Friday, March 15, 2013

Can Women Have It All?

I exited the womb with the word FEMINIST stamped on my forehead.  Before I knew what the word meant, before I knew there was a word for it, I always exhibited feminist tendencies.  I just didn’t think it was fair that boys and girls should be treated differently.  I didn’t think it was fair that women should stay at home and do all the housework while men come and go as they please.  I didn’t think it was right that women should put the men’s food on the table, wait for them to finish, and then remove the empty plates.  And it really pissed me off when the men didn’t even compliment the food if it was delicious, but criticized if it wasn’t perfect.  I vowed never to have a marriage like that, and I certainly planned never to raise sons to be that chauvinistic.

Therefore, you can imagine my dismay five years ago when I went on vacation and my children visited their grandmother, to hear my seven year old daughter tell me that she alone had to clean the table after they had all eaten just because she was a girl, while her two brothers and my 12 year old nephew went outside to play.  But how was my mother-in-law to know?  She wasn’t born or raised in this century.  So my husband politely showed her the error of her ways.

As a feminist, I envisioned my adult life as a mother and wife with a demanding and important job.  I knew it was not going to be easy; but easy is for wimps, right.  I wanted to have it all.  I wanted to do it all.  And then I got the chance.

Wife?  Check.  Mother? Check.  Demanding career?  Not quite.  Yes, I had a job.  Yes, it was a stable job.  Yes, it had room for upward mobility….or so I thought.  It started out on the right track, and then management changed; and it all went downhill from there.  I ended up with a boss who was not opposed to showing favoritism and lo and behold, I was not one of the favorites.

When it dawned on me that I was not going to get ahead just by my routine hard work, I decided to play her game.  I got into work earlier and left later than everyone else, except for her of course, because she obviously lived there.  Didn’t matter how early I got there, she was there.  Didn’t matter how late I left, she was still there.   I must have done that for a month tops, because I just could not sustain it.  First, even her favorites were not staying late, and they were still reaping the benefits.  Second, I was never doing anything of great importance.  Third, it was not conducive to my home life.

My poor toddlers were staying up later than usual just to see my face before they went to bed, and my poor, supportive husband had to entertain them during that time.  The only benefit I received was coming home to hot, Antiguan dishes.  Just for those appetizing meals, I would have sacrificed playing the corporate game, but I realized if I proceeded on that course, my children would one day not recognize me.   And after seeing that an unfavored coworker had done the same thing for longer than I without a proper reward, I said, “Screw it!”  I opted to work the 9-5 gig for which I was being paid, continued to take my 1 ½ to 2 hour lunch (I mentioned that it was a good job, right) and get my butt on that 5:10 subway to Yonkers.  At least I knew there were four people looking forward to seeing me, and no amount of raise or promotion could top that.

The next time I tried to do it all was when I worked as a Financial Advisor.  I was working from home.  Super!  I had no boss breathing down my neck.  Awesome!  I was meeting new people every day.  Exciting!  I was a door to door salesperson.  Shit!  The next thing I knew a whole school year passed, and I missed out on too many of the kids’ activities.  That was not going to work for me either.  Plus I got fired because I just couldn’t meet the quota, but that’s neither here nor there.

So one day when I was home watching an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, and there was an African immigrant who was studying for her Master’s, working full time and was the single parent of five, I did not share Oprah’s zest.  As I sat on the couch, I thought to myself, “This lady must be nuts!”  The fact that I was watching Oprah implied that my lazy ass didn’t have a job nor was I working towards a Master’s degree, but, again, that’s neither here nor there.  At least I was still a wife and a mother.  But you are straying from the point.  Stay with me here, people!

I’m not saying that a woman cannot do it all because I failed miserably ……twice.  I’m just saying that no one can sustain being that highly productive in that many capacities.  Has anyone ever heard a man say, “I want to do it all?”  Men do not put too much pressure on themselves.  They don’t typically multitask.  They work.  They are fathers.  They are husbands.  They are not going to try and master everything all at once.  And they have no regrets about it either.

There are only 24 hours in a day, so if I have to be a wife to another adult, a mother to a few children and an employee to a boss who doesn’t give a damn about me, something will suffer.  And perspectively speaking, I’m not going to sacrifice the most important years of my children’s lives to help others build their company.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think any woman can 'have it all' and not let something slip. The female CEOs who claim they are able to work, to mother, to wife (yes, I'm using it as a verb), can usually afford to pay someone to babysit, or send the kids to a school where after school activities keep them busy, and they have chauffeurs.

    Not saying they don't interact with their kids, but the dyanmics are different than for a single mother or even a married mother whose salary is not in the 6 figure range.

    So, to each his own, I say. What some will miss, others will not care about, and what some care about, others will not miss. If I remain single to get my Masters, so what, I will still meet someone, right? If I get married and forego the degree, so what? Education is always around.