A year later, right after graduation, I moved to Washington and got that interesting job — as a reporter at The Washington Post. I embraced my feminism proudly. I always wore pants to work, and I swore off (stupidly, I recognize now) reading any fiction by male authors. I loved reporting. I loved working. I loved making my own money, even if, two years later, I discovered that a newly hired and less experienced male colleague was making more money. (When I quizzed him, his answer was simple: He had asked for more. No one ever takes the first offer, he said.)
Not long after arriving at The Post, I met a man who also was a reporter and editor there. Instead of hindering me, he helped and encouraged me. A year and a half later, we moved in together. Still, I announced — to my parents, my friends and yes, to my boyfriend — that I was never getting married. Marriage was a patriarchal system, and I wanted none of it. We would stay together because we wanted to be together, I said.
Seven years later, I married him. And I was happy. Instead of feeling trapped, I felt liberated and secure and protected — not by patriarchy but by love. He had a young daughter whom I adored, and of course, seven years after our wedding, I had a child. I’d been wrong about that, too…
When my daughter was 4, she came up to my home office one evening around 6:30. I was on a deadline and had been for days. She had two big bags filled with her stuff, her pajamas tucked in her backpack. She declared that she was not leaving the room until I came downstairs and played with her. I was frustrated and told her I was never going to be able to finish unless she left, and then I marched her down to her father.
The next morning I wrote a letter to myself. I recently found the note, dated Feb. 8, 2001: “Today is the day I decided to change my life.” My solutions weren’t perfect, but I tried to rearrange my work life so that I would be available when she came home from school. (I knew I had it better than most women. I had full-time help and could afford the changes, too, a luxury not available to all.) I had been in such a hurry for such a long time that “no” had become my default answer to her. Now it would be “yes.” I wrote less and cut back on traveling for stories. I turned down assignments and job offers. I adopted a slower pace. It was not always easy, but it was the right choice. It did not matter much to the greater world when my next article appeared, but it did matter to my daughter that I was nearby. And it mattered to me.