U.S. News came out with a new opinion article today that contends “Women can have it all” or more accurately, working parents can have it all. However, it is written by two moms so you can see why I resonate with it as a female.
Ever since Anne Marie Slaughter wrote in the Atlantic that women cannot have it all, the debate over work/life balance has received much-needed attention. Perhaps, to a bit of overkill.
As a career-oriented single female, the last thing I wanted was to have children (at least at the time). I had plans. Big ones. They went something like this:
– Finish six years in the Air Force
– Travel and deploy as much as possible
– Protect my country …. and let the military pay for my college education in return
– Get a bachelors degree before getting out of the service
– Get out, go to school for two more years
– Start a family
Those were the dreams of an 18-year-old who knew nothing about herself or motherhood. I’m not saying they were bad goals. I was young and they seemed quite doable. And then I had my first child at 20 and my life changed instantly.
Since then, I’ve heard it all.
– Moms shouldn’t work; Moms should work.
– Moms shouldn’t finish their education because then they are putting the needs of themselves before their children; Moms should get an education to be a good example to their children.
– Moms should put aside all hobbies and desires and dreams because pursuing those means they are putting their children second; moms who don’t pursue outside hobbies lose their identity and aren’t teaching their children good traits.
For many years I’ve been criticized because I am a working mother. For many years, my stay-at-home sister has been criticized for staying home to raise her kids. We both know the challenges the other is facing. I’ve been told I’m selfish, so has she. I’ve been told I’m not doing what is best for my kids, so has she. I have struggled and laid awake at night feeling like a horrible mother, so has she.
Here’s what I’ve learned, having children has made me a better person. Having children has helped me to learn not to be selfish, has given me more patience than I had previously. Has taught me the importance of looking out for the world as a whole so we leave a better place for our kids. It has taught me to appreciate my job while hating that I have to leave home at the same time. I appreciate the moments of being around other adults doing what I love, but I miss them terribly when I am away.
I don’t “have it all” if your definition is feeling like I am never failing, like I have the perfect work-life balance and get tons of sleep and spend the quality time I need at work and quality time with my kids. Sometimes one has to give for the other to work. Sometimes, my boss has to understand why I cannot go to work because my child is sick or is having a graduation. Sometimes my kids have to entertain themselves for an afternoon so I can get work done.
But I do have it all if your definition is “happiness.” We are happy. Despite all the advice I receive from others that is generally the opposite of what I’m doing at the moment, we are happy. And I don’t know what else matters. Probably nothing.
I make decisions and do what I have to with the information I have at the time and the knowledge of what my family needs. Sometimes, I’m wrong. A lot of times I’m right.
My only advice to you is to put your family first as much as you can and do what is necessary to have a happy and fulfilling life. When someone else tries to tell you how to raise your kids, take it with a grain of salt. When you feel the need to tell someone else how to raise their kids, keep your mouth closed and remind yourself that you’re not perfect. And if you ever wonder what you should say to a working mom, a stay-at-home mom or any parents in general: read this. There is nothing more that should come out of your mouth the next time someone critics a parent who is loving, trying their best and is not abusing their children.
And here’s a fun little list for your enjoyment. Idaho ranks as the worst states for working mothers.