One Woman Having it All

And by ALL, I mean, ALL the laundry in the free world. All of the weird food issues that combine into mom makng multiple lunches AND dinners each night. Yeah, yeah, I know I’m not supposed to make multiple meals. I’m supposed to make one meal and to heck with those who don’t want to eat it. But… no. One of my kids is gluten-free, I am decidedly NOT gluten-free, sometimes I feel like something that nobody else wants to eat, and My Chemical Romance likes fish. Plus I rarely do the dishes; that is a chore that falls squarely into the realm of ANYONE BUT MOM. So it’s almost easier to make 12 itty-bitty meals than one giant meal that only I will eat.

This might work. Minus the ‘shrooms. (Flickr: *Florian)

An old friend — like, a friend from elementary school — posted a facebook link to an article about Women Having it All (Or Not) from Atlantic magazine. Which, in case you’ve never read an article by Atlantic, requires an investment of approximately four hours to read, because it has so many words. And also, lots of huge words. This particular article explored exactly HOW women have it all (or don’t). The answer is, they really don’t.

Mostly because****

  • As much as society claims to value families, corporations really want worker bees. And you can’t be an effective worker-bee if you have priorities other than your job.
  • Taking time off for maternity leave, or leave because of a child’s health issue (or any issue relating to children), derails a woman’s ascent in the corporate world (because of the above bullet point).
  • Apparently the option to go back to work/school after your children grow up only exists on television, for example, Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife (and she’s pretty dubious, ethically speaking, amirite?!?!?)
  • A “good” work situation is one in which a woman is able to be home with her children between the hours of 6pm-8pm.
  • There is no good time to have a baby. When you’re younger, you don’t have the resources (financially) to have a baby, and also you might have a horrible partner, since choosing a life-partner at a young age is always a bad plan. If you wait til you’re older and have more money and a better life partner, the younger women — or the men of various ages — will steal your job while you’re gone, and you’ll have to start back at the beginning.
  • Caring for a family is not seen as ambitious or meaningful.

Wow, that’s just a suck.

It sucks. (Flickr: Ken Lund)

*** The author mentions that she is speaking about, and to, upper middle class, educated women (and above). I have no idea what In-N-Out Burger’s policy is about families, officially or unofficially.***

Even though I’m a professional stay-at-home mom, this article disturbs me. Being a stay-at-home-mom is a crapshoot; I am entirely dependent, financially, on My Chemical Romance and his job. When he was downsized and out of work, we had serious problems. When his company started having financial difficulties, we ended up moving to Arizona, which was the first step in leaving San Diego, and all of My Chemical Romance’s family. And of course we loved Charlotte, but had to move to Raleigh because he thought his company was going to restructure. I support him, but what happens to our family — and, practically speaking, WHERE WE LIVE — is totally out of my control.

I was hoping that my working sisters had it better. Seems like they do not. For as much as I can keep track of what’s happening in my own family, pay attention to the emotional currents, keep tabs on who is doing what and when, working moms seem to miss that. They may have the financial independence, they may have the ability to converse with other adult human beings, they are in control of where they live, but they are missing their children.

(Flickr: edenpictures)

The article in Atlantic continues with what HAS TO CHANGE in order for women to have it all. School hours have to unite with work hours so parents don’t miss too much. Equal opportunities — not just for women, but for everyone! — for leaving work, or having flex-time. Weekends away from work, under all circumstances.

I do not think women can have it all. I think women just have to accept what they have/don’t have, and make the best of it for their families and themselves.


6 Responses

  1. I hate the phrase “Having It All” … I work from home about 4 hours/day, go to the office 4 hours/day and make sure I’m home when my 20 month old needs to nurse. I am always home before afternoon nap (he nurses to sleep) and I work like a crazy person while he sleeps. When he wakes up I try desperately to put work away until bedtime where I work until my head hits the keyboard. I am exhausted quite a bit and people love to tell me: “You’re so lucky!!!! You have it all!!” Notsomuch. The hubs is getting his Master’s degree and I’m our only source of income. I don’t have it all, I do it all.

    All this is to say, I haven’t read the article but your bullet points are spot on. I have a flexible corporate job and a manager with a kid my son’s age, so he is very empathetic. Without those two things, I wouldn’t manage! And I miss my son an insane amount while I’m at the office!

    • That’s pretty much what the article says: you can do your best to mitigate it, but you can’t truly “have it all.” I’m glad your boss is somewhat understanding. It sounds like a very fine tightrope you’re walking!

  2. I didn’t read the article either, but I find this topic very compelling. And your thoughts on it, too! I have much more ambiguous feelings about staying home full time than you do, and have only done it since the birth of my fourth child. For years, I was able to balance work and family by working part time (and of course we get a year mat leave in Canada, mandated by the government, paid by the government, and by law our employer must hold our position for us for when we return~I’ve always said if I lived in the U.S. for SURE I would have stayed home with my kids from day one because there’s no way I could leave a baby that small–I mean, for sure if I had the financial opportunity to–it is much easier to go to work when your baby is 12 months than 3 months). Working part time was quite manageable and I had a job where although I worked 12 hour shifts, I chose which days I worked so I never worked my kids’ birthdays or special holidays. It was a nice balance. But once I had 4 kids, it tipped the scale for me and even once a week was too many for me to feel competent at either work or home; my house was a chaotic mess, kids’ school memos went missing or only hit one parent not the other, and I couldn’t keep my skills at a top level in my job at only once a week. So I quit. I miss it, and the things you mention, but I feel calmer. And I will re-enter at some point (and even now I actually work from home about 6 hours a week for my friend’s web based company) so that helps me feel less ambiguous. Although I would start a new career rather than go back to working for the ambulance service, for various reasons.
    Funny thing is, this looks different for everyone, and it shifts throughout life. I never felt like I missed anything with my kids. I was at the grocery store when my third baby took his first steps, but I think that’s the only major milestone I missed, even with working. This was mainly because of the part time factor. And I don’t think I’m signing myself up for a lifetime away from the workforce by staying home, although it is hard for me, mentally. I think this is difficult to navigate, and thus, yes, it is hard to ‘have it all.’ I think it is hard for men to have it all, too. It is just more socially acceptable for them to work 40+ hours per week.
    I heard recently that in Switzerland BOTH parents get 400 days off after birth or adoption. I love this because it show their culture’s value of fatherhood as well as that of motherhood. This works in their society because most families have just 1 or 2 kids, and they pay pretty high taxes (so do us Canadians of course). But valuing families this much pays off long term for the whole society. Its pretty cool and I would guess it results in better gender equality across the board.
    Anyways I digress. =)

  3. Maybe one more thing– perhaps having it all just simply means something different for all of us, and has to reflect what WE really want rather than what an employer wants or what a journalist might measure as important to ‘having it all.’ ?

  4. I’m back again! I’m sure you missed me =P I’ve been thinking about this post ALL DAY! I just wanted to add also that part of growing up is realizing we can’t have it all, no matter who we are and whether we are parents or not, you know? Like once I hit 25 I realized I probably wasn’t going to be an Olympic figure skater one day, since at that point I had never taken a single figure skating class in my life. And my friend from university who has no kids and has worked in really important, emotionally draining work her entire adult life and now at 35 she’s burned out and thinking maybe a job where she just works at something she’s good at and goes home at the end of the day could be just as fulfilling, you know?
    I dunno if I’m clear, I just think that all of us, at some point, realize we won’t be able to follow EVERY dream, and we re evaluate and make adjustments according to which things matter the most to us.

  5. […] kind of brings me back to my blog about having it all (or not) — to which my friend Melissa from White Noise has enthusiastically replied several times. […]

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