Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Having It All.

Forty percent of married women in the United States are the breadwinners in the home. I heard this statistic today. I found it staggering and wonderful at the same time. We have the ability to provide financially for our families and we're doing it.

I also read a piece by a mom explaining how she "juggles it all," a husband, a full time job, a kid still in diapers, a baby on the way.  And law school. Her post was punctuated by a picture of her child on the floor of the library, face down, passed smooth out, surrounded by the contents of her purse.

The bulk of her post was how as mothers we need to drop the pursuit of perfection and learn to lean on others for support. This is very true. Many of us have extremely busy lives, and we have to acknowledge that even though we want to "have it all," we can't always DO it all. We need help. But this made me think: What are we trying to DO? And why?

Never in a million years would this be a post about how we need to prioritize our desires as women and put everyone else's needs before our own. I don't believe that in any way, shape, or form. I don't think we are the best mothers or wives or partners or friends or professionals we can be until we are the be US we can be; and that requires having goals for ourselves, knowing our own needs, and finding productive ways to fill them. But I do think there is a point when the pursuit of literally having it all can become an unhealthy thing for ourselves and our families if we let it.

These are just my thoughts, and I'm learning as I go. And Super Woman Law School Library Baby Napping Pregnant Lady may have a relatively low level of stress in her life. Her family may be perfectly happy. Maybe she and her family thrive on Starbucks and five hours of sleep. But for me, and probably for most families I know, that would be too much. I would end up with bald spots on my head, a mental breakdown, bored students, a baby who didn't know me, and a husband who missed me. So I certainly applaud her for keeping it together and doing things so well in her life. She talked a lot about doing many things, but giving each thing 100% attention at different times. She apparently is really good at it.

My life is not very similar to hers at this point. So does this mean that I don't "have it all"? Does this mean that I have less lofty aspirations for my life because I'm not running myself and my family ragged in pursuit of my dreams? No. It doesn't. For me, not for everyone, but for me, setting goals and planning and being patient seems to allow for personal and professional growth without overloading myself and the people around me. In my late teens and early twenties, my life was very reactionary. Things happened and I reacted. Needless to say, this philosophy didn't produce very many positive things in my life. After a few years of making the same mistakes over and over again, I learned. Think ahead of this moment. Plan. Take opportunities when they are afforded you, because they will create more opportunities for you.

I was very purposeful in waiting until I was in my late twenties to get married. We planned and saved for years before we bought our first house. I didn't start thinking about having a baby until I was in my thirties. Why? Because I knew I needed to be the best ME I could be, which included graduating from college, getting a graduate degree, starting a career, and getting my personal finances in order, before I felt I could be the best mother possible to a baby human being.

But being the best me I can be doesn't stop at childbirth. I still have other goals for my life. I want to advance in my career. I'm considering a post graduate degree. I don't plan on having any more children, but I have so many plans and things I want to do with the child I have. I want my marriage to continue to get stronger. And for me, the best path to getting these things done is to continue to plan. To think about timing. I'm a very strong believer in the fact that there is a right time to do most things- not that you can't make unplanned situations work and make them turn out wonderfully- but planning and taking advantage of good timing tends to produce less stress in my life. I have a one year old. Am I going to start a PhD program now? No. Unlike Super Lady, I am absolutely sure I cannot physically devote the time required to my family, my job, and a post graduate degree and be successful at all of them. I applaud her, but the job I love, the man I love, and the little boy who has stolen my heart, and not to mention myself, would suffer if I took on such a gargantuan task at this moment in my life.

But I fully plan on re-evaluating when he starts pre-school.  Or kindergarten. It's just about the timing. And it's about the fact that we as women are not failures 1) if we choose not to stay home and devote our entire lives to raising our children in the home, and we are not failures 2) if we are not superheros who spend all our waking hours away from work pregnant in a law library. There is a happy medium. And if you do find yourself in category one or two, more power to you. I fully support your plight. If it works for you, let it work. But if all areas of your life begin to suffer because of the overload that comes with trying to "have it all", maybe shoot for more of a balance. Plan. Look for the right time. Take advantage of opportunities. And most importantly, remember you're not a failure no matter what you choose, because making the choice is one of the most empowering things you can do.