Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Having it All

I just came across an article about how women can't "have it all." I won't link to it, partly because I didn't bother to finish reading it & partly because what was said specifically in that article isn't the point of this post. I have multiple issues with the "Can women have it all" debate.

1. Why is it always women? Why is the debate never "Can parents have it all?" It is always specific to women. Society doesn't care if a man has kids & a career, but boy does it care if a woman does. Nobody accuses a man of not caring about his family if he works 40+ hours a week. In fact, a father who works hard outside of the home is seen as a good provider, a good husband, a good father. Even if he almost never sees his kids, society looks at him as a good parent, because he is doing what he "is supposed" to be doing & providing financial support for his family. However, a mother who works 40+ hours a week is seen as a negligent parent. She is called selfish and told that obviously her career means more to her than her family does. She is not doing what she "is supposed" to do, because women are "supposed" to leave the financial stability to the man & handle everything else themselves. The mother's responsibilities include raising the children, cleaning the house, cooking the meals, going to PTA meetings, driving the kids to their activities, and running errands. If that is not fulfilling enough, she may be encouraged to do volunteer work (especially at her children's school) or (if she needs something non-child related) join a book club. However, suggest that she get even a part-time job, and somebody will call you out as the devil you clearly are, for how dare you suggest that a woman needs anything other than her family & activities related to that family to make her fulfilled & thoroughly. blissfully happy! I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not. I have seen moms turn on each other because one mentioned she was considering getting a job. Women have been in the workforce for decades. Moms have been in the workforce for decades. Plenty of people grew up with a working mother and, not only survived, but turned out to be well-adjusted, non-homicidal, caring, contributing members of society. Yet, there is still this ridiculous stigma attached to being a working mom, this archaic idea that you can't possibly be a decent mother if you also have a job (or any kind of life outside your children & husband).


2. Having it all doesn't mean the same for everyone. To some women, it means having a family & a high-powered career. That is what most people mean when they say you can't have it all. However, not everyone wants a high-powered career. Some of us have no desire to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. For some of us, having it all means having a family and owning a small family business. For some, it means having a family & having a part-time job that allows us to get out of the house & socialize with other adults. For some, it means having a family and working a regular 9-5 job. Not every woman wants a high-powered government job or to be CEO. Some of us have other aspirations in life. So, to only use the example of a career like that when speaking of a fulfilling career and whether or not you can have a fulfilling career & spend time with your family is limited in its view and totally discounts many women's ideas of "having it all."

3. Why the hell are we so big on extremes? Feminism is not about every woman being able to be a CEO or working for the government. It is supposed to be about gender equality. Gender equality is about men & women being able to choose for themselves what they want to do with their lives. It's about the opportunities to reach your dreams not being based on whether or not you have a penis. It's about women getting paid just as much as men for doing the same work. It's about fathers being able to choose to stay home with the kids without being looked down upon by the rest of society. It is about mothers being able to choose to work without being looked down upon by the rest of society. It is about women being able to choose not to have kids without being looked down upon. It's about equality for both men & women.

This really annoys me. I am so sick of reading articles by women who had their "dream job" & had to give it up, choosing instead a career that required less than 80 hours a week or didn't mean living in a different state than their kids so that they could be a better mom, and then decided to tell all other women that "You can't have it all." Why can't we? Because you couldn't? What if my definition of having it all doesn't involve a job that requires me to live hundreds of miles away from my teenagers? What if my definition of having it all doesn't include a job that has me working 80+ hours every week? What if my definition of having it all doesn't include a job that has me travelling, sans family, 40 weeks out of the year? Why is it that nobody seems to notice that the women telling us that we can't have it all are the ones that want jobs with insane hours & requirements? It is not the ones with normal jobs. It's not the ones who own small family businesses where the kids help out. It's not the ones working from home.

Can you have it all? I guess that depends on what having it all means to you. If you are the kind of person that wants to conquer the world, maybe not. I'm not saying dream small. I'm simply saying decide what it is you really want, and then figure out how a family would fit in. Having kids is a job. It is a responsibility. It will require some amount of sacrifice to give birth & raise them. How much sacrifice depends on you, your priorities, your circumstances, your partner, etc. So, yeah, I do believe that we can have it all.