About half an hour after I wrote this debate-provoking post, I decided to take a walk with the pups. After twenty minutes wondering around Mr. T’s neighborhood the dogs were still rowdy, so I decided to walk around the park. Down the road, I saw a dark-skinned Mexican woman in her early sixties standing next to a newish Honda Civic, examining a flat tire. I approached her and asked in Spanish if she needed help changing it. She looked at me like I had fallen from heaven, and told me that she had no idea what to do.
As I tethered the dogs to a post, she opened the back door and helped out a beautiful blond, blue-eyed, five year-old girl. The child was complaining about having to get out of the car, and the nervous woman commanded her sternly in Spanish to be quiet. The child looked sullen and withdrawn, and I could see the sadness in her eyes. She walked over to the side of the car and sat down obediently on the sidewalk, fidgeting with a pink umbrella.
As I got all the items ready to change the tire, I tried to cheer up the little girl, whose name was Olivia. I asked her if she wanted to help me so she could learn how to change a tire, but she just glared at me and pouted silently.
“You know, Olivia,” I chided her gently, “every woman should know how to change a tire.” I thought back to when I was five years old, and how I loved hanging out in my father’s tire store, watching the men change tires with their hydraulic equipment. The smell of new tires and the whirl of hydraulic tools brings back so many memories. I silently thanked my father for teaching me how to change a tire.
As I worked, the nanny talked. “I was on my way to the park with Olivia when I felt something was wrong with the car,” she said. “I have no one to call; Olivia’s parents are both doctors, and they work very long hours. Her mother is out of the house every day by seven and doesn’t come home until after dinner. Her father sometimes works for more than 24 hours straight. As a matter of fact, he didn’t come home last night and we haven’t seen him since yesterday morning.”
“Does Olivia have a sibling?” I asked, having noticed two child seats in the back of the car.
“Yes, she has a six-year old brother” the nanny replied. “He’s with a tutor right now and we have to pick him up later.”
I looked back at Olivia, who was sitting on the sidewalk and pouting. I tried again to get her to talk. “So, Olivia, that dress you have on, is it a princess dress?” She looked down at her pink gown and nodded. “What princess is the dress from,” I asked. She frowned and didn’t answer. I forged ahead, “Is it Cinderella?” Bored shake of the head. “Sleeping beauty?” Another shake. “Uh, Princess Yasmine?” She looked at me with a dull, blank stare. I had run out of princesses and the girl was obviously not going to come out of her sullen stupor, so I turned back to changing the tire.
“A few days ago, I got lost on the road with the two kids,” the nanny continued. “I only learned how to drive a few years ago, and I’m very scared of driving on the highway. I took the wrong exit and ended up in a neighborhood I didn’t know, with no idea of how to get to where I was going. I got really scared because I had the two children with me, so I called Olivia’s dad. Do you know what he said? ‘Oh, that’s OK Marta. I’m sure you’ll figure out a way back onto the highway‘ and he hung up!” She looked over at Olivia and whispered to me, “I worry more about the kids than their parents do.”
I shook my head in disbelief and finished putting the lug-nuts back onto the tire. The nanny told Olivia to give me a hug for having changed the tire, and the child ran towards me and threw her arms around me in a very genuine gesture. When she pulled back, she still wasn’t smiling.
The dogs and I walked back home and I thought about the post I had just written and the comments I had received. We all have the privilege of choosing what we want to be in life, this is clear. Yes, women need a financial back-up plan in case things go wrong in the marriage. Yes, women can and do have satisfying professionals careers while raising a family. However, when your ambitions negatively affect the life of a child YOU chose to bring into this world, haven’t you abused this privilege?