Monday, May 13, 2013

Choosing a 'Good Enough' Life

Yet another wave of feminist leaders are taking a public stance on the current status of American women in and out of the work force. I've seen #leanin appear in my twitter feed more than not in the last months, as women nationwide are analyzing how much they should be 'leaning in' and what that may mean for our individual lives.

Truth be told, I hadn't thought much of Sandberg's 'lean in' theory or the rest of the current feminist movement until coming across Elsa Walsh's article "Why women should embrace a 'good enough' life."

Walsh's elongated view of a woman's life hit close to home, as her ambitions much resembled those that I've had for myself at one point or another.

Before meeting my husband I was all "who needs marriage or kids so long as I love my career?!" This "I am woman, hear me roar" perspective was instilled many years ago as I sat reading letters from the editor in the pages of any glossy magazine my mom would let into the house. These women, these editors? This was the career path I wanted for myself come hell or high water.

And then I became a mother and priorities shifted, they had to. Ready or not, life was changing.

I'd not yet had time to earn my masters degree, obtain that editorial position or get a foot in any sort of door at the time I became pregnant. My plans had yet again been trampled by the Big Guy. This sliver of reality ate me alive during my first trimester, but I trusted in Him and forged on.

I (almost) didn't skip a beat in redirecting my career path after embracing the idea of our new reality (parenting). But to this day, I battle to balance following professional ambitions, finding the flexibility needed in mothering and maintaining a minimum level of 'mom guilt' along the way.

As Walsh says, "there is no real safety net for working mothers."

This, friends, is the reality of my every single day. There is no safety net.

You see, even if I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, that's not in the cards for my family. I work not just to pursue personal goals, but to ensure we can put food on the table, pay our student loans and still have some spare change to get Jackson to the children's museum every now and then.

I work in the hopes of being able to give myself, my family and my community all that they deserve.

But now? Now we're being told we're not doing enough, that we (American women) need to lean in more, that men are still running the show and women need to step up their game. Simultaneously, others are proclaiming that as women we can't have it all, end of story.

We're being openly judged by feminist leaders whom in all respects have made it to the top positions within their niche. They've seemingly managed to have it all in their professional and personal life. As a working mom often overcome with 'mom guilt', these women have me questioning everything I hold true.

Walsh advises, "search for work you love that allows flexibility if you want to have children." I'm blessed to have had this flexibility in both of my jobs since becoming a mom. My bosses hardly blink an eye when I postpone our deadlines because daycare has called with the dreaded sick child report. We make it work because at the end of the day, we each know it's family not professions that make our world go round.

But while I've made it work, I have certainly been tempted to drop it all and stay home with Jackson. And then I wonder, what will I do I five years when I'm ready to re-join the work force. How will I ever explain that the last job on my résumé was ages ago, that I chose my children over following a mentorship with the best attorneys in our state?

This doubt nagged my spirit for some time as I contemplated staying home to which Walsh says, "...don’t quit completely because, as wonderful as parenthood is, it cannot and will not be your whole life. Learn how to manage conflict, because the greater the level you can tolerate, the more freedom you will retain."

With this statement, Walsh shifts my view of being a working mom and I can delve back into the confidence I held in being a working mom.

Goals I once had are mere memories. They've morphed into a blend of education, parenting, marriage and all around personal growth. Rather than the dreams of my 16, 20, or even 23-year-old self, I'm learning to find comfort in knowing plans change and career paths will present themselves so long as I keep working on myself and my family.

Days are hectic. Drop-off at daycare comes far too early, the kitchen is typically hit by Tornado Erin every morning, I require 2-3 cups of coffee a day, some weeks dinner comes from the freezer every night, sometimes holiday-specific crafts are done far after the holiday has come and gone, Jackson does not get baths every night, my hardwood floors have needed to be steamed for weeks and my dogs both need baths.

But at the end of the day, when I step back I see all I've accomplished: a college degree, a beautiful home, a loving husband and child, a job with bosses whom I adore learning from and friends who keep us laughing. In these moments of reflection I can see that I our ordinary life is good. In fact, it's a great.

And in that emotion, I dare these feminist leaders to tell any woman they need to lean in more, or that they can't have it all because I'm not buying it.

Thanks to Elsa Walsh for reminding me that a 'good enough' life is precisely what I'm blessed to experience each day.

Read Walsh's article "Why women should embrace a 'good enough' life" for yourself.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing...and being a SAHM...but also a former corporate professional I totally agree with you. Life is hectic as a mom even if you are working or not. America is not set up for family life, and it's sad. Working all the time...little vacation...I really think everyone would be happier if we worked less and spent time on what really matters.

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  2. Great post. I have to say the Lean In movement has got me a bit annoyed. It assumes we want to, or need to, or aren't doing enough freaking "leaning in" or whatever. Every family, every mother does it differently, and quite frankly to me that is true feminism - the CHOICE to stay home/work/lean in/whatever. Easier said than done though, right?

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  3. I think the whole thing is crap. The truth is you can't have it all to the extreme. I can't give 100% of my everything to my job 100% of the time AND give 100% to my kid. Lucky me that I have a boss who is ok with me giving 100% when I am there but understands that he might only get 75% of my time.

    I chose this road. I always knew that no matter what I did I was called to be a wife and mother, to take care of a husband and the children we'd have. Some people wouldn't call that feminism. I'd disagree. It's about choice.

    I also feel a little bit like charlotte on sex and the city screaming "I CHOOSE MY CHOICE!!! I CHOOSE MY CHOICE!" at Miranda.

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  4. I love that you wrote this: "In these moments of reflection I can see that our ordinary life is good. In fact, it's a great." That was exactly my takeaway and why I loved Walsh's article. Leaning In, sure, has its merits. Who doesn't want to be there best self at work and listen to some tips on how to get there. But challenging exactly what "great" is has greater merit, and praise be Walsh for asserting that our entire life be factored into that equation. At the end of my life I don't want to be wishing I worked less so that I could be with my family and friends -- and myself! -- more. You never see salary or corner office titles on headstones.

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