When I was in high school, my best friend at the time told me, “You’ll never get married. You’re just too career driven for that.” APT ANALYSIS! That is exactly how I felt, and I knew my life progression would be this: college, career, and cats. Lots of cats. Maybe a pug thrown in.
My Barbie doll was always a single, working woman. She did not marry Ken. Ken was her personal assistant, and he was always on probation. Ken sucked. Barbie was a badass boss bitch. I remember my mother got me a Barbie set that included a baby, and I was appalled. Barbie didn’t have kids! The baby became her little sister she had to raise on her badass boss bitch salary, which was $100k a year because she ran a magazine, thank you very much. She hired another Ken to be the nanny, and her life was legit. She drove a pink Beetle that she paid for herself (really, it was purchased by my grandparents), and she had the whole Barbie Dreamhouse to herself until her little sister moved in. Life was good!
Basically, ever since I could walk and talk, and had a conscious mind, I knew marriage was not for me. A career where I wore cute pencil skirts, heels, and a nice sweater was the only path for me. A cat named Dumbledore was going to be my only living companion in life. Not a husband. Never!
In fact, on top of my friends never believing in a million years that I’d marry, my parents thought the same. My mom always gave my sister pep talks on dating and dealing with boys. One day in the car after school, my sister was having boy troubles and my mom was giving her dating tips. Enraged, I stuck my head into the front seat, and demanded to know why my mom never offered me some motherly advice on how to make the opposite sex pay attention to me. Her response?
“You have no interest in other people. All you do is re-read Harry Potter.”
My mom was super observant, and correct. I really didn’t care if the opposite sex was into me. So, college days hit, and I had never had a boyfriend. Was it my awkward looks that kept the high school boys at bay? My lack of social skills? The world may never know. But college boys were a different story. I remember my first college party, and two people asked for my phone number. Look out world, here comes popular Steph, drinking her Smirnoff Ice, having guys talk to her!
This party led to my first date. I remember my first “date” with a guy. Let’s call him Tim. Tim invited me to his frat house to watch TV. I remember sitting on the couch with him, as he tried to impress me talking about his grades and summer vacation to Sea World, and all I could think was, Yep. Dating isn’t for me. I want to go home. So after Tim, I decided to close up the dating chapter of my life. It was a short (but definitely not sweet, because Tim sucked) chapter, and I was content with that.
But then, over Thanksgiving break, some cute guy named Zach messaged me on Facebook, asking about my holiday, and offering his phone number. Ah. He was cute, but I just saw a friendship flourishing, nothing romantic. I was wrong. We hung out a lot after Thanksgiving break, and eventually became a couple. I felt a weird mixture of being happy to have him, but so mad and disappointed at myself for suddenly changing. Out of nowhere, my life progression changed to: graduate college, Zach, Zach, Zach. Maybe a career, but mostly Zach.
Zach and I stayed together all four years of college. I couldn’t believe it. My personality is a wonderful mix of anxiety, impatience, and never being satisfied. How he survived with me, I’ll never know. But May 2014 rolled around, and we didn’t even discuss it. We didn’t think twice. We just knew we were both moving to Nashville together. I had no idea what career I really wanted anymore — I just knew I wanted Zach to be in the picture.
Overnight, I became every type of girl I mocked, looked down on, and felt sorry for. I became a girl that built a future around her boyfriend. My childhood Barbie wept for me, as my dream future of a career and New York Apartments dissolved into dreams of coming home to Zach, waking up next to Zach, and making Zach do Starbucks runs on Sundays while I snoozed. In my mind, a woman could have a husband OR career. Never both.
Did I choose a man over a career? Yep.
I chose my husband, who was just a boyfriend, at the time. I chose to jump to a city that had job opportunities for us both rather than the one I used to dream about. I chose a city that was close to our families in case we couldn’t secure jobs. I played it safe, and I planned a future for us. Not just me. Not just my future cat. I took calculated risks, and I was betting on us.
Does planning your future around a man close every career door? Why did I have it in my head that women always placed into two categories: a married woman or a career-driven woman? A working mom or a stay at home mom? Does being married, does being a stay at home mom, a working mom, a housewife, or any other variation of that make you any less a woman?
You can be a mom, and grow a career. You can be married, and depend on your husband when you’re down, and still be a feminist. Women are more than capable than chasing and achieving their dreams. It is okay if you got married. It is okay if you decided to have kids and stay home with them. It is okay to never marry, never have kids, and to climb the ladder all the way to bust out that glass ceiling. And we are more than capable of doing all the above in our lifetime.
For the longest time, I beat myself up for getting married. For not taking bigger risks I would have taken if I were single. But having a family and a career, I’ve been learning, are not mutually exclusive. I learned quickly that women are capable of having it all, whatever that means to them — and it doesn’t make you the “wrong” kind of woman for choosing a certain life path.
Steph lives in Nashville, TN, and spends her working days droning away in a cubicle. You can find her attempting to blog at simplisticsteph.com, at an Indian buffet, or at a local coffee shop.
Image via Unsplash