I began my bucket list recently. I selected several pages in the back of my clean, new journal, and began to make a list. What are the things that I absolutely want to do in my life? My list was full: places I want to go, people I want to meet, places I want to speak, books I want to publish. Each item was grander and dreamier than the last. I loved the freedom that came with choosing any goal I wanted—no matter the size or the likelihood.
For all the flaws that the Millennial generation has, and there are many, something that we are really great at is dreaming. Many of us come from families that told us we could do anything we wanted. For many of us, it was true.
I know it hasn’t always been this way—people of all shapes, colors, and genders have been restricted from a great many things. In some ways, I viewed it as my duty to do the things that other women spent so many years fighting for the right to do. I was going to dream and be anything I wanted because they couldn’t—because for so many women (some still to this day), their lives were decided for them.
It was out of such a place that I began to dread becoming a housewife.
A serious fan of men, marriage was never my problem. It was the apron, the nesting and the baby that came along with it that was enough to make me squirm—like an itchy sweater stretched too tightly over my bare, sensitive skin. I’d look around at what I could see of other women’s lives, and I always wanted to emulate the ones with a career. I wanted to be a high-powered executive, someone strong and capable who fought for what was right and didn’t let anyone deter her.
I looked at what I thought was the alternative to that—a messy kitchen, a mini-van with crayons and fries stuck in the seat pockets, endless trips to Costco and Pier 1 Imports—and cringed. A life as a housewife, a nester and a mother just wasn’t the life for me. I hate to admit it, but in some ways, I thought that life was inferior. I had friends in college tell me that their greatest desires were to have a family and a home. I wanted to laugh out loud.
I pictured all of the suffering women around the world—women who wanted to go to school, get great jobs and fight for the betterment of the world. It seemed ludicrous, even disrespectful, that my friends would lackadaisically accept their education just to stick it in their back pocket as they searched for a husband and a home as fast as possible. I didn’t understand. It seemed like an excuse for not being ambitious, for not making a real, hard-earned contribution to the world.
Yet, you know what I’ve come to learn?
I’ve been so painfully wrong.
The thing that I’m learning now is that there are as many places in the world as there are people to fill them. Each one of us has a different set of skills, interests, and goals. My baby sister, for example, has a relentless passion for giving repentant criminals a shot at a new life. I want all women, everywhere, to know that they’re loved, cherished and worth more than gold. Neither of us are right nor wrong. My passion for mentoring sorority girls isn’t frivolous because they’re not behind bars. My sister and I are meant to fill different holes, to love different people and to make a different impact, but we both are equally valuable.
In making the kinds of judgments that I did about having a home, a husband and a family, I was degrading something that, quite literally, keeps our species going. Who would be here today without a mother? Aren’t our lives so much richer when we’ve come from a loving and supportive household? Pursuing these things is not a cop out, in fact, it’s one of the noblest pursuits in the world: the perpetuation of human life and the act of providing a place for that life to grow and become strong.
Having a family and creating a home is not about Pier 1 and a minivan, it’s about fostering a place for people to be safe—for people to learn, share life together, and become who they were meant to be so that they can go out and do the same for others. Creating a nest and nurturing a family is some of the most life-giving, important work a person can do. So with the privilege and freedom of choice, let us courageously pursue the place that we are meant to fill in the world, whatever that may look like.
Image via Tara Mcmullen