Sunday, April 7, 2013

Why women can't have it all ... except for maybe sometimes

I'm having a bit of a "what's the point?" sort of week.

Not, like, what's the point of my existence. (Obviously, someone has to be around to sing "Cinderelly" with Lily on call and yell at the dog to stop barking at the squirrels running across the power lines each and every time he sets his paws outside of the house, prompting dirty looks from my neighbors and, I'm guessing, an elaborate canine assasination plot. Oh yeah, and post pictures of squirrels).

Squirrel Madness!

I know my purpose in life.

I meant that given the fact that I can't seem to find the "off" button on this treadmill I'm on every day, it feels overwhelming to turn up the speed and incline with this noveling business.

Hell, I probably shouldn't even be using any sort of gym metaphors, because I also have a hard time getting there, too.

And yes, I know I should limit the self-defeating thinking. I'm sure mom is very disappointed in my right now for even posing the "What's the point?" question. But you know, sometimes you have to throw open the windows to your brain and air out all those dark little dust bunnies and cobwebby negativity (I can use cleaning metaphors because I did just scrub the kitchen floor. Huzzah! Also, it's finally warm enough hear that we could open up our windows and let those spring breezes waft away our recent pestilence).

So here's where I'm at: Right now I have these two amazing little people that I get to spend my days with. They run me ragged through the morning and when I put them down for an afternoon nap (provided their naps overlap) then I set to work on my freelancing commitments. Then they wake up and it's run, run, run again through dinner, baths and bedtime and then it's 8 o'clock and I'm exhausted and ready to fall asleep, except that there's probably more work to finish up and once that's done there's not always a whole lot of juice left in the old noggin for more creative pursuits. 

Excuses, excuses, excuses. Believe me I know. But, didn't we agree I could whine for just a minute. Please?!

Recently, my old boss* posed a question to various moms about whether it is possible for women to have it all and I meant to respond but never did (given the various reasons stated above) that I hate, hate, hate that question and it's implications. 

Can women have it all? No. No we can't. Whether we're staying at home with our children, pursuing a career with our children in daycare, foregoing children to pursue a career or anything in between there's always going to be a level of sacrifice and guilt associated with whatever choice we're making. 

And this is coming from someone who feels pretty damn close to having it all. I'm blessed to be able to witness my girls' babyhood, my freelance work makes me feel like I'm maintaining at least some professionals skills and is satisfying on some levels, I try to cook dinner most nights, my house isn't a complete disaster (although there are plenty who would probably disagree) and I sneak in time (never enough) to write about what I want to write about. 

But I think all of this busy-ness has limited my ability to make more meaningful relationships with people. I think it sometimes takes a toll on my relationship with Brad (it's not easy to invest in couple time when I'm sitting in front of a screen for a large portion of every evening). There are parts about office life that I miss -- the camaraderie with co-workers, the feelings of accomplishment you get when completing an important project, the affirmations that what you're doing matters**, being a part of something bigger than yourself (well and the two kids, dog and three cats.)

My frustration is really about the question itself. Asking "can women have it all?" seems just another way of implying that we're not working hard enough toward perfection. And if we could just try a little bit harder, we could balance fulfilling professional work; while being an amazing mother; chef who prepares nutritious meals made from locally sourced, organic foodstuffs; legendary house-cleaner; planner of whimsically themed children's birthday parties (complete with handmade invitations and "how did she come up with that?" party favors); and an ever-supportive, always sweet and super-sexy wife.

And every commercial for paper towels, diapers, hair dye and toilet cleanser is designed to demonstrate to you just how to achieve these ridiculous standards of womanliness.

It is, pardon my language, bullshit.

The question shouldn't be "can women have it all?" the question should be "can women be happy with what they have?"

I'm not suggesting that women stop pursuing betterment for themselves and their families  -- certainly having goals to reach I think helps all of us grow. 

What I am saying is that we be allowed to just take a breath and be accepting of the lives we have without looking over our neighbors' fence. 

Here's where I answer the "can women have it all?" question again (I've thought about it some more now).

Women can have it all when they are allowed to make decisions about what's best for themselves and their families outside of the microscope of the rest of society. That means that we have to ignore all the judgmental blather spoken and unspoken and stop participating in judgmental blather ourselves. We're all trying to do the best with what we have. So just shut up and let me be happy about it already.

Wow, that was quite the digression from the original purpose of my post which was to whine about why I'm not writing my novel.

I think I feel like by not writing my novel that I'm letting myself down in a big way. In a way that gives me a lump in my throat. I know it's silly. There are plenty of days (like the last few days) that I feel it's silly to have this dream in light of the way my life is right now. In the history of the world it doesn't matter one way or another whether it's ever finished. 

But yet, every week I read the book reviews in my Entertainment Weekly and imagine what it would be like to read the review of my book. Hopefully, it would be a good experience, because then, on top of the impossible task of finishing it***, editing, rewriting and finding other people who want to read it, edit it again and then publish the thing, is the whole issue of it being good. Like. Good, good. Not just, "aww that was cute" good. You know what I mean. 

Damn, now we're back to outside judgment. And right after I ranted about it. I'm just a big 'ol bowl of contrary today.

I hope that finishing my project will be enough to quiet all my inside voices (well, finishing this project, and then the one I have after it...). 

Anyway, in summary: 

  • Don't engage in self-defeating thinking.  
  • If you do engage in self-defeating thinking, make it very clear that you know it's self-defeating but that sometimes you still need to get it out there anyway.
  • Don't watch daytime television and it's roundup of commercials targeted at housewives.
  • Don't worry about being perfect. Worry about being happy. And maybe, don't worry so much about it, and just be happy. Except, of course, if you're unhappy about where you life is, then pursue ways to make your life happier -- but do it in a vacuum, because pursuing other people's version of happiness won't get you anywhere.
  • If the thought of not doing something gives you a lump in your throat, it's probably a good sign that that something is something you should definitely be doing. Even if it takes you a whole lifetime. 

*He probably would've appreciated it more if I'd written "my former boss." But he knows why I used "old."

**My editing and copy-editing friends will laugh and laugh and laugh at this one.

***To be clear, I know this is not an impossible task. It will be finished. One day. But may I remind you, one final time, that we decided it was OK for me to whine?

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