The theory of opportunity cost was one of the ideas that struck me the most in the high school economics class I took 20 years ago. It is something that I have considered over the years as I’ve tried to make good choices in my life, and I am thankful that it was an idea that was introduced to that class full of teenagers. As life has given me more experience, and time has broadened my view and understanding, I appreciate the idea even more now. Every time I choose to do something, I am choosing not to do something else. That something else is the opportunity cost.
Part of being a maternal feminist is recognizing the importance of choosing and being willing to accept the consequences of choices. I have to decide what is most important for myself and what effect it will have on those in my sphere of influence. If I am in school, I need to study. If I am employed, I should do the best work I can. If I am married, my marriage must be prioritized. If I have children, it is necessary to consider their needs as paramount. All of these may at times require sacrifice of other opportunities. Sometimes it is easy to make that choice. Sometimes the opportunity cost can seem very great.
Women have so many more open doors in today’s world than even our mothers did just one generation ago. Sometimes it can feel like there is an urgency to take advantage of those opportunities, even at the cost of starting a family or spending the time it takes to form a strong and healthy attachment with our children. Some would argue that memorable experiences with older children are more important than time spent changing diapers and observing early milestones while others claim that it is in those first few years that the most important bonds are formed. Thoughtful and prayerful consideration for all opportunities and decisions is important.
Whatever a woman’s priorities are, sometimes those opportunities we want most simply aren’t there. A woman may study and prepare and work all of her life with hopes for an ideal future – whatever that may be in her dreams, and still not ever have the chance to do what she really wants to do. Whether it is because she never gets any of the jobs she’s applied for, or because she never had a chance or made the choice to marry, or was unable to have children she longed for, life doesn’t always work out the way we plan. That can be hard to deal with, but it can also help us learn more about ourselves, grow in ways we had never anticipated, and find ways to help others.
As Big Ocean Women founder, Carolina Allen explained, modern feminism is very self-focused—what matters most to me? What do I have to gain? What does society owe me? Maternal feminism takes a different view—what needs do those around me have that I can fill? What do I have to offer? How can I improve the world around me?
From the Bible, and memorably popularized by the Byrds song, we find the truth that there are times and seasons to everything. As we bravely claim our power and privilege as modern women we must also consider the cost of the choices we make to be sure that we are using our time and talents to create the world that we want to leave to our daughters and sons.