunity to pursue interests that I would never have the time to do if I was working outside of the home. And I must admit, it is kind of nice.

This is the path I have chosen and I embrace it. This coming year is going to be one of college reunions and get togethers so naturally there will be more reflection and occasional self doubt on my part. But life is short and there is absolutely no time for regrets. Questions and reconsiderations, yes, but regrets? Absolutely not.


  1. I discovered your post on BlogHer. I was pleasantly surprised to find not only a fellow American expat in Europe but a fellow Seven Sisters alumna here. (I graduated from Bryn Mawr!) Your post made me think how wonderful it would be to organise a Seven Sisters Benelux Conference or something of that sort. The Seven Sisters network in London was vibrant and fun, so I might try to find out if there's enough critical mass to make this idea worth pursuing. I can really empathise with being a trailing spouse; I always say that being an expat is a privileged life, but it is not without its challenges.

    1. It is always nice to "meet" a fellow seven sister. I don't know of any seven sister wide groups in Europe but we do have an active MHC one here in Europe. There are also quite a few of us in the Benelux. I love the idea pulling together other sisters.