Monday, July 9, 2012

You Better Work!

Yes, this side-by-side photo is the entire reason this post exists. Totally worth it and you haven't even read a goddamn word yet. 
I get asked two questions by almost everyone with regards to my life as a mother:

1) "How does he sleep?"

People can't resist this one. It used to be annoying, but I've learned how to respond. Like a baby, I say. That phrase has gone WAY off the rails in terms of meaning, FYI. If you sleep like a baby, I feel sorry for you, since apparently you feel the need to wake up screaming at least once a night for no apparent reason, and then proceed to stress eat while half conscious. But people think it means he sleeps through the night. And I let them. After all, they seem to care way more than I do how he sleeps. Why not throw them a bone?

--and--

--drumroll, please--

2) "When are you going back to work?"

Now.

First--

Let me preface this with a series of brief disclaimers:

A. Being a parent is, in and of itself, full-time work. I know some of you childless readers are probably rolling your eyes so hard right now--and once upon a time, I was one of you! I was all, Yeah, sitting at home all day watching Yo! Gabba Gabba and playing with toys--cry me a river. But dudes. You do not even know. Your day starts when the kid wakes up (note: this generally falls around "ass crack of dawn") and includes 0 unsupervised bathroom breaks. Yes, there are fun times to be had, but you will never forget that you are on the clock 24 hours a day. You are a one-wo/man nanny, personal chef, chauffeur, maid, court jester, teacher, tour guide, body guard, punching bag and feedlot. It is a JOB. And the salary is zero dollars, ever (come to think of it, the salary is more like -$5,000,000, since you have to pay for your boss' entire existence, for life).


B. Leaving aside whether you want to go back to work after having kids, it is an insane privilege to even have a choice. Most women in the country, and in the world, don't get to decide whether or not they want to "have it all" (more on this whole shit storm later). So full disclosure, I have to admit that when it comes to this particular topic I am the asshole 1%. I can't afford not to work in some capacity, but I have free part-time childcare thanks to my immediate family, all of whom live within 30 minutes of me, and I have accepted some financial help from my parents, who can afford to give it. My maternity leave was totally unpaid, and without their generosity I wouldn't have been able to pay rent for the three months I took off before my freelancing income picked up a bit.

So, where was I? Oh yes, when do I go back to work?

Well, that depends on how you define work. Back in February, I decided not to return to my full-time office job as the managing editor of a weekly newspaper--a decision that was amicable and mutual and which has resulted in a monthly parenting humor column for me, something I’m much more well-suited to than I was to yelling at people to meet their deadlines. So I'm not working full-time, and I'm not working in an office.

But I am definitely working. I've been working since S. was a few weeks old, increasing my workload steadily. Yes, I'm a working girl... except not a prostitute and also not Melanie Griffith in  pastel power bitch suits. I'm a stay-at-home freelancer, which means I get to work on my couch, sometimes in my underpants (hello, heatwave!), a job perk which is admittedly pretty sweet. And yes, occasionally I just get paid to drink wine in my bathing suit while reading old diary entries (if it makes you feel better, it was only $25). But in the past six weeks I’ve written over 70,000 words and logged countless graveyard shifts by the light of my Macbook while Jeff and S. sleep, working until I keel over from exhaustion, or until the light Lloyd Dobler holds up for me night after night is finally snuffed by low battery.

Best Etsy purchase ever.
So when people ask me when I'm going back to work, I don't know how to answer without getting defensive. I recently heard through the grapevine that a former coworker of mine, a woman who's incredibly smart and driven and who I looked up to when I worked under her for over a year, was shocked when she heard I wasn't "going back." It makes me want to write her an email with the subject line "I'M STILL WORKING!!!!" I'm just not "going back" to work. I'm going forward into different kind of work. Right? RIGHT, SOCIETY???? ACCEPT ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! VALIDATE MEEEEEE!!!!!!! DON'T DEVALUE MY CONTRIBUTION OF ALL OF THOSE HILARIOUS VAGINA ESSAYS I PUT ON THE INTERNET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clearly, I was already feeling insecure, and then the Anne-Marie Slaughter article came out. In case you're not caught up: Slaughter, the woman on the right next to RuPaul (the first time, I bet, she has ever been described that way), is also a Princeton professor and former State Department head. A few weeks ago she wrote a piece in The Atlantic about why women can't have it all, after all. If I may offer an extremely simplistic summary of her articulate and controversial argument: a woman can either pursue a high-powered career path or spend quality time attending to the needs of her kids, but not both.

There's been a lot of debate over her thesis. Some wo/men are furious, and suggest that she's setting feminism back years. Others celebrate her for finally debunking the myth that's kept women up nights biting their nails to the quick for decades. My dad, who leans more towards the latter, wrote a thoughtful post about it on his very own blog. And of course it's ignited a basically unrelated fight between working moms and stay-at-home moms, who've never met a message board they didn't feel like trashing each other on.

My response--aside from, or perhaps a precursor to Photoshopping a drag queen and her signature slogan next to a distinguished scholar and policy director--has mostly been relief. I have always operated on the assumption that I should want (and have!) it all, although the "it" is tricky to define.

I suppose if pressed, I would define "it" as: a successful career; a loving partner (not "husband"--my parents were very sensitive about pronouns, just in case I ever decided I was a lesbian); happy, well-adjusted kids with whom I can spend as much time as I want, thanks to a flexible work schedule; the ability to whip up a perfect roast chicken and bake sale-owning cupcakes from scratch; enviably toned upper thighs; a beach house designed by Nancy Meyers' set decorator; an adorable small dog that rings a tiny bell every time it needs to be walked; hair that doesn't frizz in humidity; preternatural beauty; wisdom; calm under pressure; inner peace; a truly idiot-proof espresso maker. (Also, a good night's sleep--so I guess the first question people ask me is relevant in the end.)

This post has up and run away from me, and between us, after RuPaul and Cusack and using all of those semicolons just now I don't know if I even have an original point. So I'll open it up now. What do you think about the whole "having it all" debate? Does it burden or liberate us? Do you even want it all? Do you feel like people judge you for your decision to work, or not to work, after having kids? And can you make a decal of Duckie Dale dancing to Otis Redding in the record shop? Because that would make my life. If I had that, maybe I really would have it all.
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52 comments :

  1. You, yourself, PROMISED that you wouldn't become a Mommy blogger. I guess somethings are too hard to resist....

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    1. Well, I like to think I just blog about my life, which at this point is pretty focused on being a mom. I don't think of myself as a mommy blogger. But I also can't promise not to write about mom things. I hope that it doesn't shut out non-parent readers, but just like you can't have it all, you can't please everyone.

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    2. I'll read your posts about paint drying in your apartment as long as they are as poignant as this one.

      Love,
      A non-mommy.

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  2. I read somewhere, I think it was in a Fay Weldon book, that women have to decide between a sucessful career, a sucessful marriage and bringing up kids. The book said it was sometimes possible to have two out of the three, but never all of them. Personally, I don't know, I'm currently on about 0.5 out of 3 and that keeps me busy enough! I do think it's completely unrealistic for wo/men to expect to 'have it all' without making sacrifices.

    xx

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    1. My patron saint David Sedaris once wrote in an essay (although I think he was quoting someone else) that to be successful in life you have to turn off two burners: Family, Friends, Health, and Work. That to me seems extreme, but I agree with you: nothing comes without some sacrifice. And hey-- 0.5 out of 3 ain't bad :)

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  3. Rebecca10:22 AM

    I read your dad's piece, one of the best I've read on Slaughter's article. Yours, of course, is the most hilarious, and gives me a lot of food for thought if/when I choose to have children (because, you know, I have the privilege that allows me to make both choices and would wish for a world where childcare, healthcare and mat leave wouldn't factor into this choice... ah to be Scandinavian /endrant.)

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    1. You're too kind. My dad IS very articulate. I started to write something I thought was important and then lost my way and devolved into all caps. But thank you! And yes, healthcare/maternity & paternity leave is a huge part of all of this. I can't believe how little time American parents get compared to their European counterparts.

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  4. Okay--I tried to have it all. I really did. I had a great job, one of those "glamour industry" deals, where I got paid real money to mostly just look great while schmoozing...and then I got pregnant. (Thank you, Sponge!) My husband (I was married, TYJ) and I decided that I would take a few years off to stay home with the weasel, but when I wanted to go back? Other, younger great-looking gals had taken my place. (This is where I should say "B!t@hes," but I won't, because I was them, once.) So I did what I had to do...suck it up and take a job that was obviously beneath my level of skill and gorgeousness. Fortunately, it was the one job where it ws understood that my children came first in my life (they're grown now), and where I got to take school vaction days off, including the two months in the summer. Teaching can be the best of both worlds, with the right medication.

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    1. The right medication is ALWAYS key :)

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  5. i think people (women in general) often forget the key concept of feminism: that we now have the right to choose. i find it very frustrating when people decide they're going to judge other womens' choices (and i'm guilty of it, too) when that's what it shouldn't be about. i come from a very intelligent, loving mother who spent 8 years in post-secondary education while raising 5 children, but never worked in her specific field in the end. some may think it was all a waste of time, but i'd like to believe that both experiences taught her how to be a better mother, and person in general. she has since taught us kids the importance of education, and in return all 5 of us have received our educations and are now working professionals. did my mother have dreams of wearing power suits like melanie griffith? maybe, but i'd like to think if you asked her now, she'd say "i do have it all".

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    1. So true. Choice is a privilege that our mothers and grandmothers earned for us.

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  6. First of all, we all have different definitions of what "having it all" means. I totally believe anyone can "have it all" if they don't let fear of failure, keep them from going for it.

    Everything we do for ourselves is scary, when we have little people to consider. Whether it's staying home and losing one income, going back to work, school, traveling with them in backpacks, etc, etc.

    The thing is, if we don't try to have it all... in other words, aim high for the things that will make us happy, then what are we teaching our children in the long run?

    We want them to have it all, so how can we expect them to strive and hope for that when we've caved to society, and the expectations of what we "should" be doing.

    Do what makes you and your family healthy and happy, and know that bumps in the road do not equal failure. They offer opportunities to learn how to do it differently while still working toward your goals... and know that it never stops. Having it all means forever changing, forever growing, forever experiencing life in all ways that YOU choose :)

    Oh, and lately I've been sleeping like a baby... well, minus for the screaming, and stress eating. Hopefully a new mattress will help that!! :)

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    1. This is what I wanted to say! The important thing is to try to make the life you want for yourself--and only compromising when you need or want to.

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    2. I don't think this could be said more perfectly.

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  7. As you said, "'it' is tricky to define." "It" could very well be working in your underwear. Hell, "it" could be not working and sitting around all day in your underwear. To each his/her own!

    I strongly believe, whatever your choice of career, or lack there of, you should not feel obliged to justify your choices to anyone, except perhaps your partner, since that's part of the whole commitment deal. As long as you and the ones immediately affected by your choice are fine with it/provided for, then that's all that matters.

    To put it in another perspective for you, here's a fun choice to try and justify to others: I'm a military wife (not the dumb show on Lifetime kind), and my husband is completely fine with my choice not to work (which is mainly because my options are limited in the small towns the military decides to move us to, I did not finish college, we are great at budgeting, and I'm more of an entrepreneurial soul anyway). I'd actually love to be a freelance writer, like yourself, novelist, or business owner (business yet to be determined, but, again, moving hinders this option, slightly, as does my indecisiveness).

    What people seem to have a problem with most is that I don't have children, yet. They immediately assume that I'm lazy, and must hate children. This couldn't be farther from the truth, but I've given up trying to explain and wipe the disapproving looks off their faces.

    I could tell them I'm like the staff of Downton Abbey, but just one person, and, when I'm not running around trying to get everything done, I manage to have hobbies and friends to entertain what's left of my time.

    Oh, and the kids part, that might be because in the last two years I've had two ovarian operations, and am down by one egg producing organ (though that's TMI in the first two seconds of meeting someone, so they continue thinking I'm a selfish bitty who hates kids). I'm also not even 30 yet, and my husband and I decided when we got married at 24 yrs old we'd like to enjoy a few kid free years before committing to the constant company. We are trying now, but frankly, that's not anyone's business.

    I'm also a researcher by nature and am constantly learning all kinds of crap, like a human Wikipedia, so I feel my lack of a degree is not a reason to label me a moronic Stepford housewife. I'm actually constantly surprised by the number of people with degrees who seemingly know very little. All it really means, is that they had the money (or huge student loan debt) to finish college. Somehow people knew stuff, owned businesses, and functioned in order to form and live in a successful society before formal education came along, but I digress...

    The point is, we should all care less what others think and focus on what makes us happy, rather than someone's idea of what should make us happy. Also, to me, having not read your father's blog yet, feminism just means that you assert your right to choose how you want to live. If you're doing that, you're a feminist. As my sister and I say, "Ya ya!"

    Congrats on your happiness!

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    1. This is so well-articulated and true. People need to mind their own business and let others do what they want without judging. Who cares if you work, and if you don't, why should it matter that you have no kids? And also, like you say, people are assuming that you don't want kids when the truth is very personal and complicated.

      I hope that blog posts like this help foster discussion and don't just make the whole thing worse. The problem is that there will always be articles and blogs and books and TV specials designed to make us believe there is one right way to live, to parent, to be, and that if we don't line up with whatever the current ideal du jour is, then we're failing.

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    2. "'it' is tricky to define."

      I Like it :D

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  8. Anonymous12:04 PM

    To say we want to "have it all" is misleading. The debate is more simple - its about having only 2 things: children and a successful career. The problem is also simple: traditional careers have been created and held by men whose families were managed by stay-at-home women. So for those of us without the flexibility of a free lance writing job or the support of a nearby family, it's a serious issue that consumes our choices and opportunities. To play it off to beach houses and cupcakes distracts the key point, which is that society needs to shift some of our long held traditions - 8-5 hours at an office with the expectation for overtime for advancement couples with primarily female parenting. Otherwise no, women cannot "have it all."

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    1. You're right--I was trying to make it funny, or something, but I do understand that for most women this is not a choice, it's a much larger societal problem. I know I am extremely lucky to have the freedom to work from home.

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  9. I have this same dilemma and have been agonizing over it for the past 6 months as my little one grows like a weed.

    I do not have the luxury to stop working. I used to get all upset when people would scrunch up their noses when I said yes, I HAVE to go back to work after my short unpaid 6 weeks of maternity leave are up specifically because my family is a two earner family.

    We have to both work in some capacity to keep the lights on, pay the mortgage and everything else. Another problem with the work/stay home debate is that this having to work is never talked about. I didn't have the choice not to and neither do single parents.

    I am so jealous of my girlfriends who have been able to stop working. Now, I am well aware I made this decision. I knew that if we got the house we did, our mortgage would be okay as long as we were both employed. However, once little guy here came along, I have to work even more. And it kills me not to have the time with him that I would like. Had I known better when I was 17 that my future 32 year old self would encounter this crisis, I probably would have ended up in a profession that does not require me to be in the office all the time such as law. But sigh, I never got the "glamour" writing job that I went to J school for and I am out here with the rest of the working stiffs trying to make ends meet. But enough of my whining.

    Being a mommy is WORK in deed and working outside the home is also work. So I work 2 jobs at this point!

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    1. You do! And so many women do. I am in awe of all of you who are forced to wear pants to work. :)

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  10. Love this post! Really funny, which is necessary in all this meanness.

    I am a high school English teacher and I think that being a teacher (as a commenter above said) is one way to make it work. I have vacations off, I get home before 5 and I can work my butt off at work to get all my grading and planning done so that I don't have to work too much at home. I don't have to travel for work and I have a pool of baby sitters begging for a gig.

    I am lucky that I can choose to work and be a mom and I am not killing myself. I am also lucky that I have to work financially and I also enjoy working. I don't know if I could be this happy in any other field.

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    1. Thank you! I feel like humor is the only thing I can bring to the table in this particular discussion. And dude, I hear teachers have the hardest jobs ever (aside from being, obviously, one of the most crucial). I'm so glad you love it.

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  11. I think one of the hardest parts of "having it all" is the projections of other people onto what your "all" should be. No mother-in-law, I don't cook a feast for your son every night. He's a grown-ass man and cooked for himself long before he met me. He won't starve. Just let me enjoy my Lean Cuisine in peace. And I couldn't tell you the last time I vacuumed, but unless you're rolling on the carpet, why do you care? I have completely come to terms with the fact that I won't ever have it all together at one time, but who really needs it "all" all the time?

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    1. Truth. My carpet is the same color as breadcrumbs and desiccated pad thai noodles for a reason.

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  12. I think "having it all" needs to be defined as what makes one feel happy and satisfied with their life and decisions. To let others dictate what we should or should not want is never good. I have never been the kind of person who needed a "successful" career (as defined by others). I am very happy in my pseudo-career as an elementary art teacher. When I had my baby, I was grateful that I could become a part-time art teacher, and this makes me very happy. I've never had any aspiration to be a "perfect" housewife, so that pressure is off as well. I think it's important to BE HAPPY FOR YOURSELF.

    I would also like to add that motherhood has made me stupid. I'm not kidding. Thank God I got my Masters degree prior to having a baby, because it seriously takes insane amounts of time and brainpower just to compose one lousy comment in response to a hot-topic post. I blame the lack of sleep and strict diet of peanut M&Ms and lactation cookies.

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    1. You and me both, girl. See how I couldn't even finish a post properly? And I completely agree with your entire first paragraph.

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  13. My hubby and I are just starting to toss around the idea of children, so this kind of topic has been very much in the front of my mind lately.

    I feel like this is an issue that does not have just one answer, and that there perhaps our efforts would be better served elsewhere. i.e., We have made some incredible progress as women. How about we look at providing men with the same treatment as father's in the workplace, that seem to be granted automatically to women.

    I was excited recently to attend a women's mentoring evening focusing on work-life balance, but each speaker seemed to echo Sandberg and say that we cannot be triumphant as working mothers without remaining in our current work positions and continuing an upward trend, and stepping down to juggle the two more successfully is shameful.(Not in those words, but that's the gist)

    Shouldn't we support one another in the choices we make as women? i.e. Cheer for the "stay at home mom" who can work freelance to still feel connected to the outside world? Applaud the woman woman who chooses not to have children at all, rather than question her priorities?

    PS. Una, I very much enjoy reading your humorous takes on "life", including motherhood and non-motherhood topics. Keep it coming!

    -Jordan

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    1. Thanks, Jordan! And yes--we SHOULD all support each other in our choices. This is a much larger topic for a much more firebrand-y blog post, but I think the very fact that our current social and cultural set-up makes it difficult to have everything we want, we're made to feel as if our choice/path defines us, and that we are therefore at odds with anyone who's made a different choice or taken a different path. The media obsession with pitting women against each other is a huge factor, and seems to be succeeding in focusing our anger and angst at each other instead of at the society we live in. If we all stopped buying into it, maybe things would change.

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  14. My biggest problem with "having it all" (other than the non-definition of "it") is that men keep being left out of the conversation. And not just out of the who's-going-to-stay-at-home conversation, but the whole work-life balance conversation. There are so many professions that value employees based on the number of hours the employee sits at his/her desk - not the quality of work performed during those hours. As long as young men and women continue to take jobs and work 70 hours/week to get ahead, when women take maternity leave they will always be left behind. After they're left behind, it will always make more financial sense for the woman to stay home and the man to keep working (talking male-female couples because they comprise most of this debate though certainly not all) because he didn't take 6-12 weeks off and lose money and seniority and reliability and all the other stupid things that women lose when they take leave. I want mandatory paid new-parent leave. Not maternity, not paternity, for ALL new parents. I want employers to not lose faith that an employee will perform well when an employee takes leave for a new child (or, really, ANY fmla leave). Taking leave shouldn't destroy a career or chances for future advancement. Work-life balance should be promoted for all people, not just parents. Many non-parents seem frustrated that co-workers with kids are given much more leeway to leave work for a t-ball game or parent-teacher conferences or a sick kid, while those without kids get grief for working at home for a day with their own highly-contagious strep throat. Anyone who wants to take an hour after work to play softball, learn to paint, train for a marathon, garden, go to a kid's recital, or WHATEVER should be allowed to leave and come back without getting crap about it. As long as work gets done, employees should not be penalized for having a life.

    It's dumb that people assumed you stopped working. It's dumb that people assume that work must be done in an office from 9-5. It's dumb that, although our mothers and grandmothers fought their asses off to give you and me and Ms. Slaughter and everybody else the opportunity to choose to stay at home, that men don't generally have that option and that the choice to stay home is only ever spoken about in terms of women. It's dumb that "scandals" like this one keep dividing and distracting women who have to fight over having it all and whether women who don't breast feed for 3 years are abusing their children or whether women who do breast feed for 3 years are abusing their children. The "mommy wars" (because all women, mothers or not, are just bigger mean girls amiright?) keep everybody from saying, "hey, we all want to do our very best for our families and ourselves. Let's all assume that everybody is doing the best they can under their circumstances. Let's find a way to make everybody's life, no matter their circumstances, a bit easier and better."

    Oof. Sorry. Long. Probably nonsensical. So it goes, I guess.

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  15. I think what you've proven here, Una, is that you CAN have it all--as long as "all" does not include sleep.

    :)

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  16. Laurel3:06 PM

    As a 9-5 mother, it took me approximately 11 visits to the "pumphouse" at my office to get through Madame Slaughter's treatise. This woman reminds me of Verity from the Wife Swap episode of the Simpsons (http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Homer_Simpson,_This_Is_Your_Wife). Really I think she is just arguing for a 40 hour work week, but didn't we kind of settle this a few hundred years ago? I liked the part in the article about expecting a glittering career from michelle obama after the girls go to college and peaking later in life. It made me feel better about not having a really fancy job now, because you know, I'm investing in my family, not because hiring managers have failed to see my glittering potential. So you see, we have time.

    The bigger question is -- where are these 70,000 words of yours Ms. Curmugeon?

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  17. Think moms have it hard? (They do) Try being a dad and not going back to work. I suppose we don't have a legion of masculists mad at us for betraying them...because, whatever, one less dude to compete with. It's just WEIRD.

    So, yeah, I guess however weird it is for a dad not to go back to work, I know we don't judge each other the same way. The worst I get is a sort of quizzical and then glazed-over expression, one that says "please for the love of God don't start talking to me about diapers or poop. We're dudes, let's keep it to sports and cage-fighting."

    Do I want it all? Not really. As long as my daughter continues to smile at me when I get her out of bed, and I get to play Mass Effect every once in a while, and pen sappy or funny things about her during my free time, the other dads and their 2-hour commutes can bite me. I feel pretty fine doing what I'm doing as well as I can, and letting other things slide.

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  18. Having it all.

    I don't believe anyone does.

    Especially people who think they do.

    I think they need to ask those around them.

    I know that my children feel any time on the computer on my part is too much time.

    They say it.

    Even if I come back with a reality check of "I was only on 30 minutes." They say, "seems a lot longer."

    So, yeah: having it all?

    Depends on whom you ask.

    LOVED THIS, Una.

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  19. GOOD FOR YOU!

    I have been married now for just over a year, and though we must wait until I graduate next spring to start thinking about kids, I have always, ALWAYS, known that I would be a stay-at-home mommy. My mom was, and it allowed me to have a wonderful childhood. So many people nowadays have that vision of career, career, career, and if kids come, so be it, they'll pay someone to watch them while they still focus on their career. This sounds about as appealing to me as eating my dog's poop does (unless, of course, that career is being an Oscar-winning actress, and in that case, sign me up!).

    Even though I don't have any kids yet, so many people have already pressured me about the decision, mainly my mother-in-law, who has somehow gotten the idea that I have "accepted reality" and that I know I'll have to be a working mom, which is soooooo not true. If I have to work freelance to help keep the family afloat, I will, but I will not work a day job after having kids, at least until they are all in school.

    Anyway, I feel like, quite rapidly it seems, so many women have decided that they want to fight their mothers' tradition of being the homemaker so hard that they judge everyone who makes different choices than they are. I don't look forward to telling people when I am pregnant my plans, because I don't feel like it's something that has to be explained.

    That said, good for you, being able to be there for your son. You'll definitely be glad you did when he's going off to college and you can remember his first steps, first words, first time riding a bike, etc.

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  20. I've always felt my kids had to come first, because hey, they didn't ask to be born. Now they're grown and I can't say that I regret not pursuing the career everyone else thought I would have. And I can still do that, too, if I decide that's what I want. It is hard to hear "you're too smart to waste yourself staying at home," but I just told myself the people saying that were too dumb to appreciate why I did.

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  21. David7:12 AM

    I think the question “Can I have it all?” is a bad one, not just because the answer is “No” (Come on, really?!! Even Bill Gates can’t have it all. He can’t have me and I’m part of “it all”!!), but because it sets up the same distressing situation as airbrushing models into unobtainable thinness; the expectation of the impossible as normal. The most important lesson I keep learning over and over (as a 50-plus male) is that while I am very privileged, and I can almost literally do anything I want, I can’t do everything I want. Each choice I make closes a door (If it doesn’t actually move you away from something, it ain’t a real choice). And in an ideal world I get to make the choices that work for me, not necessarily for you.

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  22. This makes me think of all the lectures I got in high school when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
    The answer? A good wife and mother. Until I find 'the guy' a linguist or a botanist.

    Oh My God, one would think that I had uttered the most blasphemous thing in history. Even the men just about strangled me for not having this huge grand plan to battle time and irony to balance a family and some 'take the professional world by storm by the time I'm 30' career goal.

    Actually I'm really excited to read the piece now!

    p.s. Your dad is really awesome.

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  23. In my mind, you do have it all! I dream of a job where I don't have to wear pants to work! (And I mean that in a sit on the couch not dance on a pole kind of way. I'd be pretty terrible at the latter.)

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  24. Yes, sigh sigh sigh. Really can't believe it's suuuuch a big deal for women, men... people, to just decide what makes them happy and do it! People who fight each other about choices are people that feel insecure and want the world to reflect it back at them.

    IMO honestly, if at least one parent doesn't stay home with the child till they start kindergarten, it's the child's loss and it's too bad, but life doesn't always allow for perfection. Especially in the States. In Canada, we at least get a year to figure it out.

    Should it be normalized to exhaust yourself to accomplish what you feel needs to be accomplished? I doubt it. Should women or men feel that a career is the primary route to fulfillment and liberation? I don't think so. I think in a truly liberated world, all people would find a way to do what felt good and energizing, not torturous and depleting. Doing what we are good at to contribute and get by and enjoying family, friends, and the beauty and wonder of the world seems like a better goal to me.

    I think it's also too bad that women feel "unliberated" if they want to stay home or don't give a SHITE about careers. I never had a career to begin with because work was merely something I had to do to pay to live. Life outside of work was always much more important to me. I've organized my life in a way that we can live off one income so I can concentrate on my son. That's what I wanted to do. It's full time for 5 years, and then he will go to school and I will find a new way to engage myself. I consider myself extremely liberated, lucky and focused.

    Liberation is choice. Liberation is empathy. Liberation is generosity of spirit toward yourself and others.

    Children are important little people that need their parents to show them how to live. If you feel your child is learning a good way to live from you, you are doing a great job. That's what I think.

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  25. I love this. I think we need to be wary of the entire concept of 'having it all' - it's a meaningless media construct, possibly dreamed up by Cosmo or Shirley Conran in the 70s (don't quote me on that though). Who the fuck has it all? (Apart from Gwyneth?) The problem is, because we live in a media obsessed society, women run in circles trying to meet external expectations that have little to do with their own desires, and we need to stop doing that RIGHT NOW.

    Personally, I think the world is too skewed towards 'work' in the literal sense of being present in an office every day. The culture of work is fetishized and lauded (I'm looking at YOU, MELANIE GRIFFITH) but however much you love it, it will never really love you back. Going to work is great, but it really does take a big chunk out of your day, which could be spent doing something more fun. You don't need to have kids to feel like you're wasting your time at work. In my old job I spent approximately 4.5 hours a day pretending to do things and wandering around with a piece of paper looking important. Then I would go crazy doing all the things I neede/wanted to do in the small amount of time I had left. Stupid.

    Now I've quit my job to go freelance, I know that I can be so much more productive in a shorter space of time working from home - and I get to spend lots of time with my son, too - hurrah! Also, we all need to be more like Duckie. Actually, you know what - Duckie for President! With free childcare for all, flexible working hours, legalized gay marriage and compulsory spontaneous dancing in record stores. His campaign slogan: DO I OH-FEND?

    Anyway, I'll stop waffling. It's a great post - you are my favourite blogger.

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  26. Having it all. I don't believe anyone does. Especially people who think they do.

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  27. I feel silly being commenter #42, since no one reads past the first ten, but I whole-heartedly +1 (is that still a thing?) your post, and the difficulty in even defining what "it all" is, let along having it. In the past six months (since I became a mother to twins, stayed home with them for 15 weeks, then went back to work full-time, then started working part-time as a contractor over the summer), I've explored a lot of what "it" is. Ideally, my "it" would be working part-time out of the house. I need time away from my children so that I can better enjoy them and focus on them when I am home. I need childcare I can trust and afford. I need healthcare.

    Unfortunately, in order to get the health insurance, I have to work full-time, so I can't really afford the childcare. And so my dreams of contracting (equivalent to free-lancing, in SLP world) on my own schedule aren't going to materialize. And I will have to feel guilty about not being home with my children as much as I want to be. I waffle about wanting to work vs. wishing my husband made enough that I could stay home. For me "it" will probably never quite get pinned down, and we'll always be constrained by pesky things like money, health insurance, and child care. And dream of countries like Sweden, where at least the 2nd and 3rd are less of an issue.

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    Replies
    1. annamirl4:48 PM

      I could probably ask this anyone on this post, but what about your husband? Why is it always the woman feeling guilty leaving her kids too long alone, and always the woman trying to sort life, work family balance out? Why doesnt the guy stay home for a change? Or at least, have it discussed as an equally valid option? (and I guess it's often cAuse the guys earns more, but: that will never change if the guy never has to make those choices - or consider feeling guilty himself!!!)

      Delete
  28. Anonymous1:57 PM

    If you are simply happy with your life, isn't THAT having it all? It's about balance. To personally give all departments of our lives 100% is not possible, there simply are not enough hours in the day. But if we can learn to balance our lives to what makes us HAPPY, then yes, we CAN have it all, because we are HAPPY.

    I like what I do, but I dont like the environment. However my job affords me more time with my kids because I have great hours. I could find a new job with a better environment, but it would be hard to find great hours. So, in a few years, the youngest will fly the nest and I will be free to shift more time to my career.

    To me, its not a sacrifice, it's balance. And I am happy with "having it all"!

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  29. I am so late in reading this but I had to reply.

    The whole point of feminism (for me) is we have the right to choose whatever life that makes us happy.

    We also have to remember that we have to support each other no matter the choices. The ones that don't support you are just annoyed you are choosing your own life for yourself instead of going with societal pressures of working, having a family, and having a great marriage.

    I am a firm believer that if ONE thing goes your way in life the rest naturally falls in it's place. If you can just master one thing, you have it made baby.

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  30. I read through the comments and I think I have a perspective that others might not. My kids are big now - 12 and 14. When they were little, I stayed at home with them. It was really hard, and I'm glad I did it. When they became school aged, I started working freelance. It was still hard. Even though they may be physically out of your house, you still parent them. But, I'm glad they did it. About a year ago, I opened a business. I work 10 hours a day away from home. And yes, even tweens still need to be parented. So, it is really hard. But, I'm glad I am doing it.
    Here's the part that no one will like: I have never had it all. At any given period something was left wanting - my fulfillment, by bank account, time for myself, and currently sometimes my children who really want me to themselves.
    You may or may not agree, but I think you can't have it all. Life is sticky, difficult and seldom cooperates with our grand plans. Just like our kids.
    Best of luck, Una, figuring it out. It won't be easy, but I know you'll be glad you did whatever you decide to do.

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  31. annamirl12:55 PM

    sorry, I didn't read all the posts above, but what really, REALLY pisses me off, is that it seems to be a question for WOMEN only. I do think you cannot have it all, but that does not mean, you can't have kids and a career, because maybe, just maybe, the guy could watch the kids, too? I think the lack of inclusion of asking the guys that very same question sets feminism back, not the "not having it all" debate. I want to believe that I can have a career and kids, if I want to, but I know that then my partner will be the one spending more time with them. so no, I won't have it all, but I want a choice, and the sacrifices that need to be made need to be made by the couple, not the woman who bears the child. If you (and everyone discussing this) would include the other half of the couple (if there is one, granted), the debate would be less heated, less about choices and more about who wants what and who does what.
    I do think that the "have it all" has put women under pressure, but why not the guys as well? they should feel just as much pressure wanting kids and a career, and usually (and sadly, also in your column) they don't even show up as a factor or possibility. I don't say at all that women should want it all, but that both parties involved need to make THE SAME choice, and should be asked THE SAME question.

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  32. I just want to say that I enjoyed the post & all of the comments; you have some smart readers! With a 9-month old & working in an office, I too battle with home/work balance. I'll keep trying to do the things that are important to me & let the rest lie by the wayside. What else can you do? For me trying to have it all means giving up what society tells me I need....

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  33. I've been on both sides of this, I was a working, single mom for 8 years and got the oh-my-how-in-the-world-is-your-child-surviving-while-you-are-at-work look from some and now am married and staying at home with all of our kids. I have to say, to be honest, I feel much less judged and more comfortable in society as a stay at home mom than I did as a working mom.

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  34. Anonymous5:21 PM

    When they got HEINTZ, you know you're fucked.
    When they got WATT, foregetabouttit.
    But when they got GROSS- ROSEN- BERRIRO - SCHAR- JONES- MITT.
    What the fuck you thinking?
    They got " NIKE".
    DIRLNES 11.

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  35. I struggle with this too--I want to be the perfect mom who bakes things and has the time, energy,and patience to take my kids out to explore nature and do all those awesome things...but one, we can't afford for me not to work and two, honestly, I'd go crazy watching my kids all day. I think it's important to do whatever you WANT to do and not fricking worry about what other people think.

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