Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Having it All" Does Not Mean Doing It All, or Doing it All At Once (part 2 in a series)

by Phoebe Farag Mikhail

If we examine the definition of "having it all" I wrote in my last post on this topic, we will find that it actually contains more doing than having. What it really says is that a woman who "has it all" is a woman who is busy raising children, maintaining a relationship with her spouse if she has one, managing household tasks, and working hard at her job so that she can continue to advance in it. I'm exhausted just reading all of that, and if that is really "having it all," then it is no surprise that many women these days don't want to "have it all." That is to say, they don't want to do it all.

And we don't have to do it all to "have it all." I believe for any man and woman to "have it all," he and she must first decide what makes him or her content, and do those things. "Having it all" should mean having the life one is content with at the present time.
Having it all, but not doing it all, could mean that during the season of raising young children (or teenagers), staying at home or staying in a less demanding job might be the best choice for a parent. Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House in the US, did not start her successful and visible political career until the youngest of her five children went to college. Ann Marie Slaughter, the Princeton professor who kicked off this national conversation a year ago with her article, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All," already had a successful (and flexible) career in academia when she went off to her "dream job" at the State Department. I would argue that taking that job was not about "having it all," but doing too much at the same time. One of my most popular posts was about a crossing guard who knew how to do his job joyfully, sharing his joy with other people in the process. He didn't need a jet-setting job to be content.

On my last post, one of my readers shared an important article by Deborah Spar, the president of Barnard College and author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection. She answered her title, "Can Women Really Have it All," with a 'no,' but spent the rest of the article talking about all the things women feel they need to be doing, and how they need to stop trying to be perfect in doing everything. Her conclusion:
The most crucial thing for women to know today? No one does it all. We each, if we're lucky, will have our chance to leave a mark on the world, but we are trying too hard to be perfect. So don't emulate Wonder Woman; think about what's wonderful to you instead. Then boldly, audaciously, joyfully, leave the rest behind.
In other words, stop trying to do everything, and be content with who you are and what you are able to have now.

Many families in the US unfortunately do not have the resources or the support to make ends meet, let alone "have it all." Recently, for example, a McDonald's employee was arrested for allowing her 9 year old daughter to play in the park during her shift. The lack of affordable, quality child care is part of the problem, and the inability for many shift workers to predict their own schedules and arrange for child care is another. Being content does not mean being complacent - we do need to work together to make it easier for all of us to work and take good care of our families at the same time. The Schedules that Work Act, recently introduced in Congress, is one step in the right direction. So is the Strong Start for Children Act, a bipartisan bill that would expand access to early childhood education and infant and toddler care to low and middle income families. You can support that bill by clicking here.

What are other ways we can help each other "have it all" (according to my definition above)? Please comment below (or subscribe to my blog via email) for another chance to win my Moleskine giveaway. The last chance to enter is tomorrow, 7/30. US addresses only.