Now, I'd gladly leave it at that, but I can't very well talk about the village it takes to raise Julia without talking about the e-mail that came across my desk yesterday. You see, I recently wrote a column in which I mentioned that one of the things people need most is good, affordable day care for their kids. Here is the response I got from a 30-something Nebraska woman: "I have great news for Lisa Kogan—'safe, healthy, fun, warm-hearted day care for kids' does exist. It's called parents. By actually raising the children we choose to bring into the world, we can give our kids all this and more."
Oh, Miss Nebraska, what am I going to do with you? The old me would've simply ignored your letter (if one considers consuming 33 mint Milano cookies, two Snapples, and a 6.6 ounce bag of those little Cheddar Goldfish "ignoring your letter"), but a funny thing happened on the way to turning 45: I took a deep breath and decided I'm much too old and way too tired to keep nursing my adolescent obsession with being loved. The need to please has at long last atrophied and set me free. So, lady, this one's for you:
I will resist a smart-ass reply congratulating you on being one of the 11 remaining members of society who can get by on a single income, especially given the forecasts that 15 years from now (when my daughter is ready for college), four years at a public institution will run somewhere in the neighborhood of $129,788. And should Julia be smart enough to get into an Ivy League university, we're looking at roughly $279,760. Fortunately, she recently spent the better part of an hour with her little head stuck inside a shoebox, so affording Harvard may not be an issue. But I can't help thinking how incredible it must feel to be unfazed by this prospect. I envy people the ability to stay home with their kids, and there are plenty of days I wish I could be home with my daughter. Miss Nebraska, I, too, am a believer in quantity time, and I certainly agree that if you choose to bring a baby into this world, you'd better be prepared to raise it. But I also think that there's more than one way to raise a child.
I've never really believed it's possible to have it all. But I know that with a strong support system (i.e., nanny, sitter, Grandma, day care, doorman who doesn't drink, or some combination of the above), you can have a career and a baby if that's what you need or want to have. Will that baby eventually become an adult who requires the services of a very wise shrink because you screwed up? Of course! That's what parents do, whether we work or stay home—we screw up. We try our damnedest, we love our hardest, and then we force them to wear a coat over their Halloween costume and all hell breaks loose. We want to be better than our parents were, and in certain ways we are better and in certain ways we're not, and that, my friend, is just the way the cookie (which was not made from scratch, because, hey, this is 2007) crumbles.
But I don't want to fight with you, Miss Nebraska. I've had enough of red state/blue state, your god or mine, tastes great versus less filling. The planet is divided enough at this point, so I'm officially calling for a cease-fire, a moratorium on snarkiness, or at the very least a modicum of tolerance. We are better than this—we are women. We crave potato products, we read witty novels, we notice shoes, we follow our gut, we try to keep men from becoming violent, and believe it or not, Miss Nebraska—there's one more thing we have in common: When all is said and done, we both want the best for our families.
We Hear You!