Compromise, Marriage & The Permeable Membrane

So, okay, a few weeks ago, I got really stressed out (relatively so, since my normal level is stress is not that high) about things that didn't really have much pertinence to my current day-to-day.  They weren't even things that I needed to be thinking about in order to better prepare for the future.  Yet, for some reason, there I was...worrying about grad schools and potential deciding factors therein.

I blame it on my ANES 201 class that has been drilling into us the importance of choosing the right doctoral program all semester.  (And the fact that I finally, once and for all ruled out being a seminary teacher.  For reasons that make me feisty, so I will not divulge them here or elsewhere.)

So what weighed so heavily on me?  Mainly, feeling as though I couldn't really make any concrete plans for grad school because who knows what could happen between now and the time that I'm applying and going.  That phrase–who knows–those are heady words, my friend.

I mean, it's not even like I'm sitting here dying to get married.  I actually really love my life exactly as it is and would probably have an interesting time readjusting my world on the occasion that a marriage became imminent.  I remain resolutely not one of those Provo girls whose sole purpose is to get a ring by spring.  Nor am I (forgive the stereotype) a stalwart feminist who shirks the concept of marriage at the expense of my personal freedoms.  In fact, I will welcome marriage if and when it comes as a particularly joyful part of life.  As for right now, I'm just...making do with what life has given me thus far.  And, thus far, I've been tasked with developing myself and who I am, which is something that I have really loved.

But a comment that my (only female) professor said to me got me thinking.

She told me (in a private chat during her office hours) that a married woman pursuing a career in high-level academia has to make a compromise.  That compromise can be with school/work or it can be with family, but a compromise must be made.  And that's for women who aren't LDS.  There are all sorts of expectations and pressures placed upon LDS women that I believe would have us make a choice; there's a sense that if you're a good Mormon, you will be a wife and a stay at home mom and will delight in the raising of your children.

Hmm, not bad so far.  (Really!  I wouldn't mind being a wife.  And kids!  They're great!  And I feel like I would really desire to spend as much time with my kids as I possibly could while they were young, so that could end up being my choice.)  

But there's an underlying meme that makes me worry.  Especially here in Provo, there seems to be a qualifier on that if-then statement above, and it's " the raising of your children...and nothing else."  Now, while this is intensified here in Provo a million-fold, I also saw this in DC and in Florida and everywhere else that I've been.  Honestly, I don't even blame the Church (well, not as much as others do) because I also saw this at home with my own mom growing up; a mom who, with a very brief exception when I was a young child, worked all while I was growing up.  And then THAT made me begin to wonder.  Is this just the choice women have to make?

With this, there's a tension near and dear to my heart.  I feel especially called to my interest in the Ancient Near East.  Called.  Of God.  And I just cannot find myself thinking that this calling will disappear once marriage, children and the like make themselves available.  But, I also feel called to be a wife.  A mother.  I have always felt that I will have a unique joy therein.  So, how to balance the two?

So, there's this passage in Eat, Pray, Love that was and remains particularly poignant.  Gilbert writes:
..I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have my everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my ass, my money, my family, my dog, my dog's money, my dog's time--everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. 
I have been this person in the past.  Back when I was still developing who I wanted to be, I found myself being who others wanted me to be.  It wasn't awesome.  And, honestly, it wasn't awesome for the men I was with either.

But, I think that the answer to my perplexity is actually found in this idea of membranes, be they permeable or otherwise.  I did a bit of Wikipedia surfing and found the following:
semipermeable membrane, also termed a selectively-permeable membrane, a partially-permeable membrane or a differentially-permeable membrane, is a membrane that will allow certain molecules or ions to pass through it by diffusion and occasionally specialized "facilitated diffusion."
I have spent some time figuring out which parts of me are essentially and necessarily me and which parts I am more than willing to be flexible with in order to make room in my home, my heart and my self.  Stated another way, I have spent a long time discerning which ions to permeate, affect and change my being.  As far as where my schooling and career goes, those are bridges to cross on another day, and I feel confident that I will cross those bridges secure in how to walk the line of compromise so that I'm at peace with my decisions 5, 10, 50 years down the line.  It all hinges on being differentially-permeable to those most positive, most supportive, most affirming things (and people) in my life.


austin said...

Simple: find yourself a stay-at-home husband.

Glibness aside, good luck and I can't imagine you not making it work!

John Murphy | Washington Workplace said...

Actually, Austin is right-sort of. Part of the woman's agenda, no make that pro-FAMILY agenda for the foreseeable future is to demand that child rearing is SPLIT between husband and wife. This benefits all three parties: child, husband, wife. Where I work, 4 of the 9 sales teams have stay-at-home dads.Not a split, so as equally undesirable as a stay-at-home mom. I just got married and am (god willing) having a
baby in July---I hope to be able to arrange a split, but am not sure if my wife will embrace that idea. I'm divorced and have raised my now 15 year old son as a "SPLIT" 50/50 custody, so some of the patterns are already there. Perhaps I'll propose a hybrid approach---33% mother, 33% father, 33% teamwork----not sure if this is sound though. I am sure that financial/career considerations should NOT drive parenting choices and that what is good for the child, mother, and father should (SOLEY)

Lauren Kay said...

Thanks for your thoughts, John! My thoughts are similar. I know many who think that parenting–or, really, family–is wholly under the domain of the wife's responsibilities. I have a very difficult time considering that set-up as ideal for anyone–wife, husband or child.

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