We Can’t Have it All…

Posted on | September 21, 2010 | 1 Comment

When I was younger, I thought that women’s liberation was all about, you know, having it all… whatever “all of it” there was. I thought it meant that I could live in the penthouse apartment in New York City and be a high-powered lawyer or doctor or businesswoman. I thought it meant that I could have the 2.5 kids, and the white picket fence in the country at the same time. I thought it meant I could be everything to everyone at all times.

The fatal flaw in thinking we can “have it all” doesn’t spring from some idea that somehow we are not as equipped as men. Instead, it springs from the fact that our idea of “having it all” is different from most of the men I know. When I thought about having it all, I thought alternatively about baking cookies for my kids to take to school and running for Senate. I thought about videotaping soccer games and performing open heart surgery. But I never thought about how those two would mesh. I never thought about the fact that if I were a politician, the cookies would probably have to be baked at midnight, long after the kids were asleep. And if I were a world-renowned surgeon, I’d have to leave at half-time and have someone else tape little one’s first goal.

I guess I didn’t really process the fact that men never had it all. Sure, they had a family and a career, but they didn’t have the same family that women did. That’s not to say they loved their children any less, but let’s face it… spending every minute of every day with your children until they are five? That’s different from seeing them for an hour in the morning before work and two hours in the evening before bed.

As a woman, as a mother, I want to be there for everything. I want to be the one my son turns to when he is hurt or scared or happy. I want to be there for every fall… every tear… every new milestone. And I can’t be. Does it make me less of a mother because I work? Not at all. But it makes me a different kind of mother… one I wasn’t ever really schooled on how to be. My mother stayed at home. When we got off the school bus, she was there. When we were out of school for the summer… she was there. She was always there.

I am not always there for my son.

Being a lawyer is rewarding in different ways. I feel empowered as a woman. I feel intelligent and strong and capable and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. And I’m glad and proud of the women who went before me to make this lifestyle possible. But are there times when I would trade in every bit of it for just. one. more. hour. with my son? Abso-effing-lutely.

Because the reality is, we can not have everything we want. We can have our family and our career, but we can not have the identical home lives our mothers or grandmothers had while working the identical hours our fathers or grandfathers worked. It’s not possible. It’s not feasible. It’s not realistic in any way. At all. And if you think I’m kidding, try it on for size. It can’t. be. done.

And you know what? It shouldn’t be done. Because if we try to live both lives simultaneously we will certainly go mad. We can not be two places at once and by trying to be, We ultimately jeopardize both halves of the whole. We do a disservice by teaching little girls that they can have it all without explaining what that means.

Women’s liberation is not about having it all… it’s about having a choice. What life do you choose? At the end of the day, will you be June or Ward Cleaver? Your children will love you with ferocity and you will love them back with every ounce of your heart… no matter the choice. But make no mistake, it is a choice. And it’s a hard one.

When you make your choice, for whatever reasons… financial, personal, intellectual… embrace it. Because the problem comes when you choose Ward and strive for June… or vice versa. We can not have it all… not the way they make you think you can when you’re young. I know, because I’ve tried. I’ve been going out of my mind trying to figure out how to work Ward-like hours while maintaining a June-like house. I’ve been trying to come home at 5:30 and cook a three hour meal in thirty minutes. And I’ve been totally frazzled and failing at BOTH jobs. I can’t have everything, I can only have, well… what I have. 

We can only be one or the other.

And you know what? There’s not one single thing wrong with that.


One Response to “We Can’t Have it All…”

  1. - Law-Momma.com
    April 24th, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

    […] while back, I wrote a post about how women can’t have it all.  I wrote about how it’s impossible to juggle and […]

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