On Having It All

wonderI consider myself part of the first generation of women encouraged expected to work outside of the home, to balance a career and family, to wallow in the joy of having-it-all.

When I was born in 1962, less than one-fourth of mothers with children under 18 were part of the labor force. By the time my children were born in the early nineties, three-fourths of the same group worked outside the home. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

I am grateful to have come of age during this time of growing equality for women, but more than thirty years later, I see we’re still working out some kinks in this having-it-all thing.

For most of us working girls, the full-time job didn’t come with a full-time nanny, housekeeper, tutor, chef, and chauffeur. So not only did we get to have it all, we got to do it all.

The soundtrack to our hectic lives included the annoying refrain of this perfume jingle from 1980 (the year I graduated from high school) ~ “I can bring home the bacon. Fry it up in a pan. And never, ever let him forget he’s a man. ‘Cause I’m a woman!” 

Get real. Someone should have told us that nobody can consistently work all day, cook and clean all evening, raise the children, and not pass out long before reminding someone of his manhood.

The truth is that for nearly two decades of my life, I felt a soul-crushing, heart-wrenching lack of time and energy. The daily pull between the demands at home and the demands at work often left me feeling inadequate at both. It was hardly a feeling of empowerment.

Here’s the irony. Now that I’m retired and my children are grown, I have nothing but blessed time to pursue my heart’s desire and dote on a home that doesn’t get messy. Maybe that’s the reward for all those years of running around like a crazy person, but it seems tragically imbalanced.

It saddens me to think of the current generation of young women following in our frantic footsteps. I think they deserve a little honesty from those of us who marched before them.

May I offer some caveats to the joy of having-it-all?

~ We can have it all, but we don’t have to want it all.

~ We can have it all, just not all at the same time.

~ We can have it all, but we cannot possibly do it all. (Tweet it. Teach it. Preach it. Tattoo it.)

~ We can make choices that work for us, yet honor different choices.

~ We must let go of other people’s notions of what a woman’s life should look like.

~ We are responsible for our own choices and must consciously craft a life we love.

~ We must remain aware of the messages we are sending about women to the little girls (and boys) in our lives.

“Having it all is the worst. No matter how much we all have and how grateful we are for what we have, no one has it all, because we make tradeoffs every single day, every single minute.” ~Sheryl Sandberg

Think On These Things ~ Alicia

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