Having It All
Don’t worry, I’m not going to suddenly shift gears and become a feminist blog (there are plenty of great ones already out there) and I will get back to the politics soon, but my own personal struggle with trying to organize my life in a way that satisfies my needs while simultaneously allowing me to contribute financially to my family and be there for my kids, has brought up a lot of issues that are worth exploring so I’m going to toss it out there today, just for fun.
I am a feminist and while my generation has benefited greatly from the movement, it is far from over and we have to find a way to provide further benefits to the generation behind us. Choice is a huge part of the feminist agenda, choice of school, choice of career, choice of partner and of course, choice in whether or not we continue a pregnancy, but one thing that is less discussed, is the means to put our choices in a context that empowers us rather than simply leaves us feeling as if we must justify our choices.
One of the problems is that, as young women, we are taught that we can do anything in this country, but we are rarely given the whole picture much less the tools necessary to order our lives in a way that makes room for the things we must do, along with the things we choose to do. Even if we believe in our ability to pursue any career we want, we are constantly reminded of the barriers we face. There are aspects of women’s lives that are unique to our gender and while we have made great strides in transferring some of those responsibilities to the men in our lives, more men are taking on the day to day tasks of parenthood for example, we may never be able to transfer all of them, so instead, we must find a way to adjust our expectations of ourselves and accept that we simply start out with a lot on our plates. We are important as mothers and caregivers and we cannot be replaced, so that leaves us trying to find a way to deal with the reality that we can only have it all, if we are willing and able to do it all.
Striking the right balance is the constant struggle of the American woman, but as I mentioned in a previous post, it's a high-class problem compared to what other women around the world face, but that fact makes it all the more difficult to discuss openly and honestly without feeling like we're whining. I think many of us that grew up with feminist parents and influences have a difficult time ever feeling like we’re doing enough. It was instilled in me that I could be anything I wanted to be if I simply worked hard, so I thought I’d be a lawyer (of course for the ACLU or The Southern Poverty Law Center) but I never contemplated how that would work with a family. The reality is, I could become a lawyer, but at what cost to my family? Obviously there are many women lawyers that are also fantastic wives and mothers, but that can’t be an easy life to manage and I’ve come to the conclusion that my own personal limitations prevent me from being able to do both well.
Choosing to be a stay at home mom in the post-feminist world, is a tricky bitch, and it took me years to be okay with being financially dependent on a man. In fact, now that I’m finally making my own money, I’ve realized that I was never really that okay with it, I just learned to deal with the anger, frustration and powerlessness that came along with being in that situation. In a country where our value is determined by our paychecks, it is difficult to feel valued without one, especially when you do it by choice. I felt like I had to start from scratch in finding a way to reconcile my feminist ideals with my choice to be, essentially, a 50s housewife, the most reviled example of the oppressed female. Nobody made me feel inferior for choosing not to return to work and instead staying home to raise my children, but I felt that way nonetheless. We can tell women until we’re blue in the face that raising children is the most important job they will ever do and that we value their choice, but until we can help them find a way to believe it and provide an environment that proves we value motherhood through action rather than simply paying lip service to the idea, the compulsion to do too much, to be too much, to spread ourselves too thin, will continue to consume us.