Sunday, January 13, 2013

Having it all: The biggest myth since Prince Charming

Ladies and Gentleman (but especially ladies):

Let's get real for a minute.  I think we know it deep down in our bones, and yet we continue to propagate this silly, unattainable myth. 

The post that I have gotten the absolute most flack about since I've been writing this blog is this one, which I wrote last year as I was contemplating Leah's birthday.  I'll admit that it surprised me that this one became such a conversation starter.  Please believe me when I say that I wasn't trying to be controversial, simply sharing my own experience.

Many of you have e-mailed to tell me that you're in a similar boat (mothers, all, I might add).  A few have written to express how selfish I'm being in setting the priorities of children and family above my friendships (singles all, either by admission or omission).  I even recieved one e-mail from a random someone who was quite enfuriated by the post and felt the need to tell me.  I believe the words naiive and stupid were bandied about.

While I'll never understand the idea of fishing through the internet with the intention of correcting the opinions of someone you've never met and whose circumstance you don't know, I will admit that it got me thinking.

I respect the perspective - the belief that mothers ought to remain as they always were; the ones who feel baited and switched after their friends (or employees, for that matter) have children - but I disagree.  Adamantly. 

It got me thinking about the messages that we send to women in our society.  Particularly the one that declares, "women can have it all."  I feel like that statement deserves three exclamation points and a poster of Rosie the Riveter for emphasis.

This list of things that women are supposed to be is long.  Ambitious career woman.  Nurturing mother. Healthy meal-preparer. Clean house-keeper. Thank you note-sender. Birthday party-planner.  Errand runner.  Patient teacher.  Master of fun activities.  School volunteer. Accountant.  Chauffer.  The list goes on (and on and on), all while keeping ourselves in good shape, making time to have cocktails with the girls Sex and the City-style and still keeping things spicy with the hubs.

Say it with me, people.  YEAH, RIGHT!

The way I'm learning to see life is as a pie chart.  Yep, a math analogy.  Probably the only one you will ever see me use.

There are times in each of our lives when the radius of our pie is bigger, meaning we can slice it up many ways and still serve sizeable pieces.  There are other times - the past seven months or so of my life, for example - when the size of our pie feels about as big as the period at the end of this sentence.

Regardless of how large or small your pie is, the point is that you can only fit in so many things before the circle is full.  Period.  Making any one slice of pie bigger means another slice of pie somewhere has to be smaller. 

At the end of the day, this chart demonstrates the priorities of our lives. 

The important thing to remember here is that each of us gets to determine how big or small the slices of pie in our lives are.  Each of us has our own paradigm for how that circle should be divided up. 

For me in my life, the division of my pie is dramtically influenced by having children. 

Research has demonstrated the importance of the parental role in the lives and development of children.  The absolutely critical role of the caregiver.  Not to mention that as I teacher, I've observed many times what happens to a child when that role isn't filled well.  But it isn't this that impacts my own desires and priorities.  It is the intangible.  The magic that happens between a parent and a child.  My own desire to be present for my children on a daily basis.  To be the one who provides the feedback that my children need to grow and develop.  To be the one who rises with them in the morning and sings them to sleep at night. 

For me, as a woman, it is my highest and most challenging calling. 

I understand that not everyone feels that way.  I also understand that other people divide up the pie-charts of their every day differently.  It's okay. 

But I have to point out that this ideal that a woman should be so many things to so many people is, to me, as limiting as the 1950's ideal of womanhood.  We're so proud of our "liberating" femminism, but in my view we've traded one limited, narrow-minded paradigm of womanhood for another: the first was due to lack of options and the belief that women couldn't; the modern version creates an expectation that is both unrealistic and unattainable that all women should

The worst part, though, is that as women we are so critical and feel so empowered to judge each other based on this model. 

Shame on me for not being more open minded!  Shame on me for chosing to devote a larger piece of my pie to children instead of _______ (insert: friends, exercise, career, and the list goes on)!  Shame on me for not trying to have it all!

The truth?  I don't want it all.  I want my pie chart to be a reflection of the things I value most: God, family, children, home.  I want to do less, and do more well

And so I'll leave you with a final word (or 300).  One that resonated strongly with me. 

And then?  Seriously, let's just go easy on one another. 

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