I once said no to a Newsweek internship. But before I said no, I said yes.
I sent the email, accepting the offer: “I’m pleased to accept the internship placement and look forward to gaining experience with such a highly regarded publication.”
“Does that sound overly excited?” I wondered. “I can’t sound overly excited. Giddy = girlish. This is the big times now.”
I’d been working for that moment, that internship, since the day I set foot on campus. But the second the email was sent, an invisible rock sunk down my throat and settled in my gut.
A mere five minutes later, I sent another email: “Please disregard my previous message. I will not be able to complete the internship. I apologize for the confusion.”
“Does that sound stupid?” I wondered. “Of course it sounds stupid. The big times are over already.”
Last week, there was quite a bit of news buzz about Ann Romney’s stay-at-home motherhood. Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said Ann had “never worked a day in her life” and stay-at-home mothers everywhere rioted, extolling the efforts of mothers who stay home to raise their children and all but crucifying Rosen, who eventually apologized.
It’s made me think about Newsweek again.
It’s made me wonder — again — why I felt that pit in my stomach, that rock, that warning. It’s made me mull over — again — the reason I decided that stomach pit existed, because in order to sleep at night, I had to decide upon something: that I wanted Newsweek too badly. That I would have succeeded there. That it would have opened doors for me that I would have been too weak to refuse. That sending that second email was within my powers, but saying “no” to a dreamy career in New York magazine writing a year down the road would have been too much for me. Because surely, if I’d taken that internship, that’s where it would have lead.
That’s what I tell myself, at least.
There are days when I want to join the masses of mommy bloggers in villainizing pundits who question the validity of stay-at-home motherhood — I believe in this! I’ll stand for it! And I’ll stand for the right of women to make their own choices about kids and careers without the judgement of others! I’m a stay-at-home motherhood activist! And I’m yelling about it!
Some days, yes, I’m yelling about it on the inside. I’m confident in the choice that I want to make for my life to be a stay-at-home mother. I’m self-actualized. I’m content.
And other days, I’m insecure. Other days, I’m reaching for acknowledgement from the source of accomplishment I turned down. On these days, I’m also yelling. But I’m yelling something else. On these days, I want to tattoo to my forehead:
“FYI, I turned down a Newsweek internship. I’m capable. I’m talented. I’m driven. Don’t judge me.”
It’d be a long tattoo. And probably an unsightly addition to my forehead. And like accepting that Newsweek internship offer, I’d probably regret it.
So, I live without.
— without the tattoo or the internship or the rock in my gut. And, for now at least, without kids. I wait for my fickle fulfillment in the idea of stay-at-home motherhood to become an abiding sense of purpose. And I prepare myself for the possibility that even when kids are in the picture and the beautiful, transformative experience of motherhood takes the edge off the sacrifice, I’ll still have days when I think about Newsweek.
Because knowing me and my bull-headed sense of ambition, chances are I will.