Wikipedia states: In general usage, complexity often tends to be used to characterize something with many parts in intricate arrangement. Random House, Webster’s and Dictionary.com all state similar definitions of complexity and intricacy as “maze-like”, “akin to a labyrinth” and “having many interrelated parts or facets; entangled or involved.” An article in the 2008 Encyclopedia Britannica calls the study of complexity “exciting and evolving.” If that doesn’t describe the giddy world of teaching and mothering – I don’t know what else would.
Not that I am getting on the bandwagon which pits mothers who work mainly inside the home against mothers who work mainly outside the home (since both moms work and both moms stay at home, the traditional names don’t apply) but in response to an article from a fellow Mama PhD contributor this week, I’d like to throw in a counter argument, if you will – a celebration of complexity.
Parenting and academia, if you choose to do both full-time, requires a strong stomach. Our students grow up hearing, “You can do it all!” We teach, “You can do it all, but you can’t do it all well. So you choose.” The choice to do both means there will be sacrifices to both. Yet when we say sacrifices, often the non-traditional parent is not sacrificing the child’s well being (the child is loved, all their needs are met) but rather the child’s chance to have a “normal” upbringing. Normal/ traditional doesn’t always mean happy or healthy. Many of our mothers who sacrificed their careers or personal pursuits for their children ended up depressed or lonely as their children aged. If you grew up with this, you don’t want it for your child.You want your child to grow up with a happy, active, socially engaged mother who participates in life outside of your world. So if you choose to strive for excellence in two of your many roles as a human being, if you decide to prioritize two roles as nourishment for one another, then something will fall away, and that’s okay. If it’s a vigilant commitment to simplicity that’s gotta give, I say so be it!
If you need and can afford someone to clean your big house so you have more quality time with your kid, do it! If you have to drive further to get the better daycare that your kid seems to love, do it! If you have to fly 500 miles to see your kid because that is the only way you can be happy (and you trust and love the person that is with her most of the time), I have to say I admire the brave choice to do it. If the child is happy and the parents are happy and when they are all together they are happy, who are we to say the arrangement is wrong? Each family is unique. The complexities of life are individually unique. If we choose the simple life out of guilt thinking we must self-sacrifice as a requirement of being a good parent, we are not necessarily doing what is best for our children. In the film, Evening with Claire Danes and Vanessa Redgrave, two daughters lament that their mother wasn’t what they wanted her to be. One laments that she didn’t give up her career earlier and spend more time at home. The other laments that she gave up her career altogether and that was the only time she seemed truly happy. I don’t think we can know what will be best for our children in the long run; all we can know is if we can find a way to be happy it is more likely that we will be able to share that happiness with them.
In the Hindu and Buddhist religions they say that Nirvana is that place you reach when you become free from the external world, and you are at peace. You become free from worry, passion, desire, and ecstasy. It is stepping off the roller coaster onto solid ground. There are Buddhist text books describing this state of bliss and showing the Hindu Goddess Durga whipping people in the sea of life, forcing them forward through the complexities of being human. We worshippers of Goddess Durga, who is also known as the Goddess of Strength, tend to think that perhaps the roller coaster is meant to be enjoyed, that although you must undergo the trials of pain you are rewarded with joy. By embracing complexity we embrace our intricate multi-faceted lives including the dual natures of our deepest devotions as well as our inner most passions. Better yet, we get to share this divine duality with our ever complex ever evolving wonderfully multifaceted children.