Friday, June 22, 2012

I do have it all

This article, Why Women Still Can't Have It All, is causing all kinds of stir all over the internets. I'll fully admit I didn't read it word for word, mostly skimmed it. The very first sentence bothered me.

It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed. 

To me, that's the same as somebody saying the following:

If you really want it, you can have it all - a fully balanced work and home life - a decent job, a happy marriage, a content child. You are just not working hard enough at it.

The problem with both those proclamations is that they are all encompassing. And, anytime you make any of these "never should ..." or "everyone should ..." statements, you are going to leave out people and piss off people and generally make an ass out of yourself. So, before I attempt to speak to my situation, let me make it clear that it is MY situation. This is MY balanced life. In no way, shape or form do I state that if everyone did it this way, they'd have the same quality of life I do.

I feel like I do have it all. But, the "all" I speak about is my all, not your all, or her all or his all. Everyone's definition of that all is different. My all consists of the following (please don't take the ordering as any indication of importance or preference):

  • Myself: I am the most important person to me. If I am not happy with myself or my life, it's unfortunate but true that my husband will not be happy and neither will be my child. The negativity will bleach into other relationships as well, into my work, tainting it. So, I make a concerted effort to keep me happy. I work out daily. It makes me happy and makes me feel good about myself I realize some of my other habits make this an easier thing for me than others. I am a morning person. It's far easier for me to run outside at 5 a.m. than it would be at 10 p.m. if I wasn't a morning person. This bleeds into the next important thing ...
  • My time with my husband. Just because we had a child doesn't mean we stopped being a couple. It takes effort but we need to connect as just the two of us very now and then. We do date nights, alone and with other couples. We go to happy hours after work with our work friends. We commute together to and from work almost daily. We go to a movie every other month. We consciously put all electronics away after Oli goes to sleep and sit together as just us to watch TV or play Scrabble. Once again, our individual situation might not be the same as others. Our ability to spend money on a babysitter affords us the luxury of dinners out alone. When my parents visit for longer than a few days, we've even taken a weekend away without Oli. And, it was blissful. Does that mean we love our child less than others who never leave their children overnight? Some would say yes, some would say no. I just know that we love him more than we ever thought possible but getting away alone is great as well. 
  • My work: I couldn't wait to get back to work after maternity leave, despite what many said. I wrote about it, trying to put into words how my love for my work did nothing to diminish my love for my child. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy the travel that rarely comes with it. I enjoy the interactions and friendships at my job. There are frustrations, like there would be at any job, but the fulfillment I get from going to work way outweighs the frustrations. And, I've somehow managed to get promoted in the last year as well. Not bragging but the author of that original quoted piece seems to think you have to pick between ambition or family. And, I am trying to prove you can have both.
  • Friends: I just did a girls' night out dinner with girlfriends last month at The Melting Pot and we have one planned for July and another in the works for August. I went out to line dance lessons with Brenda this Wednesday and we're planning on making that a weekly thing (as much as possible). I joined a local mommy's group online and attended a mommies night in event a couple months ago and will try to attend more. All of these are obviously planned around Oli and Jeff's and my schedule but I am doing it. Obviously, I have a supportive husband who doesn't think these are all a waste of my time and not every woman has that luxury either. And, since Oli's bedtime is 7-7:30 pm, I can schedule a lot of events for after that.
  • Family: We talk to our parents every weekend, we try to call during the week too. Actually, having Oli has brought us closer to our parents. I'll fully admit I am a lot more understanding, even encouraging of Jeff to call his mom more often since I had Oli. Because, I know someday he'll get married and I'd hate to be perceived as that mother-in-law who wants to talk to her son too much. Because, as the mother now, I can't imagine there ever being a too much when it comes to talking to my child. We try to do a video chat with both sets of grandparents every weekend. With allll of this, you probably think I never see my child?
  • Oliver. My monkey, my darling, the child I love so so much. Some would say, I don't spend any time with my child, given everything else I do. But, besides my working hours, I spend 99% of his waking hours with him. I mean, the kid won't leave me alone even when I am sitting on the toilet. Some would say I could give him so much more if I stayed home with him. I know myself I wouldn't. I'd be an angrier person if I didn't have my work. And, trust me, a happy mom for 5 hrs a day is a lot better than an angry mom for 13 hrs a day. We even eat weekly dinners at a dining table. Some days it's a challenge, most days it isn't. I'd say in 19 months, there have been a total of 3-4 weeks worth of nights that we couldn't sit together to eat. Even if it's fast food that I picked up on the way home because I spent way too much time looking at clothes and shoes at Kohls, but we still sat at the table to unwrap the utterly unhealthy food and ate it as a family. Which brings me to
  • Cooking: I do it on the weekend. Crock pot is my best friend. 3-4 meals made on the weekend last us the whole week. If I can't do it on the weekend, I throw something in it morning before we leave and by the time we are home, there's a nice, hot dinner ready. I also cut up 1 huge container of salad and 1 huge container of mixed fruit on the weekend that lasts me for lunches through the week. So, my week is a little less hectic and needs less thought. Obviously, there are pizza nights and the McDonald's run because a late work meeting happened or the doctor's office took too long at the afternoon appointment.
There are a lot of caveats to this. Our waking time, my kid's sleep schedule, our ability to pay a babysitter, or go on trips to see family members, proximity of our work to our house (12 miles),  the fact that Jeff and I work a mile from each other, the fact that Jeff has no conceptions about the so called "right place for a woman" and so on and so forth make up our unique situation. And, it enables me to have a life where I feel like I do have it all. But, no way would I ever suggest to somebody struggling to keep it together that they are just not working hard enough at it. So, I take offense when somebody suggests that it's impossible to have it all. I might not hold it together all the time. I might come to work bleary eyed after nights of teething hell. I might have some signs of hair tearing after frustrating moments at work. I might vow to never speak to my family again (only lasts a day or two ;0)), but those are minute phases in our entire life.

I am not rich, super human or self-employed. Yet, I feel like I have it all. And, most of the time, I am too scared to say it because I think I'll be called a braggart or a liar.

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