From the boardroom to the bedroom, life for women, American women at least, has changed drastically over the last century. Making its way into social consciousness, we often hear people say things like, “Of course women can have it all,” and, “We’re super women, we can do anything and everything!” These are definitely the sentiments that I grew up with in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
Yet, okay, I have to ask a for real question then. Now that I am an adult who is someone’s mom, someone else’s ex-wife, a full time hard-working professional (I love my day job, but at times, it’s all-consuming, I even work remotely when I’m at home and while it’s fulfilling, it’s as exhausting as working 2 full time jobs by itself), and then I also have a small publishing company where I’m also a full time writer, editor, etc. Truthfully, while I’m grateful for the options and opportunities I’ve been able to experience throughout my life, I don’t feel like I can have it all. In fact, most of the time, the only thing I can really focus on is the fact that I’m f*cking tired!
So I have to ask, what does this fictitious “having it all” really mean and how and what does it actually look like? ‘Cause I’ve been a stay at home mom, and honestly, I was miserable, feeling bored and underutilized as a person. I’m focusing much more on my career these days since my kid’s over five years old, and so now, my son gets fed up at times with my clear focus elsewhere outside of our home and even tells me periodically, “I really wish you didn’t have to work.” ‘Alrighty then kid, you get a job and pay for all of our living expenses, since I’m responsible for ALL of them by myself, and then sure, maybe I can just focus on you and being a homemaker…’
Look, I’ve experienced discrimination and prejudice in the form of sexism (and also racism). I’ve personally been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace in the 21st century. I’ve even experienced housing discrimination when I looked for an apartment and had a small child (my son was two years old at the time). All these things that I in my naivete at the time didn’t realize I’d ever encounter in the modern era, and that the idealism in my native country and homeland says is now illegal and should therefore no longer exist.
The reality, however, is that I’m eventually looking to be half of a power couple. I want to show my son that anything is possible if he works hard and smart enough. And at the end of the day, there are still dirty dishes in our kitchen sink, I need to dust and vacuum and generally, our house is a mess/disaster on pretty much a daily basis. Hey, something’s gotta give as a professional single mom and woman who’s always on the go…
Yet for someone who is so achievement focused, it’s very difficult for me to accept this state of being/reality. How come my house isn’t always magazine picture perfect as I stroll easily and calmly through life with a briefcase in one hand and my baby on my other hip? Have I been sold a lie with “girl power” all my life, from the Spice Girls ’til now?
Because even my female friends that are currently married, still seem to have settled and fallen into stereotypical traditional female roles in their homes. Where they expend a disproportionate amount of time, effort and energy working “the second shift” that they’re still expected to devote almost exclusively to washing laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning their houses and watching their kids/figuring out child care and even often times, taking care of contraception to control their current and future family sizes. Of course, all of these women still work full time outside of their homes as well.
Even after the sexual revolution/women’s rights movement/feminists/womanists/women’s liberation movements, what’s really changed for American women after all this time? Then knowing all of this makes me realize, I don’t have any of the answers here. I can only do the best I can for myself and my own family. Yet and still, this all makes me crazy and leaves me feeling incredibly frustrated. After all, at the end of the day as a millennial, am I really any better off than the women of my grandmother’s generation? And at the end of the day, is it really just men who’ve benefited the most from women needing to work so hard carrying all the roles as working outside the home providers, mothers, wives, etc.?