Last week Yahoo! announced that Marissa Mayer, CEO of the tech company since 2012, is expecting twins. Marissa is forty-years old and has an estimated net worth of $256 million. I also have twins. They just turned thirty-three. I was twenty-five when I had them and twenty-three when their older sister was born.
I point out these numbers, because they bear directly on the experience of parenting twins, but also because they point to a larger social issue and even greater philosophical question.
First, parenting. There is a world of difference between forty and twenty-five. At twenty-five, I still had a baseball card collection and college loans to pay. I also wanted to be a writer and scoffed at the idea of law school or teaching. I had the energy to keep up with three little girls in diapers but lacked the wisdom and experience to know how to be a father.
My wife was finishing her degree. Eventually, she would go on to graduate school, as would I. As such, the girls grew up with their parents growing up. It was great to be doing it together, but a family of five needs money to support itself. You can’t do that with both parents in school or starting a career. I have often thought that parenting requires two things: money and space. At the time, we had little of both. We had each other, though, which made it a very special time. You don’t realize things like that until they are gone.
Second, the social issue. Ever since the Kennedys were in the White House, it has become fashionable to launch your career first and have children later, preferably one or two. The photos of John-John playing at his father’s desk in the oval office are etched in the national psyche. But social class and economics play a huge part in the decision to have kids. Sometimes it’s no decision at all.
My mother had me when she was twenty. I had our first child at twenty-three. My first child had her first child at twenty. I see a pattern. The pattern (conscious or unconscious) values family over career. The problem is that the world marches in the opposite direction and has been doing so for the past fifty years. If I were to ask my undergraduate students about their plans for the future, they would talk about offers from JP Morgan and then, only after prompting, family.
Third, the philosophical question. This is the biggie, and it has come up in previous blogs. It is a question that I can’t seem to shake. It came up again this past week in my reading of scripture. Proverbs 3:19 says that the heavens and earth were formed with “wisdom and intelligence,” meaning that there is a method to the madness, a plan to which all things adhere. That’s difficult to accept, especially since there is so much evidence to the contrary, not just in the news but in our daily lives. If it is true, however, then it doesn’t make much sense to map out our lives with a white board and markers.
I am not advocating sitting on a bench waiting for the God bus to pull up. I’m referring to laying out our lives according to what we want when we want it. If we do that, we may not be open to (or even recognize) the presence of “other.” Milan Kundera has written about God surprising us in the form of a baby in a bulrush basket floating down the Nile. You don’t expect it, but it happens.
I come across this question all the time in social media. People like to talk about taking charge of their lives and not bending to the will of others or society. But if there is a plan, an order, a logos at work in the world, where do you draw the line between waiting around for the bus to pull up and so much planning that you get in the way of your destiny? Is there a destiny? If so, what is it? These are dangerous questions, because if our destiny is to be happy, that could take a thousand forms.
I doubt Marissa was destined to be a CEO. Something about her wants to succeed. The question is, at what?
For books like The Gringo and Laura Fedora, Amazon. Stay tuned for Nine Lives and let me know if you’d like a review copy (“The main difference between a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives,” Mark Twain). Note to self: a good name for a document shredder company: Paper Cut!