Women of the generations before ours had choices we didn't have: in column A, they would be stay at home mothers with a wet nurse, a nanny or both. In column B, they would be mothers without a wet nurse or a nanny. In column C they would be mothers, and a wet nurse or nanny in their "spare time. "
The novel, Not Becoming My Mother by Ruth Reichl is a collection of short stories by the New York Times writer about her own mother, Miriam. Like most of us, Ruth decided who her mother was early in life. However, Ruth finds the box containing letters and scraps of Miriam's diaries and notes. She tells the story of a woman who, born in 1908, was defined by her times. She had dreams of being a doctor as her father was, but Miriam studied the music lessons that her own mother had yearned for herself, and she married and had children to please her parents. Miriam struggled with "idle aptitudes" and what in retrospect is clearly manic depression.
It is not till the penultimate Chapter, "Grateful," when she reaches widowhood in her late 70s, that Miriam's true self is freed. Like so many women with empty nests, she plunges into depression. But like so many women of her generation, she is also a late bloomer. At 80 years old, she surrounds herself with purposeful work, interesting people, and joy.
Read this chapter, and realize there are perfectly acceptable unconventional life choices. And other seasons to bloom.