One of the greatest blessings I have had in my life was to know many women we would call senior citizens, some were family members like my beloved Granny and others were friends I made on my own. For some reason even as a child I enjoyed sitting around listening to older women talk, I suspect that was the universe preparing me for the fact that by the time I was really a grown woman, all these wonderful women would no longer be earth side. The universe made sure I got a heavy dose of elder wisdom in my late teens to mid-twenties and thankfully so much of what these women shared with me has stayed with me.
Another blessing granted most days I don’t see it as a blessing is losing my mom early in life; after all I would rather have her here. Yet between the many women who helped raise me and the death of my mother, I know that our time on this rock is short. Sure, we may get 70-90 years but in the grand scheme of things, our time here is just a blip. It was with that knowledge in my early 30’s that I changed my life plan not long after my mom’s death from reaching arbitrary goals on a list that I thought I had to accomplish to focusing on the shit that really matters to me. In the end my mom’s professional choices and life didn’t matter to me once she was gone but the moments and times we shared together are the memories I hold tenderly and share with my own kids. Funny thing is when we talk about my mom, her professional life never comes up.
When I came across The Atlantic piece on “Having it all” that is making the rounds, I almost skipped it, but I am glad that I read it. First off, how many times do we have to hear privileged women complaining that they can’t/don’t have it all? Don’t get me wrong, as a mom who has a job outside of the home in addition to the one in the house, I know it’s a constant juggling act. We do need a culture that is more attuned to modern day living and that doesn’t assume there is an adult at home that can grab the kids from school at 2:30pm. Granted the idea of making school days longer to accommodate our work days is scary to me. How about we flip that around…make the work day line up with the school day? After all how many hours at work are wasted in pointless meetings that frankly could be conducted using modern day technology?
What I really want to say though, why are we still searching to have it all? The truth is no one has it all. Not even men who many of us see as having greater flexibility to put their careers first. Spend some time with an old guy who put his career first when he is getting closer to the end of his life and more times than not you will meet a man with grave regrets. A man who realizes being the company man wasn’t worth what he ultimately gave up, connection to his family, friends and the stuff he thought he would eventually make time for. Hell, talk to anyone whose time is limited on this rock and one common theme you will hear is, I wish I would have made time for what was really important. (Most often, what was important was the family) No one ever wishes they had worked more. Death has visited my life more times than anyone at 39 should ever have to bear and I always hear the same thing.
Work is good, it can feed our souls as well as put much needed money in our pockets but rather than living to work, I would rather work to live. I want a world that values that desire, one that allows all parents to be a part of their kids’ lives as much as they desire without being forced to ever choose work over family. If we can ever get our collective heads out of our asses and recognize that work is only one part of living life, I suspect or at least hope that having it all will have value for all of us, not just some of us as it currently stands. That we will have a world that knows having it all is not even feasible but instead balance that allows us all to live well.