If you saw the story Kim Lyons (@SocialKimLy) did on work-life balance in the Post-Gazette, you probably noticed the sidebar on the inside, where she asked a number of other working women about “having it all” (h/t to my tweeps @katrinaravioli and @katieB480). Kim asked each of us about having it all. My answer didn’t make it to the main story, so I thought I’d talk about it here.
Here’s the short version of what I told Kim: It depends what you mean by “all”. A person like me, who came up middle class, has a bachelor’s degree, and doesn’t aspire to the corner office has a far different “all” than the Sheryl Sandbergs and Marissa Mayers of the world.
Here are my priorities, pretty much in order:
1. A strong marriage.
2. A loving relationship with my children.
3. A job that I am very good at and for which I am decently rewarded (salary, benefits, a healthy and safe environment, some flexibility).
Do I want my work-home life to balance “perfectly”? That would be nice, and that would mean having something different than what I have now.
At this point (and this is something I clumsily expressed to Kim), my children, at 3, 7, and 9, have reached a level of independence that I treasure. I have been in the same job for six years, and that has its perks. I have a fantastic husband who is supportive, works hard, and does his part around the house and with the children. Is my house spotless? Not even close. Do I have stress regarding money and finances? Yes, yes I do. Am I the most perfect mom in the world? Nope. I certainly yell more than I’d like.
But I have found MY balance. I have learned how to be in my children’s lives and still put in a productive 40 hours at the office. I have accepted my domestic limitations (much to Dan’s chagrin, I’m sure). I pursue writing projects outside of work. If I excel at any one thing in the home arena, it is in the kitchen (well, Dan maybe has another area that he would say I’m not doing too badly in these days). A lot of the time, because I have made getting fresh food a priority, I feed my children and husband pretty darn well. We’re not 100% home-cooked, non-processed foods — because I think that’s unattainable as a WOTHM, but overall, I think the scales tip to fresh, local foods.
Here’s what I would tell to any woman worried about “having it all”. First of all, stop it. I don’t know why (or if) women do this to themselves to a greater extent than men, or if parents are harder on themselves than non-parents. A person needs to focus on herself, her needs, her family’s needs. A person really needs to shut out as much as possible the outside opinions from the Internet or people on the street, or even, sometimes, her extended family and friends (get off Facebook if you need to).
Second of all, have realistic expectations. No one is entitled to a top-notch education, a perfect partner, perfect children (if one wants that), a wonderful job (if one wants that), and fabulous riches. It takes some work (unless your family is independently wealthy; I don’t know what that kind of life looks like). Figure out what you want and what you have to work with. Go get what you need to get what you want.
Lastly, be kind. To yourself, to others. Fill your life with love and positivity. Don’t let other people treat you badly, and don’t do the job for them. Life’s too short.
Do I dream about writing the next great American novel and becoming fabulously rich? You bet I do. And I’m lucky if I manage to pound out a page a day. I’ll be dead before this book gets published, but I don’t care. I labored my kids, and this is my next labor of love. In the meantime, I do pretty well with what I got.
My husband loves me. I have a wonderful extended family, lots of good friends. And my children think I’m pretty okay, too. Really, I have all I need. That’s all I can ask for.
Are you over the idea of having it all? What would you say to someone who asked you about having it all?