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Thursday, April 21, 2011
The Myth of "Having It All" as it Applies to Women
When Daniel passed so suddenly, I felt a lot of guilt. How could he have has something that caused him to die, when I did not know that anything was wrong ? There were many feelings, much confusion, and I am literally taking years to examine them all and describe how I am examining them, and ultimately I hope, setting them aside. Among other deep feelings, it renewed the issue of coordinating work and motherhood, at least for me.
In my childhood, which was spent mostly in American schools, we were told that every woman could enjoy a career as fulfilling as a man, and that if we were attentive, we could mix the raising of a healthy and successful family. The message was pervasive. Home Economics courses were amended to include convenience foods and even sewing focused on short cuts and quick hems, rather than learning to do anything completely or well. We continually received the message that we could raise families but we could also have careers that were fulfilling as long as we were shortcut savvy.
Being the good student and obedient young person I was, I prepared through college for full time employment and raising a family. I had it all mapped out. I graduated from college in the early eighties, found work despite a recession, bought a home, and in fairly short order, gave birth to a daughter and a son, a year apart. Parenthood ALWAYS changes everything. I could no longer be an amazing dedicated employee, while simaltaneously being a wonderful parent, who was up all night with a tiny daughter who had apparently not read the developmental texts in which they claimed that she, as a newborn should sleep twenty of twenty-four hours. She has never required the level of sleep others do, and as a young adult, still doesn't.
I have held many jobs in either varieties of nursing, in multiple specialties, and in teaching, and although I have found that at times, I can be an exceptional employee, and at times, I have been an excellent parent, I have never been able to do both in tandem. I used to persist in the illusion that some women, with some jobs could do this, but I don't even believe that anymore. My friends who have had really successful careers combined with childrearing, have all cut back working for their children's protracted psychiatric care, or to get to know them before those children head to college. My friends whose careers were sidlined by a child with a medical problem, dropped back in their careers. I have come to believe that I am not the only one who could not "Have it All, All at Once". Some of my friends from college chose never to have children, and this is a valid choice for some people, and should not be overlooked. Being a parent to someone was always an integral part of who I was and wanted to be, but this is not true for everyone, and shouldn't be pushed for those who wish something else. I have decided that it is not really possible to "Have it All". You can have years or blocks of time where your focus was your children and your family life, and you can have years or blocks of time where your primary focus was a beloved career, but I now believe that no one really can do them simaltaneously.