Our table of 7 was about to start the first course of dinner hosted at a private club, when a tall, fair-haired man asked “Where’s your husband?!”.
It was very kind of this gent to be concerned about not starting to eat until everyone was seated. I like that kind of consideration. It was clear however that this man was fishing for information in a rather obtuse, ignorant way. Just as clearly as there was no Mr. ANDSHELAUGHS joining us for dinner.
Now, I could have answered in any number of ways, like; I’m not married, or He’s dead, or Which one, the good-looking one, or the rich one? Instead, in my very droll fashion I looked at him very seriously and said, “I’m sure my second husband is waiting for me at our villa in France.”, and then I started my meal without so much as a hint that I was pulling his very arrogant leg.
You see, this man expressed his disapproval for me not having a husband as if I were missing a limb or had perhaps arrived at the event sans trousers. Whatever the case, he felt that I was not a successful woman because I did not come with a partner. I, in his opinion, did not, “Have it All.” I’m sure that his wife would have gladly given him up if he weren’t loaded to the gills. I’m sure without him or his vulgar jokes his wife still would have felt content, as if she had it ‘ALL’.
So my dear readers, that brings us to the wonderful idea of a woman, “having it all’. Hmmm. All? What is all? It has come to mean a great career, a fabulous husband, over-achieving children and a list the length of your arm of material possessions. All. Poor me. I guess I don’t have it all. I love my job, but do I have a career that’s taken off like a meteorite? No. Instead I wiggled out a niche for myself in my area of expertise that allowed flexibility and a supportive working environment for a single working mother. My husband went the way of my 28″ waist many, many years ago, and my material possessions are enough to get by on and then a few extra pretty things.
An article in the July/August issue of The Atlantic with the not-so-shocking title, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” was suggested to me by one of my friends (who, by the standard of the author of this article also doesn’t have it all, despite having a husband, an education, a job and two beautiful children).
The article is written by Anne Marie Slaughter, a previous U.S. State Department worker who writes about the difficulty juggling work in Washington D.C., and her family back home in Princeton, New Jersey. In the article Ms. Slaughter says that she’s writing about her own demographic, “…highly educated, well-off and privileged”. I think privileged is the key here Ms. Slaughter.
If anyone, male or female, chooses a career miles away from their family, and expects to not be bothered at work with parenting issues, not only are they privileged and well-off, they are out of touch with reality. I don’t care to hear the whining, even if it’s written in a well-reputed magazine like the Atlantic. This is a choice you have made. I don’t go around whining because I could have been a great author, wonderful CEO or world’s greatest lover BUT I chose to stay around to watch my kid grow up. Get real.
The article goes on to give a couple of sentences of thoughtfulness to poor souls like myself, ‘single mothers’,and my peers who are less concerned about having it all and more concerned about holding on to what they do have. Wait a minute here. I’m a single mother. You’re darn right I’m worried about holding on to what I do have, but maybe I have it all right here. Did you ever think of that?
Yes, statistically women are underpaid compared to men, and the majority of household responsibility falls on the woman’s shoulders, and life certainly gets tough – just ask my tissue box. But what kind of expectations are we trying to live up to? Expectations set by the rich-getting-richer and losing touch with reality, (oh my god imagine it!) like raising their own kids, owning a single home (shame!), and not getting bonuses that exceed six digits ( gasp!). I’m sorry Ms. Slaughter, but no one on this planet, highly-educated-well-off-and-priviliged as they may be, is worth that much more than anyone else.
The sad part about the perpetuated myth of women being able to have it all is that it has been spoon-fed to generations of women by other women who have been there and know it’s all bullshit. The very people who raise and mentor us from childhood to womanhood are weaving a myth like the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and good old St. Nick. “ALL”, needs to be redefined, and re-programmed into the social mindset of women.
I redefined “ALL” for myself a long time ago, and recently got a great kick in the rear end to look at it again. Despite not coming from a privileged family ( I actually come from a prohibitive family when it comes to personal success and achievement, but I’m saving that for my blog about booze, hookers and therapists), I have a decent education – university and two post-graduate certifications…more to come. I also have a healthy child who not only was athlete of the year, is also an honour student and a highest achiever in some academic subjects. I have a job that is meaningful and pays the bills. Most importantly, I am healthy. I belong to a social club, a sports team, and travel once a year for holidays. That is “ALL” for me, plus some really nice extras.
I go back to the article in The Atlantic and ask myself, “Am I nuts, or are some people out there just really gullible when it comes to setting priorities?” Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges does a great job of deconstructing how we’ve bought into a culture that is taking away our humanity, and even the nature of what it means to be male and female.
I am not a big sympathiser of men’s issues. They don’t give birth, they get paid more than me on average, don’t menstruate or get yeast infections. Men don’t have to wear bras, maxi-pads, or worry about nipples poking through t-shirts. They do, en masse, with very few exceptions, lack the emotional insight that females have, so I’ll call it even.
Men never talk about having it “ALL” because they don’t, and we don’t, as a society, have any expectations of men besides holding down a regular job. They certainly aren’t pressured to maintain the household income by going out to work every day, while getting children off to school, running errands, getting the groceries, do doctor’s appointments, then cook dinner, do homework and get all dolled- up in some kind of sexy-man lingerie so we can take advantage of the poor wee-man-things when we crawl into bed. I realize some men do this, but if the household goes to crap, it’s the woman who gets the hairy eyeball ninety-nine percent of the time.
Our modern, western culture has done one hell of a good job of dividing the sisterhood. Once we recognize that, we’ll be a lot better off. I love this quote from Eva Burrows, “We have to be careful in this era of radical feminism, not to emphasize an equality of the sexes that leads women to imitate men to prove their equality. To be equal does not mean you have to be the same. ”
As soon as women redefine, “ALL”, we will have it. As soon as women stop looking down their noses at one another for staying home with their kids, or not staying home with their kids, we will have it “ALL”. No woman should be uneducated, or struggle to have a roof over her head or not have care for her children.
We owe one another more support. Perhaps it might come at a small cost to ourselves, a bit of time, a few dollars, but it will result in amazing success when it comes to raising children with integrity, wisdom, and a sense of social welfare. If everyone grabs hold and tries to balance the boat, just think about what a happy little trek down the river of life we would have. Perhaps even some more hoochie-coochie ladies and gents.
Just in case you’re wondering, I really don’t care about your judgement, and I really could care less about sharing my table at a social function with a Neanderthal of a man who thinks I’m not whole because my husband isn’t by my side. I will marry a man when being with him makes me a better mother. I will work at a job that allows me to truly support my family, not just financially. I don’t care that I traded some career success to be around when my kid has had a fever, or a special event at school.
At the end of the day, my “All” is that I lived with integrity (and a good share of mischief). I do have it “ALL”, and I’m not buying any more of what “THEY” think I should have.