Sounds like a dumb question, but it's one of the worst things wrong with first-world culture today. We do not fit, and we think it's our fault. Why? Because there are so many options, so many ways to be, and it's our responsibility to choose one. And we picked wrong. We failed. Our choice doesn't fit.
And so we have only one option: try to make ourselves fit into the choice. Like the woman who didn't eat on the day she bought her wedding dress, and then discovers two weeks later that she's not a Size 8 - YET - we must reshape ourselves to hide our mistakes.
But we're wrong to believe it was ever up to us. More often than not, when we believe we have options, we are actually being channeled toward a very limited set within the wider range. Like (if you'll indulge me another pointless analogy) a menu featuring only two dishes you're not allergic to.
I'm not a determinist - at least not in any practical sense - but I am beginning to realise that choice really is an illusion a lot of the time. For instance, I work at a candy counter where we sell seven different types of soft drink in our combo deals, and four of them are Coke. Classic, Diet, Zero, Frozen.
I don't like Coke.
More to the point, I don't like soft drink.
So many options, and frankly, they're all the same to me.
But on, now, to grander things. Consider the great direction of your life.
What are/were your options? Become a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a dentist, a managing director. Or if your teachers don't like you all that much, you could be an electrician or a beautician, an actor or a marketeer. The list is infinite, but every item on it is a job. And probably a full-time one.
As a woman, it's nice to know these options have become available to me, and that my choices aren't limited to a narrow range of traditional women's work and unpaid babymaking. But every career choice amounts to the same investment: few years of study/training, selling of the soul to acquire a drudgeonly bottom-feeder position, clambering up the ladder, then emerging twenty years later to take a holiday. This is civilised life.
Does it have to be?
Also, as a woman, the "choice" to have children remains problematic in terms of other priorities in my life. I'm not personally that fussed about having kids, and as a lesbian it might be a bit of a struggle anyway. But when women do choose to become mothers, they are simultaneously agreeing to forfeit a large chunk of their career's advancement.
This is clearly not the case for men. This 2009 European survey of 16,000 young people found that having children had no impact on the careers or wages of high-skilled male workers. But for women, careers were compromised or even surrendered when kids were in the picture. Even if both members of a male-female couple earned the same wage, the woman was far more likely to do most of the housework. But this was rare, because the more children a full-time working woman had, the lower her wages would drop. Among women holding university degrees, 49% of those who had several children were employed full time. This compares to a full-time employment rate of 93% amongst their childless counterparts. And yet, a negligible difference between men in those same situations. We don't even need to ask why.
This isn't a feminist article, but you can see how the choice to have children brings with it a full set of near-non-negotiable compromises in other areas of a woman's life.
I say near-non-negotiable because we too often regard these things as if they weren't up for discussion. (Like the idea that being a lesbian mother will be difficult.) But they are negotiable. Having children is (usually) a two-person decision. If the man in the couple is unwilling to bear some of the parental compromise, things will be harder on the woman. But if the woman is not afraid to declare her own hopes or wishes about the balance of responsibility, then she can create a new option for herself and for her partner.
I propose that from today, we stop looking at our "options" as though they were finite multiple choice. We have such a range that we tend to assume there must be something on the menu that will work for us. Well, review the selection; and if it's not to your taste, ask your waiter if they take custom orders.
I leave you with this excellent TED talk, The Art of Choosing, by researcher Sheena Iyengar.