"Having it all Kinda Sucks."




http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-westervelt/having-it-all-kinda-sucks_b_9237772.html

So I read this article recently - and I had a pretty strong reaction to this section:

"Here's what I think is going on: this whole "having it all" business has been grossly misinterpreted by our society at large. The purpose of all that bra burning back in the '60s was to give women choices."

"Here's what we tell women today: You not only can, but should have a career and children -- because if you don't, you're basically a) lazy, b) weak, c) not a real woman. But also, you should do it without any support. Without government-paid maternity leave (what are you, a socialist?). Without too much childcare (because then you're a shitty mom) or falling behind on the job (because then you're a shitty employee  --  typical woman!). Without too much help from your husband (because then he's a pussy)."

We applaud companies for paying for female employees to freeze their eggs, but don't push them to give women the space to have children during their actual child-bearing years and come back to work without losing their place in line. Instead of changing the systems, we tell women to lean in. Because of course, it's our fault for not taking initiative. Fuck you. I'm leaning so far in I'm falling flat on my face.

I do think, though, that we should cut it out with the fairy tales already. Stop telling women they can have everything without sacrificing anything. Here's the truth: You want to have a career and kids? You totally can, but both will suffer. You will never feel like you are devoting enough time to either. You will never feel like you are good enough at either. You will never get time off (at least for the first several years). You will always be choosing between things that need your attention, and you will almost never choose yourself. You will be judged for nearly every move you make and you will never measure up to anyone else's expectations.

Okay - here is where I really beg to differ. First and foremost, it is challenging to generalize about what "having everything" means. Having it all for me may not be even slightly similar to what it is for you - and that's fine because we're all different people, people! That said, assuming there is a baseline here for having it all, (a happy marriage or relationship, children and a successful career), then we can work with that - and for me, personally, this is where I really deviate from the author's perspective.

I am back at work - full-throttle in fact, and I'm loving it. Personally, I have discovered that I need both things - a career and a family - and that doing both feels totally right. The author of this piece claims that your career and kids will suffer if you attempt to do both.

I vehemently disagree and I think the implications behind that sentiment are actually dangerous. To me, this tells employers that they should avoid hiring women in their childbearing years because if they have a child, they will potentially take a lot of time off and/or fail to deliver the goods in terms of quality work when they return - and  to boot, they'll constantly be frustrated because they can't strike a balance between work and parenting. This woman is saying that we can't 'do' it all - vs. having it all - and there's a difference.

We can do it all, if we want and/or choose to. In fact, I think we can do virtually anything we set our minds to, but of course, you need to decide for yourself what works and what doesn't.

My point here is that I am working full-time and parenting now - and I don't feel either is suffering. In fact, I think my child will eventually benefit from having a female role model who is driven and more motivated now than ever to succeed in the workforce. In the meantime, I feel as though I do have enough time with her and I don't feel she is suffering in any way, shape or form. Pretty sure my work isn't suffering either - in fact - I think becoming a parent has re-lit the fire under my ass to constantly strive to do better - because I want to set an example for my daughter.

This was really the main point in the piece I took umbrage with. I agree with a lot of her other points... that social norms need to change... it's okay to opt out of having kids, opt out of working with kids... etc. etc. etc. But the part about work and children suffering if you opt to do both? That I can't support. She might feel that way - and if that is the case, I feel for her - but by saying to everyone else that will be the case for them too - she's ultimately making matters worse for any woman thinking of doing both - parenting and careering. Not okay.

I think she examined her own personal experience - realized that diving right back into work mere seconds after having a child might not have been the best move - and is more or less projecting that onto other working parents. Sadly though, I think that sends precisely the opposite message of what she'd like to send.

*Sigh*

But here's a cute video of the ever-adorable Gypsy, enjoying a single word... "Yum."

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. It's great that you've found a way to achieve all your goals. It sounds like you and John have found a co-parenting system that works for you. I agree with you that no one definition of 'having it all' can fit all women. I found this article interesting, because it addressed issues that I've been thinking a lot about over the past few years. I'd love to become a parent, but I'd also need to work, and I don't think our American society supports that choice well enough. Many of my working mom friends tell me they are stressed, increasingly medicated, and struggling to find a healthy balance between all of their interests and responsibilities. The parenting highs are high, but the lows are super low. Some of my working mom friends have also shared with me stories of how their employers have not supported their desire to have children, and some have shared their experiences of being discriminated against when trying to return to the work force after taking time off for kids. For these women, there is real fear involved whenever they want to or need to prioritize their children. For women who don't have an available family member to care daily for their kids, or enough money to pay someone else of quality to do it, maintaining a career and a family seems to be a real struggle. I expressed my concerns to my therapist and he told me that everyone should choose one priority. He said there isn't really such a thing as equally balanced priorities. Because, one will always suffer while we are giving time to the other. And in those rare occasions when we need to make big decisions, we need to have already established what our top priority is. Our employers will expect it to be our job. And our children will want it to be them. The happiest and healthiest working parents I've spoken with are living in countries with socialized health care, such as Austria, where the system requires companies to provide paid leave for one to two years for each child, following birth, and approximately 6 weeks for the mom prior to giving birth. Moms are guaranteed to return to their jobs, whenever they'd like to, within that two year window. I've also been reading about the increasing popularity of communes as a housing alternative in Northern Europe. There's always an adult present in the commune, so working parents feel freer to dedicate time to their careers, knowing that someone is looking after the kids. There isn't the extra expense of professional child care, or the need for one's own family member to be ever present. It's an interesting concept. If I lived within a more supportive system in Los Angeles, I don't think I'd worry so much about the choice to start a family.

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  2. Wow. I am only just seeing this comment now. Thanks for your interest and taking the time to post! Hope things work out for you whatever you choose!

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