Wednesday, October 21, 2009

“Having It All” and Living to Tell the Tale

As we watch the world around us go spinning by every day we are bombarded my a myriad of ideas and expectations. We should be great mothers, amazing housekeepers, strong business women, dedicated philanthropists and while we are at it, maybe we should save the planet or run for public office. All of these roles fall under “Having It All.”

I grew up in a generation where I was told I could do anything, which was different from my mother's generation of being told to grow up to fill the role of wife and mother only. Now I want to be clear, if a woman wants to do nothing else besides raise kids and take care of her home she has done well. Being a mother is a noble and wonderful career. I just want to spotlight the differences in the generations.

When I was getting ready to head off to college my dad left a newspaper clipping about being an engineer on the counter for me to “accidentally” see. I was intrigued and looked into the idea. 4 years later I had an engineering degree and set off on a path very different from the women before me in my family. I kept hearing, “Wow, now you can have it all!”

What exactly does that mean? What "All" am I trying to have? After years of trying to figure it out, I am still completely lost as to what, Having It All means to the world.

Do I have stress? Do I have a packed calendar? Do I have to hit the ground running every day? Yes. But I don't think that is the "All" they were referring to.

I wonder if Having It All means perusing personal interests, having public respect for a job well done as well as the adoration of your spouse children for the time and love you show them. Is it possible to do all of that well at the same time? I'm not sure, it sounds a little bit like juggling chain saws. You have to give each item your full attention or there could be a big problem.

So if we are consistently told to Have It All what should we be trying to do/say/accomplish to get there? Does “It All” mean an education, a spouse, children, a career, volunteer work, great homemaking skills...what?

If we look to the television to tell us what “It All” looks like I think we will be very confused. We see women with way too many irons in the fire, or we see women bored by the wealth they have accumulated. We see women with massive careers and little family life or great friendships but no responsibilities. In general, we see a picture of people who don't exist.

I think we all need to decide what we want our lives to be full of. If it is a career, then do that well. If it is a family and home, then do that well. If you want to mix things together, fine, just be realistic about what you can accomplish. Unlike the flashy images we see on television, I think Having It All is different for each of us and it is a daily perspective, not a symbol of status.

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