Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Hell With It, Let's Go!

I just came across a venn diagram that I love:

And it made me think.  Well, really, I'm always thinking.  Too much, as it were.  Constantly asking myself questions like:

What if... (it doesn't work out, someone gets hurt, something goes wrong, someone says no, no one agrees with me/likes it /understands ...)?
How will this affect my... (kids, relationships, career, family, life, future...) ?
What will my... (family/friends/kids...) think?

I have an alter ego in my head, and she is continually screaming at/to me.

She is alternately my voice of reason and my reason for drinking.

I simply must shut her up.

But I digress.  That venn diagram represents the two parts of me that, more often than not, are at war.

My Heart vs. My Mind

Why, oh why, are they never in sync? And why do I have such trouble saying, "Let's Go!"?
(author's note: this is not about right vs. wrong - big difference!)

If my twenties were all about trying to grow up (accomplished, thank you), and my thirties were all about trying to figure out who I am (again, good to go), then my forties, God willing, will be about becoming comfortable with all I've learned in the past, and just... LIVING.

A week or so ago, my very wise writer friend, Lynn, wrote these words to me:

Does it really matter if you get hurt? or disappointed? or angry? or whatever? Isn't that what life is - that we learn from those things and just make the best of it?

Then I ran into my good friend, Mary Lou, this past weekend and was lamenting another birthday, especially one that starts with a "4," when she said to me...

"Well, Beth, it's better than the alternative."

Wiser words, I tell ya.

So, on this, the eve of my fortieth birthday, I've decided to go ahead and let that loud-mouth, opinionated, do-gooder in my head rule for One. More. Day.  And that's it.   I'm done with her.  This decade I'm going to say, "Let's Go!"

Monday, July 9, 2012

Can We 'Have It All'?

Why Women Still Can't Have It All is an article in the July/August issue of The Atlantic.  The article is written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a women who by all appearances does have it all.  But it got me thinking.  Can we?

I was raised by a woman born in the mid 1940s.  A woman who came of age during the 60s, hearing Gloria Steinam tell her that yes, she could have it all.  I am woman! She cried.  And so did my mom.  Her career choice?  Teaching.  A noble profession.  But, it is interesting to me, because it is one that, especially at that time, was "a woman's job."  I imagine many of her classmates didn't go to college, but instead went from their father's home to their husband's. Mom married right out of college and had two kids in five years.  I, her only daughter, grew up in the 70s and 80s.  And watched her wear that green pin with the white bubble letters: E.R.A. every day. To work, to the grocery store, hell even out to dinner.  If it wasn't on her chest, it was pinned to her purse.  Equal Rights.  It was only fair, wasn't it?

Recently I've read many articles in both the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times about the numbers of women getting their masters and doctorate degrees.  How more women than men are graduating, getting promoted, etc.  So this article came as a surprise.  But I agree with Ms. Slaughter's assessment.  that only certain women among us can truly "have it all."  Those who have everything in place: a nanny or fantastic, reliable sitter, a wonderful spouse who carries 1/2 the load - and sometimes more.

After my oldest son was born, I tried to continue working.  But as I rushed in a few minutes late each morning, with spit-up stains on my blouse and ran out the door as soon as the clock struck 5 so that I could make it home to my baby, I was overlooked.  When I returned from maternity leave, my male counterpart, who'd started in his position the same day I started in mine, was promoted.  I was left behind.  So I gave up the day job and stayed home with my son. I did go back to school and by the time I earned my B.A. in Writing, I was pregnant with my third child.  A girl.  And I began to wonder...will it be any different for her?  I was working part-time as a freelance writer and spending most of my time with my kids.  I wouldn't trade that time for the world.  But now here I am, single, raising three kids mostly on my own, and I've got to work full time.  Something has to give. Sometimes we eat dinner on the run.  Many times I have to ask for help to get the kids to and from their respective practices, games, and activities.  And without my family, specifically my parents, I most certainly would not be able to make it.  Especially during the summer.

But I digress.  Let's define what "having it all" really means.  In my mind, it means really being present for my kids - being the best mom I can be, knowing all their crazy schedules, getting them there (maybe even on time!), knowing their friends, helping them with homework, making dinner, disciplining, raising, loving... AND at the same time, having a fulfilling career... a job I love, that rewards me, fulfills me, challenges me - one where I am making a difference, one where I am successful. Necessary.

Is it possible?  I think so, yes.  Without stress? Uh, no.  For most of us reaching the pinnacle of our career and being a great mom is mutually exclusive.   One of my neighbors is a grade school teacher. We spent a few minutes at the local pool together a few weeks ago and she shared her feelings with me on "having it all" even before I'd read the article.  "I've got the best of both worlds," she smiled, "great job I love during the school year.  And in the summer?  I get to be a stay-at-home's perfect!"

But what about the writers, photographers, financial advisors, government officials, human resources or advertising professionals, scientists or doctors?  Can we all really "have it all"?  I think it depends on our individual definitions of the term.  And the fact that, at least for me, that definition changes as we grow.  If I were asking my 20-year old self, she'd say, Hell Yes!  I've got it all!  But, here I am, weeks away from turning 40, and I realize that my idea of this has grown as I've matured.

Don't get me wrong - I could not be happier with my beautiful kids, my wonderful family and dear friends.  And if I were only speaking of this part of my life, well, I'd have to say, yes, I've pretty much got it all.  No complaints here.

But, I'm talking about career, too.  Because I continue to dream.

The biggest problem, for many working moms, is that our work hours far exceed school hours.  We're on a totally different timetable.  This is 2012, folks!  What worked in 1950 doesn't work anymore.

To wit: My company's work hours are 8:30 to 5:30.  But by 8:30, two of my three kids have already been in school for an hour and a half.  I could have gotten a lot done in those 90 minutes!  Instead, I'm commuting to the office and just beginning my day.  And all three of my kids are finished with their day and home by 3:30.  At 3:30, I still have two more hours of work, and then an hour's drive home (I have to note here that I have reached a point in my career where I am able to work from home 2 days/week, and have shortened my hours just enough to get home at a decent hour).

So let's do something about that.  We change our work hours to coincide with our clients' schedules, right?  At least in my field we do.  We have more clients on the east coast, so we start and end 30 minutes later.  Why not start and end an hour sooner?  If I could work 7:30 - 4:30, I'd be home at a decent hour.  I would be there for my kids.  I would be in the office when they are at school.  It makes perfect sense.

But I digress.  What do you think? Can women "have it all"? How do you define this? And if you are managing to juggle all those balls, what's worked for you?