Why we can't have it all
A friend recently posted an article that immediately piqued my interest: Why Women Still Canít Have It All. It was written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who had a foreign-policy dream job in the U.S., but found herself away from home a lot, with a disconnected teenager who was ending up in trouble. She had told women all her life that it was possible for them to be successful, to get to the top, and successfully juggle having a family and kids Ė but suddenly, she realized maybe she was wrong.
I grew up in a home where ambition was considered essential, where getting ahead was considered at least as sacrosanct as visiting the temple once a week. It took equal parts chutzpah and idiocy to buck all that expectation not to go to medical or law school; even though I was scared of what it meant, I wanted to be a journalist (generally acknowledged in surveys as one of the worst jobs in the world!) and enrolled in journalism school. Was it just me, or was that my dad and my uncle having a hushed conversation in the corner about hog-tying me and marrying me off to whatever respectable Indian boy of at least a wheatish complexion or fairer that would have me?
My path ended up taking me a long way off from my contemporaries. Many of my friends ended up moving to big cities in the U.S. or even further beyond, pursuing careers as lawyers, doctors, professors, etc. I am so proud to know them and see what they have accomplished and part of me thinks this would have been a cool, alternate life plan. Things are always greener on the other side of the fence, after all. But then, if I had been seriously career-focused, would I have met and married the same man who loves and supports me? Would I have had the two beautiful kids that enrich my life every day, even as they drive me up the wall? Would I get to come home to a courtyard littered with toys and a noisy cat, a place that opens its arms to me and says welcome home? And my job fulfills me too - when I manage to connect with a reader or do justice to someoneís story, or give someone food for thought, I think, maybe I didnít make a bad decision after all.
Slaughter is right. A woman canít have it all, or at least, most of us canít. Most of us canít be high-flying career people, have a good family life, be thin and beautiful and run a perfect household to boot. Thatís the reality. But I would say itís not just women that canít have it all, but men too. Many men around here make the choice to work away from home to earn a good living. They can choose that, but it may also mean making sacrifices, particularly if they do have families. Theyíre not there to help clean up after a meal or tuck their children into bed every night, and their partner may have to take up some of that burden. Thatís the reality too.
Even my husband, who is home most evenings, doesnít get to have it all. He puts in a hard day at work for us, and he might love the idea of going fishing afterwards and then coming home to watch sports as I pour him a cool beverage and serve the kids their meal. But he knows that trying it would earn him the dreaded fish-wifeís stink eye and possibly, a tablespoon of salt in that cool beverage.
Recently, my father stayed with a family with a beautiful mansion, the husband with a high-profile job, and the wife staying home with the two requisite children. This family was ideal, in his eyes, and he urged us to make strategic decisions that would get us to that same point. But his ideas of success and our ideas are completely different. Our collective path - as individuals, then as a couple, and now as parents Ė has never been focused on money or status. We know we canít have it all, so we have to make choices, based on what we value most and for us, that choice is to preserve our family. And once we make that choice, we try to move forward, and not live in regret about what could have been.
If you simply allow apathy or those around you to shape your life for you, rather than actively making your own life choices, and you are not happy with the way things are going, then you are not choosing to live, you are simply on a slow journey to death.
I canít say I have always made the right decisions. Iím as human and as flawed as they come. But I will own my mistakes, and I will own my choices. I am choosing my life, and while I canít have it all, Iím happy that I have chosen what I do have, my own piece of paradise.
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