April 6, 2015


I don’t really have any female friends or colleagues who have anything close to my life.  If you accept that gender norms/roles/experiences are a non-trivial thing, then, by definition, I also don't have any other friends who have anything close to my life. 

Take Easter Sunday, for example. 

Many of my female Facebook friends were busily posting pictures of their children’s Easter basket or bunny experiences, Passover fun, family hikes in Yosemite or enjoying the surprise snow in Tahoe.   

I, on the other hand, had set an alarm to get up early and run 6 miles before cleaning up and closing the luggage to head out for a multi-day business trip with E.

I woke, made and drank coffee, and checked the flights – 30 minute delay on the first one, actually ideal, giving me a bit more in my AM.  I headed out, finished the run, returned home, showered, dressed, wrote checks to pay bills, left a note for the housekeeper re: plants and pets, and we headed out.  I called our airline for the 4th time in 4 days because our flights and mileage upgrade just didn’t seem to be snaking its way through the system properly.

Upon arriving at the airport, we spent another 15 minutes at the check-in counter, and then another 15 minutes at the gate, each time patiently explaining the mileage upgrade situation that seemed to not be going our way.

Eventually, the gate agent assured me she’d done everything she could, I thanked her, and we headed to the restaurant, to order take-out for the cross-country flight.

As we waited for our orders, E said, “So, this mileage upgrade treated us *worse* than if we’d just tried to upgrade on status.” Calmly, I said, “You don’t know that – I have no idea where we ended up on the actual upgrade list.  The gate agent fixed it, so we could end up still getting upgraded.”  

 E, disbelieving, pulled out his phone, updated the list on his app and laughed – we were listed as #2 and #3 of 3 open seats in business class.  

On things like this, he and I are so different.  I just assumed I’d done what I could and the rest was in the hands of the service professionals, I was certain the gate agent had done her best.  If it didn’t work, it didn’t work, and I was cool with that.  E, on the other hand, was grumpy, suspicious, and constantly updating the app, certain we would get bumped from the upgrade we’d already spent the miles on after we’d finally managed to make it manifest.  He wasn't wrong.  They did appear to have done everything they could to have made this experience fail for us up to this point.

Ignoring E’s suspicion, I canceled our lunch order with the server, but not the wine, and as it was delivered, we smiled, toasting our hopefully good, if high effort, fortune.  

And then, we actually were upgraded at the gate, we got on the plane and I enjoyed the free food and booze in business class while clearing my non-emergency email from the week and finalizing my timesheets for all clients for March.  Because that is what has to happen at the end of every month if you run your own business, and if you have more business than you can handle, the things that get pushed to the weekend are the things for your own business, not your clients'.  

After an airport layover dinner, we landed in the town we're visiting for business, and arrived at our hotel around midnight just in time to hit the sack.  In other words, my “glamorous” Sunday was anything but.

I regularly think about perspective when perusing social media.  I could have snapped a photo of a business class meal and wine, a gorgeous view from a plane window, and just posted those two snapshots to Facebook.  And that would tell a certain story of my life.

But I’m not living just the moments those photos would have shown – I’m living everything in my life, just like everyone.  I’m living the life where I had to call the airline every day for the last 4 days before departure to get that upgrade, even though we'd supposedly purchased it with miles.  I'm living the life where at 8 PM one night this month, despite promising to make dinner, I looked up from my computer and snappily demanded that E order pizza because I wasn’t yet done with work and I couldn't see when I would be done and I JUST needed a break.  I’m living the life where I spend time scheduling laundry like no-one’s business (seriously, we discuss when laundry will be done as a very serious item on the todo list *every* week) even though we have no children because when you travel and work out regularly, clean clothes are much more complex than if you are predictably home – in fact, I bought E an additional 12 pairs of underwear this month just to extend our ability to go between laundry loads so that we wouldn’t have to cancel our attendance at some social obligations in San Francisco later in the month.  

I’m living a life where we get on a plane and I realize we never booked the rental car we need at our destination (since this trip was thrown together out of need at the last minute), so we log on the in-plane wi-fi and make that happen.  Yay, plane wi-fi.  But boo, needing it to be functional.  The plane is just another remote office these days.  

Most noticeably to me, I’m living a life with absolutely no children other than the occasional friend’s kid or niece/nephew.  If social media is to be believed, this means I’m missing out on all of the most important moments that almost everyone else in my cohort is currently experiencing.  On the other hand, I spend very few nights away from my husband, despite the fact that he and I both have to regularly travel for work.  

My life, like most, is messy and complex and tiring and, when viewed from a certain rose-colored lens, VERY cool.  I get lots of great meals, adult time, a reasonable amount of workout time, mentally challenging work, travel to cool places, and uninterrupted time with my best friend and partner.  But it comes at the expense of all sorts of other stuff that I’m missing out on, not the least of which is motherhood, which is regularly referred to as "the most important thing a woman can do."  I don't believe this (or I would have done my best to make this experience part of my life), but I do wonder about the pressure on those who have decided to go down that road.  As an outside observer, I can't help but wonder if the pressure to make it "the most important thing" you can do as a woman may actually make the whole experience a bit more bittersweet and less enjoyable.  As an extra-outside observer, I think it's very telling that I don't feel internal urges to have a child, but I do occasionally feel jealousy of the shared experience -- the fact that I *don't* have a child is just yet another detail about me that separates and differentiates me from so many of the women I encounter.  I am mildly sad that I have less in common with my cohort than they have with each other -- it's lonely.  But it's fine.

In short, my life is just a life, full of beauty and bullshit and choices like any other. I worked and hustled my way through Easter Sunday with my ass in hard-earned business class (as opposed to bought), so that I can share more experiences and time with my husband and best friend while running my own business. My current reality is the life that I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to actively work to instantiate over many years, and while, of course, it's not perfect, I'm supremely grateful for it.

On the running front, this week was super low-mileage due to work (big surprise) and recovering from last weekend's half: 24.21 miles, probably 25% walking, and none of it fast.  I did, however, return to the yoga studio for a 1 hour unheated power yoga class (and was sore for 2.5 days afterwards) -- wow, I have lost a *ton* of yoga fitness.  Here's to hoping I get back in the studio sooner rather than later...  


Arvay said...

A thoughtful post. Thank you for writing it. I, as you know, don't regret having children in the least, and don't even feel wistful about it. I do wish I'd see more of those kids in my Facebook feed more often, but them's the breaks. Sometimes a kid's face will pop up, and I don't recognize who it is until I read the text. That makes me sad.

If I had children, there is no question that they would be the top priority and most important thing in my life. I would make major sacrifices in my life, to enrich theirs. That is, in my opinion, as it should be. Ironically, although a life with children is much more difficult in the day-to-day, it does make answering the Big Questions easier, does it not? To the question, "What do you want to do with your life?", the answer, "Be the best parent I can" is a perfectly reasonable, utterly worthy answer. To people who don't have children, we have to find other answers.

bt said...

@Arvay -- very eloquently said. In some ways, it does simplify things.

Cathryn said...

Such a deep post. I wish we were face to face drinking wine so we could discuss this more but there's a few things I wanted to say.

- Instagram filters life. I totally do it, I'm totally guilty. It's not to be believed. I post pretty pictures but my day to day life is lots of laundry, a constantly messy house despite my best efforts and juggling more things than I realistically have time to do.

- I do believe motherhood is the most important thing a woman can do...if she has children. It is not the most important job per se. I have a child and raising him is by far the biggest responsibility I will ever have. But I do not think that it is the most important thing for ALL women or womankind in general.

- You sometimes feel pangs about missing out on having a child but I sometimes feel pangs about what I miss out on by HAVING one. This is not a PC thing to say and you know how much I love the Dude. But having a child changes your life, reduces your freedom and alters your marriage irrevocably. I look at the freedom of women like you and sometimes I have pangs too.

As you said...'In short, my life is just a life, full of beauty and bullshit and choices like any other.' Yep.

Biting Tongue said...

@Cathryn -- thanks so much for sharing. We shall have to get that wine date on the calendar!