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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dangerous

A little over a week ago, someone read and commented on one of The Having It All Project's posts, saying that she found the post "dangerous." She made claims in her comment that were factually incorrect, so I took the comment down. Since then, she has written a blog post about her views and invited me to comment on it. You can read her post, and see my comment in response below. I wrote so much that I felt I should publish it here, too. She wants to keep the dialogue going, so feel free to comment here or on her site. Here was my response.

I first want to say that you seem to have read just one of the many (over 30) perspectives I’ve posted in The Having It All Project. You might find more in common with Gina, or Rachel, than Jeannette. One of the goals of the Project is to present a variety of viewpoints for how people are managing their lives. Not everything will resonate for everyone.

I’m going to try to respond to many of the thoughts you’ve posted here, as there is a lot to cover. As I said on my site, I don’t disagree with all of your points, but I do not agree with all of them either. Starting from the top…

I agree, I worry about how women have so many expectations placed upon them. But, I think things are evolving, and men have many of the same expectations placed on them too. For many, if not the majority of families, both parents are working. So while you might think it’s dangerous or an unsustainable model, most families don’t have a choice either way. Families, both men and women, need to navigate how to balance work and family life, as well as housework work, and time for friends, hobbies and self care.

Katrina Alcorn’s book is on my nightstand right now, and I’m planning to read it next. The book summary says she also “offers readers a vision for a healthier, happier and more productive way to work and live.” While I haven’t read it yet, it does seem like work is still part of her conclusion, as I said above, it usually *has* to be.

I still would like you to point me to the research that explicitly says being a working mother leads to mental health issues. I haven’t read everything on your research list, but have read and seen some of it, and I don’t think the complete list of research you cite would have led to the same conclusion (particularly the MAKERS documentary, which is filled with women who worked, parented and initiated social change). Yes, some women cope with mental health issues, but so do many women who don’t work at all.

I also disagree that it’s only women who are career-driven, thin and beautiful soccer moms can claim that they’re successful. Since you use yourself as an example, I’m going to use myself too. I am incredibly successful. I’m married to a great guy who helps around the house, with two wonderful children, a fantastic career that gets better every year, a house, two cars, camps and vacations. As my kids have gotten older, I’ve found more time for my hobbies and exercise, and am working on my self. Now, all of that sounds like a horrible brag, which is probably why more women don’t say all that out loud and claim themselves as successes, but I have yet to meet a woman who isn’t doing all she can for the betterment of herself and her family, and that’s *my* definition of success.

The blogosphere is FILLED with women who are taking apart the hard parts of parenting and not just glamorizing it all. My friend Julie writes a blog called “Next Life, No Kids” about how she’d do it all differently next time. Over 100,000 people–no, that’s not a typo–shared Kveller.com’s “We Need to Quit Telling Lies on Facebook” and started a movement to share the less glowing moments of parenting. And Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress is completely amazing in her advocacy for women’s health and advancement. The Internet is an incredible medium for finding support when you need it, and given the lack of support in families and communities as you mention, I think we’re fortunate to have access to so many resources that can be accessed easily and on your own terms.

Yes, the adjustment to parenting is difficult, and I agree that it would be wonderful if there were more societal supports in place, both in terms of communities and extended family. When my children were born, I was largely on my own as both my parents and in-laws were still in the work force themselves. I’m not sure women in Bangladesh have it all that much better than we do though–40 days isn’t very long either–and what kind of work life balance do they return to after those 40 days are up?

Yes, I agree, we need to keep talking about these things and I’m sorry Jeannette’s post made you feel “threatened.” I find posts like hers inspiring. Your research also refers to Deborah Spar’s new book, which I have yet to read, but I am very turned off by the idea that just because it’s hard to be wonder women, we shouldn’t even try. I am working and parenting and all the rest, and I want to succeed at all of them to the best levels that I can. What’s the alternative? Just to settle for mediocrity? My aim isn’t perfection, and no one’s should be, but I don’t think aiming for better is really all that bad. I think most people are only aiming for better.

You end your post saying no one can understand like other mothers–and I have found lots of other mothers who have supported me in my journey–but I don’t think you would count yourself among them. Calling another mother out as dangerous just isn’t helpful. Both Jeannette and I are living our admittedly very busy lives, but are doing so successfully. I sincerely hope your last sentence, that you don’t have “enough of any one thing that matters,” isn’t true. I hope you have enough money in your life to adequately feed, clothe and shelter your family, and to give back to your community on occasion. I hope you have enough health to enjoy your children and the world around you. I hope you have enough support from your spouse, family and friends. And I hope you have plenty of love, because without that, none of the rest of it is worthwhile. I don’t think anyone truly has it all, but most of us probably do have more than enough.

7 comments:

  1. Well said!! And of course I agree 1000%! xo

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  2. Well done! The Having It All project, to me, is about how I feel like I have it all ALREADY. Not that I NEED to have all the things all the time! I'm happy, comfortable and satisfied with where life has taken me. I have enough.

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  3. My favorite line and one of the reasons I enjoy your writing is this: "Since you use yourself as an example, I’m going to use myself too. I am incredibly successful."

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    1. Thanks Alison! I felt a bit embarrassed saying that, but I felt like it needed to be said!

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    2. It felt so good to read that! It's true and it's true for just about all of us...but we just don't hear it and say it enough!

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  4. Excellent response!

    I think that the problem is in the rhetoric of "it all." No one can literally have "it all" because life is ALWAYS (for anyone--man or woman, kids or no kids) about choices, and making one choice ultimately means not making another. But, to me, the Having it All Project and the concept of having "it all" in general is about having all of what makes your own life fulfilled.

    It means not letting any parts of our identities wither in the face of conflicting responsibilities, even if we do have to shift where our focus is for a while. Having it all is not a challenge to be a superwoman; it is a challenge to accept life's twists and turns with purpose and intention (that takes many forms, as your series demonstrates) rather than automatic tradition and (often) regret.

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