In keeping with the theme of this month's Feminist Odyssey Carnival, today I am writing about what "Having It All" looks like in my life. I approach the concept of Having It All from my particular set of circumstances, which include the facts that (a) I work outside the home as the primary income earner in my family (I am not in a formal leadership position but am respected as a technical expert in my field), (b) I have a rather crunchy, AP-ish style of parenting, and (c) my husband and I do not have a local “village” of support. I would expect Having It All to look fairly different for a woman with different circumstances.
Given all that, this is what Having It All looks like in my life:
- I am immersed in an imaginative world almost every day, if even for a short while. Sometimes I get to play the role of a dinosaur. Sometimes I get to play the role of a superhero. Sometimes I get to play the role of a train, horse, fairy or any other number of characters my preschooler can dream up.
- I spend a good portion of my days surrounded by really smart, motivated people that, like me, believe in public service and sustainable resource management.
- I get to exchange hugs and kisses with two sweet little schmoos every day.
- I get to nerd out to my heart’s content, studying data and figuring out how to better answer questions and solve problems.
- I get to be as silly as I can and make up songs with the word “poo-poo” in them (yeah, I’m juvenile like that).
- Several times each year, I get to present information to representatives from 7 states and numerous local and regional agencies. It instills a sense of pride to have my organization’s confidence to present high level, high stakes issues to key stakeholders.
- I am challenged to be creative with food in a way I never thought I would be.
- I derive the personal and professional satisfaction of being respected as a technical expert in my field.
Most of the time, Having It All looks and feels pretty great. I am incredibly privileged and my life is full to bursting with laughter and love and pride and accomplishment. Sometimes it looks and feels like complete chaos, but I love that there is seldom a dull moment. That does not mean that it is not hard, or overwhelming or heartbreaking sometimes. This is also what Having It All looks like in my life:
- My house is a mess. Always. Even when it’s clean there are piles of clutter everywhere, and I simply do not have the time and energy to change the average state of chaos.
- Sometimes, my last view of home when I back my car out of the driveway in the morning is my baby crying and reaching for me, trying to swim out of his father’s arms because only mommy will do at that moment in time.
- Sometimes I have to turn down good opportunities for interesting projects that would lead to better exposure and relationships with my organization’s stakeholders – which could lead to better advancement potential - because they involve overnight travel; and with a breastfeeding baby that still wakes multiple times per night and spends a good portion of the night by my side, overnight travel just doesn’t fit into my life right now. (Night weaning, I have my eye on you, but I'm not quite ready yet)
- I have heard my preschooler tell me “I don’t love you when you leave”. I know that kids his age can mix up words like “like” and “love”, and that he really means “I don’t like it when you leave”, but still, ouch.
- When my group manager retires next year, I will probably not be in the running for his replacement. I will likely stand by and watch my (equally talented and deserving) childless male coworker apply for and get the promotion, because I will not be willing to take on the additional hours or travel requirements at that time. It will be a bitter pill to swallow because I do have ambition, but I will have to maintain hope that there will be other opportunities for me at a later date, that my time will come when my children’s need for my presence isn’t so great.
Having it all does not mean having perfection (as if there were such a thing outside of fairy tales and click-bait mommy-war articles). There are always trade-offs and choices to be made. I make the choices that I think work best for my circumstances and my family, knowing fully well that other women might make different choices and would judge me for my choices. And that is ok with me. Just as there is no single monolithic Woman, there is no single set of life choices that represent Every Woman's personal priorities.
And really, most of the time I am simply too busy, distracted, or exhausted to care.