I remember reading the original article on my commute home from work, in the middle of the second trimester of being pregnant with Hannah. I even remember that I was standing while reading it--no one got up to offer me a seat on the crowded train despite the visible pregnancy--but I juggled to keep reading it along the way. At the time, I knew I was planning to keep working after my maternity leave, but I didn't think it would always be a definite situation.
I could have opted out. Many times, in fact.
We were lucky that our infant daycare for Hannah was only $1,000 a month. But as she grew, so did the costs with a more official preschool setting. Could have opted out then. I could have left when we decided to sell our condo and buy a house, if we chose to live in a less expensive area, maybe further outside of Boston or even another state. I could have opted out when I miscarried, and was so devastated and unsure of my body and health. Or when Max was born, and the year we spent carrying both kids through daycare, wiping out the vast majority of my income (but for the crucial necessity of our health insurance). I could have opted out after any bad day spent unsuccessfully juggling too many things. There are lots of days like that.
But the big caveat that I think is missing from the Judith Warner update is that the women who opted out made the best decisions they could at the time, with the information and opportunities they had. The women left because work, frankly, didn't work. They didn't leave to sit home eating bonbons or to perfect their mason jar craft creations. They made reasonable decisions, as most people do when assessing their lives. Maybe for some it has been more difficult than they anticipated, but it doesn't sound like they would have made very different choices.
There are so many ways to compile a life, and I admit that I'm fascinated by how people decide what works best for them. But people don't make these decisions in a vacuum--a lot of factors come into play. I can see that my own life could have taken a very different path than it has so far, and could still vary from where I currently see it heading. I just hope that when others look at my life and assess my choices, they see that I'm trying to follow what works for me, even if it's not the same thing that works for them.