I've been struggling with this for a while and have decided to put my thoughts "on paper" as to hopefully get some perspective.
In our world today, women seem to have all the possibilities they could ever want in life. Modern Orthodoxy has opened up a whole new reality of women's learning. Women are not mere followers of their fathers, brothers and husbands, but some are coming out and becoming halachic leaders, like the yoatzot halacha. But also academically, we have come very far. However, our Jewish ideals still stand. Women in the dati leumi community are still getting married early, having children, yet somehow they are managing to combine it with a university degree.
When I got married I told my husband that if I would become pregnant during my studies, I would surely never get my degree. I mean, the odds were against me as it was, with my poor Hebrew. Add kids into the equation and the lack of family in Israel to help us out; I was sure I would never manage. In the end, I had two children during my studies and I passed with flying colors.
I thought I had won the war, but it turned out, it was only one battle. Now I have a BA, little kids and am trying to start my career. I don't mind not having an actual career. I studied something in humanities and am not looking to be academically successful. But here comes the clash. I believe in the importance of being a mother and raising your kids. Add in the factor that I live in a place with a weak Jewish structure making it up to us to teach our kids the dati values we believe in. However, I also need to be intellectually challenged. Before I found a job, I was just going through the motions at home, feeling lonely and apathetic. Now, I come home and appreciate my family. Also, I work better under pressure. The more I've got on my plate, the better I perform.
The reality is though, we still have to compromise on something. Either I put my kids in full time day care (which in my case isn't even Jewish) or I only work part time. Starting off your career in a part time job isn't exactly the road to success. It means taking a job that I am overqualified for and it's only slightly related to what I really want to do. I've now, however, chosen the latter. It still feels good to get out, but I wish I could do something more challenging. It is my own choice to compromise my career for my family, but somewhere there's still this itch. I need something more. Now I feel like I go to my work to help out, not to actually work and use all my skills and abilities. And quite frankly, I don't want to feel that all the work I put into my degree has not led me anywhere.
So now, I've found my niche. I have decided to focus on writing, hence this blog. I'm trying to write a novel, which has been intellectually challenging and stimulating, while also using my degree and Jewish ideals. And as for my Jewish knowledge, I'm trying to learn an amud a day as to prepare for a learning program I would like to join when I get back to Israel.
I'm wondering how other women have been coping with this, so please share. Do you feel like you're forced to compromise? Which side of the coin have you chosen? And Why? What do you do to feel fulfilled if you don't have your career?