Blog Fodder Post 1: Having It All
So lately I have been witness to Renu’s struggle as she tries to climb the corporate ladder at work, while still being a good wife and mother, and I’m seeing just how difficult it is to do everything – even though women are told all the time that they “can have it all.”
Renu talks to me quite often about the challenges that she’s facing but the best that I can do is listen and offer some theoretical advice here and there. Unfortunately, I can’t relate to her struggles because I’m not a mother and I don’t work in the ‘corporate world’. (One of the advantages to working non-profit is that it’s not cut-throat. If a promotion opens up, the non-profit employees will probably bend over backwards trying to offer it to the other person (Ie. “No, I insist, YOU take it.”). I’ve worked for both corporate and non-profit though and one thing the two have in common is that all the female execs that I’ve worked with have all either been childless, or if they do have children, they’re much older (late teens and above). And for the most part, they’ve all been single (either never married, or married but divorced).
Most of the women that I know that have small children are either stay at home moms (and their husbands work hard to afford them that luxury) or they work, but they work at jobs that aren’t all-consuming. They work only while their kids are at school, or they work jobs that begin at 9am and end at 5pm. They don’t bring their work home with them, and they understand the difference between working to live and living to work.
On the other hand, there are women who are succesful executives, making wads of money and driving BMWs but they work hard to get there – it means long hours, and they don’t get to leave their work at the end of the day. They go home to an empty house because it’s easier that way, and it’s how they want it. There’s no tug of war happening, it’s them and their status and their success. And for some women, that’s everything they’ve ever wanted and it’s enough for them.
So where’s the middle ground here? Why, in our society today, do women have to choose? Why can’t we have it all?
While in university, I received a minor in Women Studies which meant that I was required to complete 3 full credits – I did it by taking 6 1/2 credits, starting with an Intro to Women Studies and then taking a very diverse set of courses, including Birthing Perspectives, Feminism and Pop Culture and Women and History. I was exposed to a lot of discussion about women and their roles in society and how we continue to fight for equality and similiar rights. Women’s role in the workplace was a subject that was touched upon very frequently and with feminist attitude (Ie. Men are the evil enemy) abounding, it was very vehemently declared that yes, women can have it all. Apparently, it was possible for women to work a 10-hr work day, pick the kids up from daycare, go home, lavish attention on their kids, then their husband, then make dinner, wash the dishes, put the kids to bed, do the housework and then happily run off and make love to their spouse before falling asleep, only to get up 6 hours later to run off to the gym for a intense workout before coming home to get the kids ready. Certainly not impossible by any standards; a woman just had to WANT it badly enough.
During the time that I pursued my women studies degree, I learned a lot about myself and relationships with the men in my life (both past and current). I remember have a confrontation with my father about something and how I exploded at him, declaring that I wasn’t a meek, passive female that he could order around. But that was my first semester of university, and as the years passed, like all my other studies, I began to look at my women studies objectively. I took from my feminism courses what I felt made sense and what applied to me, but a lot of the radical thinking and power attitude I left behind. I didn’t want to be angry, I didn’t want to be hostile, I didn’t want to rule the world, I didn’t want to have it ALL. (I like to share, I’m very generous that way.)
But sometimes, there are women who do want it all, and they want it badly enough. Renu does – I see her trying to keep on top of a crazy schedule because her career’s very important to her. But because her kids are just as important, I see her being pulled into two directions. Career, kids. Career kids. It’s tug of war and she’s the rope, only lately, I’m seeing that rope is starting to fray a little, which furthers my desire to ask the million dollar question.
As a woman, can you have it all?
I think the answer is that you can, but you have to be prepared to sacrifice things along the way. For some women, they sacrifice themselves. Some women sacrifice their families. And other women sacrifice their career. I think the test is to sacrifice that which is least important to you. I know what’s important to me but I don’t think the answer comes that easily to all women.
Sometimes, it just plain sucks to be woman. But it sucks more when you want it all.
P.S. To be fair, it’s possible for a woman to have it all if she has the support of her partner – meaning that her partner does their share in regards to childcare and the housework. I know a couple of guys that are supportive in that sense, and their wives probably don’t realize how lucky they are – because they will be the fortunate ones that are able to have it all.
Tina () @ 04/25/2005 23:30:
Wow, that’s pretty deep. Here’s my 2 cents. I gave up my career initially due to financial reasons ( I make more money now at a call centre) with all intentions to go back. When I got pregnant, there was no question for me to work nights to stay home with him through the day. Now, here I am, 3.5 years later, still working nights and no career, just a ‘job’. I can’t say that I LOVE my job, because I don’t, it’s a job that I can leave behind at the end of 8 hours. But that was my choice. I gave up the career to spend time with my son. It has also been an adjustment for my marriage, because we rarely see each other awake anymore. In high school I would never have said that I would be living the life I live now. But I love it and wouldn’t change it. But that’s me. I think with the proper balance you can have it all, but I was never good at juggling and I’m sure I would honk at it now.
Taylor (http://www.locobellatuna.blogspot.com) @ 04/30/2005 13:53:
No, you can’t have it all. Tawny contradicted herself when she said she thinks you can, but you have to sacrifice. Well.. that’s not having it all is it? This also shouldn’t be an issue only about Women. Outside of the pregnancy and first 6 months or so nothing should be different for men.That said, involving that period…95% of Women, IMO can’t do it ‘all’ by themselves. You either have to enter that stage with money in the bank, or a support system so that you can get back to work ASAP. Outside of that, men have the same problems. This is just an issue of people properly planning or handling changes in their lives. It’s a good thing to make people THINK they can do it all but if they lack rationalization, they’re going to crash and burn. The funny thing here is a regression to old school thinking because the reality in most relationships I know, the man makes more money and it’s generally because the male has a higher status job making the womans job sacrificial. I’m sure psycologists would agree this is why so many women cling to motherhood and as Tawn has complained about in the past.. make it the beginning and end of their daily lives. The women who’ve sacrificed so much for their (good) career, aren’t likely to give it up as easily and will require a support system or will sacrifice their child rearing so they don’t have to. Fortunately people in this position generally have the funds to BUY help. Their relationship with their children will suffer a little, but any intelligent person would find ways to minimize the effects.