Redefining “it all”

So, the question is – can the modern woman have “it all” has been one that keeps resurfacing in my life these days. It’s a worthy question and one worthy of considerable thought.


I don’t profess to expect that this post will cover all of the points, neither will it have the answers (if only!) but it will help me to think it through and hopefully you as well.


As women of the modern age, we have been told that we can have it all. As I was growing up, that tended to be part of many cigarette campaigns – not an “it all” that I want, thanks. No, in general the sentiment seemed to be that I can have a successful, happy career where I get equal pay for equal work AND be a totally engaged, committed parent and have my own hobbies, sense of self, etc. 


Well, I’m not sure why we thought we would be able to do that, short of giving each new mum a time turner when her first born enters the world. I mean really, who does do it?


There are a lot of mums who do a great job of balancing career, parenting, etc. I would say I do alright in that department. However, it hasn’t been without sacrifices. I mean, there were jobs that would have moved me up the food chain I could have moved into but… and then there is the PhD which would have allowed me to go into academia but…


And then I started looking at what ‘it all” really meant. First of all, “it all” seemed so consumptive. I mean, if life is good we should we need to have more? Isn’t that what got us all into the environmental, fiscal, etc. crisis we’re in? I realized how this whole “it all” thing starting meaning (at least to my read) a lot of stuff. Buying a boat, going on trips, making tonnes of money, having a Career that people say “oooh” about. That seemed to be “it all”. And there was this mythical idea that happiness would magically happen when “it all” happened. And so we should keep striving, striving.


But striving to what? First of all- I don’t think I’m convinced that there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And even if there is, if I am too worn out from all of the striving to get there, what’s the point?


Second of all – is this just another way to get us to buy more stuff? I mean really, without that time turner, there is no way I can be an engaged parent, partner, employee, clean house haver, homesteader making my own bread, jams, etc. cooking meals from scratch and so on. So, I pick my poison and outsource the rest? How is that good? Most of that outsourcing is done on the back of someone who is less fortunate than me. I can tell you, having been a nanny, a housekeeper, and part of the reserve pool of labour, they all suck. They’re exploitative and needed for us to keep thinking we’re “having it all”.


As you are striving, striving and climbing, climbing, if you are depressed you can afford a great holiday. Drop out of life. Go and leave on a beach in Australia for a year. But then what? Even if you could convince your family to join you, do you come back to more of the same? Where you let life get so stressful you need to escape that dramatically.


Now the flip side of this is just as insidious. Maybe keeping me from wanting to strive is part of keeping women more oriented to their 1950s housewifely roles. Maybe I’m in danger of romanticizing at home life. I don’t think so. I think every family should decide on how they’re going to make life work for them and move accordingly. If mum loves her job and dad doesn’t -great, he can be the househusband.


But what if there is a third option? What if there is an option of just stepping outside of all of it. Of working at your job because it pays your bills but not valuing more than you value your life? Working just enough to take care of those expenses that can’t be cared for in any other way and then stepping back.


Instead of time on facebook or even this lovely little blog – make something. Wash dishes by hand, make supper from scratch. Connect with someone you love. Read a book you have always wanted to read. Spend some time thinking about what your priorities are and then act on that. Maybe you’re a Walter Mitty and you need to travel. There’s nothing wrong with that – just do it because of a love a travel, not as an antidote to life.


Instead of being the change you want to see (although that is a great idea), live the life you wish you were living. Not the material “I bought all of this stuff because I read to on a blog and now I’m in debt” life – real life. Don’t rely on corporations to spoon feed you experiences – either through tv shows, packaged meals, or telling you what your priorities are. Figure them out and move accordingly. Maybe your priority is your job. I would challenge you to ask yourself why. There could be a good reason. In my experience though, it’s usually tied to purchasing power and socially constructed ideals of success. So maybe sit down in a quiet place with a quiet mind and figure out what “it all” means to you. Maybe you would be happier with having “enough”?



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