Friday, July 13, 2012

She Works Hard for the Money (or not)

A couple of weeks ago an article titled "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" appeared in The Atlantic.  The resulting debate was much more interesting than the discussions following Hilary Rosen's comment about Ann Romney's career history.  The latter was politically charged and downright snarky.  Bleh.

The Atlantic article, written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, was enlightening.  For many Americans, the reality is that two incomes are required to maintain an adequate lifestyle.  For many Americans, the reality is that two incomes are required to survive.

Slaughter presents an excellent argument that work/life balance isn't possible without change in the highest level of government and private corporations.  Unfortunately, I don't believe we'll see that change in my lifetime.

After reading the article, I wrote a three-piece series on the topic.  The first ridiculously long essay documented the history of "The Mommy Wars."  (I researched it, baby.)  The second piece summarized my own family history.  The third piece delved into my choice to forgo paid work.


That's me waving a white flag.  You work harder, you've got it tougher, your kids are cuter, smarter, and more advanced.  They eat better, sleep better, and behave better.  You're doing a better job.  You win.

Death to the Mommy Wars.

The bottom line is I Have It All.  I feel fulfilled and complete.  My passions don't earn a paycheck, but I get to live them.  Because of good luck, good choices, and more good luck, I have the option of whether to work outside the home.  I choose not to, and I'm perfectly comfortable with that.  No guilt.

But the same question kept nagging me:  "What will Eliza think?"

My mom worked full time outside the home while I was young.  Just about all of my friends' moms worked outside the home.  We were latchkey kids.

We know how that turned out.  We're pretty awesome.  We're successful, independent, and open minded.  We're confident and ambitious.  We respect our mamas.

How will Eliza feel?  Will she think I'm simple?  Will she think I sacrificed too much of myself?  Will she feel sorry for me?  Will she respect me?  Will she respect my choice?

Would I want this for her?

I can't answer that.  Obviously I want for her whatever she wants for herself.  In my heart of hearts, though, I want her to be able to have a high-powered, uber-successful career and healthy, happy family life.

What will I tell her?

What they told us?  "You can be anything you want when you grow up."

Well, that wasn't exactly true, now was it?  What they should have said was, "You can be anything you want when you grow up, but you can't be everything all at once."

I know what we'll tell the boys.  "Follow your dreams.  Follow your passions.  Love what you do."

There's fine print there, though.  "Make sure your dreams coincide with your partner's.  Make sure your dreams can pay the bills by the time you decide to have a family.  If you decide to have a family.  Or make sure your partner's the breadwinner.  And then make sure she makes enough to support the family while you follow  your dreams."

What's the fine print for Eliza?

When she says she wants to be an actor, an opera singer, a dancer, a TV news anchor, a lawyer, a corporate executive, a writer, a stock broker, or a painter, I'll show her my female buddies who've had success in those areas.  I'll show her that it's possible.

I'll show her that it takes hard work and sacrifice.  For success in some of those careers, it takes crazy talent, good timing, education, and knowing people in the right positions.  For success in those careers and family life, well, I'm not sure what it takes.  Because I don't have it.

I'll give her the bold, "Dream big.  Be passionate.  Find a way to live your passion every day."

She can write the fine print.


  1. What an excellent post with a single dissent: the "don't have it portion".

    From the outside looking in it seems like your family choices have been made based on family goals and not on personal skill sets.

    I will tell my daughter that this is the life that her father and I chose and what we want for her is the ability to chose the life she wants and that we raise her with the skill set to make those choices.

    1. Thanks, Mareeka. Four years ago, when I was in the height of people pleasing, I would have failed miserably at being a working mother. Praise God that flaw is in check (mostly). You're exactly right, though -- there are things we should definitely focus on teaching Eliza even if we lack the skills ourselves. (moderation, forgiving ourselves, nixing perfectionism, etc.)

    2. P.S. I'll be giving her your number in about 18 years so she can pick your brain!


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