Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Elizabeth Street


A Message For Mothers Who 'Have It All'

Oct 22, 2013

A Message For Mothers Who 'Have It All'

If there’s one thing I love, it’s when women who have the world at their well-manicured fingertips aim work-life-balance advice at the women burdened with performing the aforementioned manicures.

Which is to say: It amuses me when women with tons of choices and even more help think they know anything about the realities of women with next to no choices and little to no help.

I work from home full-time while caring for my younger daughter full-time. A lovely woman named Blanca cleans my house once a week. A charming babysitter named Bea comes two mornings a week to watch my toddler while I plow through some regularly scheduled deadlines. I have neighbors with whom I occasionally trade off cooking for our kids. I’m overworked and overstressed, but these are choices I made and, on most days, am happy about.

When I read about leaning in, having it all (or not) and opting out, I am unimpressed. It invariably comes from women who have achieved positions of power that most women—and even most men—will never even achieve a fraction of. I am grateful to be in the position that I’m in with the choices that I have, and I am abundantly clear about the fact that Blanca and Bea have far fewer choices than me, and it is in part thanks to their kind assistance, for which I pay them, that I am able to have as many options as I do.

Another debate on women having it all recently sprang up—this one about how some women just can’t have it all—and all I could think was how the women who could even remotely benefit from the conversation likely don’t have time to read the discussion. They’re too busy working and caring for their families to sit and chat about how it doesn’t always feel good to be stretched so thin, or that they are paid less or not at all for what they do and the acknowledgement they receive is never adequate.

The women who are so concerned with the first-world luxury of having it all can keep chatting away. And the women actually doing it without worrying about acknowledging it will just keep doing what they’re doing, too. On some weeks Blanca brings her young daughter to my house while she’s cleaning, if it’s a school holiday or her little girl is sick. Bea often rushes from my house to her next part-time gig, and I’m guessing that she’s struggling to make ends meet based on how quickly she cashes my check after I write it. They don’t complain to me about their lives, which makes me complain even less about mine. After all, I have my own version of “it all,” and I can tell you from the view up here, it has nothing to do with champagne and caviar.

To me, having it all is not so much a prize as it’s making a point to do what I know I can instead of finding ways not to do what I don’t want. I don’t write much about it because, in all honesty, I am sure it wouldn’t be of much interest to anyone but me, and even I find it a tad boring. No one owes me anything and I have to be my own best advocate. I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to be overworked. An assistant, better title and more time to talk about it all are not high on my list of priorities. I’d rather just keep doing and honing than whining and assigning blame.

It would seem that perhaps the Sheryl Sandbergs, Anne-Marie Slaughters, et. al., might write an essay or book thanking those beneath them who helped take care of everything else for them so that they had the time to think and write. For those to whom those manifestos would actually apply, it would be well worth the read—at last.

By Meredith C. Carroll

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