Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And now for the meaty issues

"So, when are you going to have kids?"

This is the question that newlyweds fear, loath, avoid, and discuss at length. Afterall, as all grade-school children know, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes ...

My husband and I are relatively lucky, in this regard, since given our age (young) and status (middle-class) we're not expected to have kids soon. The issue is certainly on the table, of course, and I am finding that I am terrible confused about the whole thing.

On the one hand, I want children. I have wanted children as long as I can remember, and I want them quite strongly, the sooner the better. Certainly if I were to get pregnant, I would be overjoyed and would not even consider abortion. We are in a position where we could afford children (in no small part because Quebec has some of the best maternity-leave and childcare policies I have ever heard of - certainly enough to make my European cousins quite jealous). My parents are almost retired, and are not too far away and quite supportive. We're both in a position where we could deal with kids, psychologically and so forth. By most measures, we're ready.

On the other hand, by many of the "intellectual class" measures, we're not ready. My husband is still in (law) school, we're young (not even 25!), and - perhaps most importantly - I don't have a career. I have a job, but it is temporary in so many ways. I have not ruled out the possibility of going back to school (it was always assumed I would get a ph.d. -- so much so that my parents didn't attend my graduation because it was only undergrad). One does not have children without being properly settled in a career, right?

Generally, I feel comfortable with the idea that I would have kids first, and then work out my career. Despite the added difficulty of navigating things once one has children, I think that the time it would take me to get oriented after having kids would allow me the time I need to figure out exactly what my career might look like. Articles like those by Linda Hirschman, and follow-up articles like this, just add to my confusion. Where do I start? How do I, as a young women only entering the workforce and my child-bearing/rearing years, use these discussions to guide my choices? Although it is interesting to read impassioned arguments from people who have made their choices and are now defending where they stand, I don't feel like they offer me the kind of information I need to make the best choices possible. I don't want to "let down" feminism, but neither am I seeking to be a poster-child for a cause (or a sacrificial lamb!). I am not a 20-something who is afraid of children - if I thought it reasonable, I would have kids tomorrow. But I worry about the impact children will have on my future - what if my marriage doesn't work out (God forbid)? What if I put my husband through law school, have one or two kids, and then wind up a single mom with no career propects? Terrifying. What if I have kids and go crazy because I don't feel I have a career to bolster and affirm my identity apart from the oh-so-dependent person I am raising?

Yet it would make good sense to have kids now: physically, I'll never be better off. My body can heal easily and (relatively) quickly. Sleep deprivation is something I can work through more easily now than in 10 years. I have the energy. I am so uncertain when it comes to career that another few years of stalling would be ideal, and why not use those years to start a family? Most importantly, of course, I just want kids.

(For the sake of this discussion, it is reasonable to assume that my husband is flexible when it comes to having kids - he would perhaps wait a bit longer than I would want were it entirely up to him, but he is not opposed to starting a family in the next few years.)

Questions. Are there even answers? Or just best guesses?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Friday poetry blogging, National Holiday edition

In honour of St Jean Baptiste and Canada Day (July 1), I present a poem by Michele Lalonde. It captures attitudes here in the 70s, though it also speaks more generally to the struggle for self-determination. I don't think a discussion of Quebec poetry would be complete without the inclusion of this powerful though long poem. For an english translation, go here. For a decent and suscinct historical discussion, see here.

I dare anyone to read and truly understand this poem in its context, and then claim that Quebec seperatism is a ridiculous, unfounded notion. I may not agree with it, but I certainly can understand how it originated.


Speak white
il est si beau de vous entendre
parler de Paradise Lost
ou du profil gracieux et anonyme qui tremble
dans les sonnets de Shakespeare

nous sommes un peuple inculte et bègue
mais ne sommes pas sourds au génie d'une langue
parlez avec l'accent de Milton et Byron et
Shelley et Keats

speak white
et pardonnez-nous de n'avoir pour réponse
que les chants rauques de nos ancêtres
et le chagrin de Nelligan

speak white
parlez de choses et d'autres
parlez-nous de la Grande Charte
ou du monument à Lincoln
du charme gris de la Tamise
de l'eau rose du Potomac
parlez-nous de vos traditions
nous sommes un peuple peu brillant
mais fort capable d'apprécier
toute l'importance des crumpets
ou du Boston Tea Party
mais quand vous really speak white
quand vous get down to brass tacks

pour parler du gracious living
et parler du standard de vie
et de la Grande Société
un peu plus fort alors speak white
haussez vos voix de contremaîtres
nous sommes un peu durs d'oreille
nous vivons trop près des machines
et n'entendons que notre souffle au-dessus des outils

speak white and loud
qu'on vous entende
de Saint-Henri à Saint-Domingue
oui quelle admirable langue
pour embaucher
donner des ordres
fixer l'heure de la mort à l'ouvrage
et de la pause qui rafraîchit
et ravigote le dollar

speak white
tell us that God is a great big shot
and that we're paid to trust him
speak white
parlez-nous production profits et pourcentages
speak white
c'est une langue riche
pour acheter
mais pour se vendre
mais pour se vendre à perte d'âme
mais pour se vendre

speak white
big deal
mais pour vous dire
l'éternité d'un jour de grève
pour raconter
une vie de peuple-concierge
mais pour rentrer chez nous le soir
à l'heure où le soleil s'en vient crever au-dessus des
mais pour vous dire oui que le soleil se couche oui
chaque jour de nos vies à l'est de vos empires
rien ne vaut une langue à jurons
notre parlure pas très propre
tachée de cambouis et d'huile

speak white
soyez à l'aise dans vos mots
nous sommes un peuple rancunier
mais ne reprochons à personne
d'avoir le monopole
de la correction de langage

dans la langue douce de Shakespeare
avec l'accent de Longfellow
parlez un français pur et atrocement blanc
comme au Viet-Nam au Congo
parlez un allemand impeccable
une étoile jaune entre les dents
parlez russe parlez rappel à l'ordre parlez répression
speak white
c'est une langue universelle
nous sommes nés pour la comprendre
avec ses mots lacrymogènes
avec ses mots matraques

speak white
tell us again about Freedom and Democracy
nous savons que liberté est un mot noir
comme la misère est nègre
et comme le sang se mêle à la poussière des rues d'Alger

ou de Little Rock

speak white
de Westminster à Washington relayez-vous
speak white comme à Wall Street
white comme à Watts
be civilized
et comprenez notre parler de circonstance
quand vous nous demandez poliment
how do you do
et nous entendez vous répondre
we're doing all right
we're doing fine
are not alone

nous savons
que nous ne sommes pas seuls.

-- Michèle Lalonde