Usually, I write my weekly blog here on currentmom.com under the Meal Monday banner, provide an easy, tasty recipe and call it a day. (Well, I like to think there's a little more depth to it than that, but I'm making a point.) But today's swap with my good friend Stacy, who generally writes Work Wednesday, compels me to engage in a little introspection.
Rather than comment on something in the news these days (e.g., Anne-Marie Slaughter's much-discussed Atlantic Monthly piece on working moms, Why Women Still Can't Have It All), I thought I'd take the opportunity to use myself the working mom to represent a microcosm of why women can't have it all and why there's no (better) choice than to be happy with what we do have.
Granted, many moms work because they have to put food on the table and they do not have the luxury of adjusting their schedules. That is a different story altogether and I salute those moms who give everything for their families. I am lucky enough to have choices (like Slaughter), and so I can only speak to my personal experience.
As I frequently explain to my two children, we make the best choices we can make at any given time, using the information and facts available to us at that moment. Sometimes, this means we have to adjust our plans when our information changes, but that's okay.
I've worked almost every possible schedule and permutation in three different fields: broadcast journalism (when I was single and single-minded about my career) for which I gladly moved all over the country just to take slightly better jobs; law, which forced me to shelve my professional ambitions (so long dream of becoming a Supreme Court Justice) when it became completely clear that ambitious lawyering and parenting don't mesh; and, now, fundraising communications that allows me a flexible schedule.
As our kids grow, our needs evolve with them. In my case, it was fine to work full-time when I had a baby (and a sitter) at home. But once my daughter was able to do things, I wanted a day or two at home with her. So I worked four days a week, then three, after my son was born.
Back to four days for a new job and career shift, but of those, three days were in the office and one was at home. Now, I work entirely from home, and bill my hours. I go into the office for meetings when I need to, but have a lot of control over my schedule.
Yes, I've given up the big-time career success. And I don't really feel that I fit in with the stay-at-home moms or the working moms. But all that is the result of choices made along the way. Choices made because of where I've wanted to put my time and emphasis at that moment. Fortunately or unfortunately, we cannot recapture what we've given up. We cannot go back for a "do-over" or a parallel past life. If I have to feel a bit out of place at the office or at the PTA meeting, I'm willing to accept that.
It's cliched, but cliched for good reason: no one on her deathbed ever regrets not having spent more time at the office. We are human and human relationships and emotions trump all else.
It's harder to work when you have children who need you -- or need what you do for them. It's exhausting to put in the work hours late at night when I'm not even through my to-do list for the day. And let's not even touch walking two dogs, working out and laundry. But there's just no choice.
We can rail all we want about the society that doesn't support working mothers enough, but the fact is, so long as there are people to do the law firm work (be they men or other women who've made different choices), the inequities will remain.
And I think that's okay. Or at least it has to be okay. Because our lives are products of our choices, even if we don't like some of the trade-offs required.
We need to carve out a third category of moms: not those trying to have it all, but those of us who have, or are trying to have, parts of it all. I have to believe the whole is greater than the sum of those parts.