If you were on the internet at all in the past two weeks, it would have been hard for you to miss the links to Atlantic’s cover article, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All by Anne-Marie Slaughter. The bold claim in the title piqued my curiosity, and I started to read. My unease grew with the page count, mostly because the ‘all’ described in the essay has nothing to do with my life. I don’t want children. I don’t want a high-power job running either a country or a company. I don’t want advanced graduate degrees. I don’t want to need a job that pays me enough to hire a nanny to step in when I’m too busy running whatever it is I’m supposed to want to run. I don’t want Slaughter’s ‘all,’ at all.
I celebrated my thirty-fifth birthday at the end of June. I’m old enough to have had dreams that didn’t come to fruition. Old enough to know that there are hard limits to what can be attained by me, given who I am. Old enough to find joy, rather than despair, in those facts.
I lead a simple life. I like to go to sleep early. I like to stay in at night. I like to eat lunch at a picnic table. I like to walk my dogs. I like to talk with my husband, laugh with him, sit quietly with him. I like having a place to think. I like day dreaming. I like to travel, but not too often, because I love being at home. When people ask me if I’m doing anything exciting on the weekend, I always say no. I don’t need to do something special or ‘exciting’ because I’m fulfilled by what I have. I love the way I spend my days. Not one of these factors was part the ‘all’ described in the Atlantic, but they are each essential to my sense of fulfillment, my sense of ‘all.’
I don’t run a company or country. I don’t even lead a team. If I change the world, it won’t be in the boardroom or public office; it’ll be one human kindness at a time.
I’m not rich, but my bills are paid. I don’t frequent fancy restaurants, but I always have food. I don’t drive a luxury car, but I have a reliable vehicle with working AC. I have a book budget, but with indies producing quality books for reasonable prices, I haven’t even come close to my limit.
Writing is an important part of who I am. It is a huge piece of my ‘all,’ an integral act of devotion to the mystery of being. I could lose almost everything, but if I keep my freedom and ability to write, I will thrive.
Sure, there are always nicer things, fancier places, more ornate houses on less run-down roads. But the boring, simple fact is that I’m happy with the ‘all’ that I have, even if it doesn’t measure up to someone else’s estimation of what ‘all’ includes. This is a powerful, freeing realization.
Aniko Gets Kreativ III: I
can have it all.
I’ve fallen behind in my Kreativ Blogger nominations, but I’m exited to tell you about my newest, wonderful nominee! Jacquelyn Smith is a fantasy author. Her blog , Wayward Scribe, is entertaining, encouraging, and responsive to commenters. Please join me in congratulating Jacquelyn! If you read fantasy, I’m sure she’d be thrilled if you joined The Tribe of the Wayward Scribe to receive newsletters & a free download of one of her stories!
Until next time, jazz hands! xoxo
I also find that the discussions about ‘having it all’ leave me a bit cold, because they tend to focus on high-achieving career women. I don’t have a career and I don’t want one. I have a job to pay the bills, and I write because it’s my passion. But then I am woefully lacking in ambition … 🙂
I too enjoy the small things in life, and I want to have enough time to appreciate them. That’s why I wouldn’t take a high-flying, high-stress job, no matter how good the pay packet was. One of the consolations of having few ambitions is that you are very easily satisfied!
I think that where I most people get a portion of ambition, I got an extra helping of imagination. This helps my writing, but makes wanting a high-stress job incomprehensible. I agree with you that time to enjoy the small things matters more than money; as long as you are safe, fed, housed, clothed, have books to read and possibly some wine to drink, life is pretty good.
By the standards set in that article, not many men can have it all, either.
There’s a disconnect between what other people think we should want and what we actually want. The sooner we learn to shut out their noise, the easier it will be to “have it all.”
Marie, exactly. I don’t believe there is any substantive difference between a man who can’t have it ‘all,’ and a woman who can’t. I also don’t believe that there is one definition of what should be attained to have a fulfilling life. Some people are happy being single academics, some happy with a houseful of kids, some happiest in a hobo jungle (yep, learned that from Valknut!). What a boring world, and one where it would be impossible to have it ‘all,’ if everyone wanted the exact same things!
Exactly my thinking – who on Earth COULD have all that?
I’m not sure why, as a society, we place so much value in fracturing our time in the pursuit of multiple “first priorities.” Man or woman, there can only be one “first.” No one gets everything without giving up something else in its place.
First off, thank you so much for the nomination and mention! 😀
I really wish this disconnect about what women should want/have wasn’t so pervasive. Too many people seem to focus on what they don’t have as it is.
My lifestyle sounds pretty similar to yours, but I often have people ask me why I don’t have ‘X’, ‘Y’, or ‘Z’. (Which is usually a baby or a car, for some reason.) They can’t seem to understand that I don’t WANT those things. It makes me sad that so many people have such a limited definition of success and happiness.
I wish I didn’t have to have a car, although I do love my little Mazda! There’s no viable public transit in Austin. They’re working on it, but it won’t be ready for my commute tomorrow: Mazda it is.
Throughout my life I have been quizzed on the baby thing. I’ve never wanted to be a mother. I realize this sets me apart from probably 99% of women, but it’s just a particularity of who I am. “You haven’t met the right man yet,” was oft whispered, as if to soften my supreme failure to want what I’m supposed to want. Ooh, that burned me up on so many levels.
Yes, people focus on what they don’t have, but I think that it is okay to realize that you don’t have everything you really want to feel fulfilled. That realization is what will drive the changes to build a life that supports fulfillment. You’re absolutely right, though, that the disconnect between what women (or anyone) wants comes from the idea that what matters to me, or you, or anyone can come from outside yourself. There’s no Great Big Checklist that we’re all supposed to follow. Rather, if there is a Great Big Checklist, it’s locked within each of us, and not printed in the cover story of Atlantic!
You’re welcome for the mention & nomination!
Oh man, I hate it when I get that smug “You’ll change your mind” when people find out I don’t want to have a baby! (Often from people who hardly know me at all, but think they know better than I do what should go on in my own womb.)
You’re right, the “you’ll change your mind” does come most often from people who don’t really know me. People who know me slightly better try a kinder avenue, “but you’d make a good mom!” People who really know me never mention it.
I’d never made that inverse correlation before – thanks!
So often when I see or hear people talking about having it all, it generally means wanting what others have or wanting what they think others think they should want–then when they get it, they have no idea what to do with it. Heh. I’m pretty simple. I just want something interesting to do. As long as I have that, I’m perfectly content.
When people strive for and attain things that they think they should want, it comes with a high cost. At the very least, it takes time away from discovering what would be truly fulfilling. It also induces guilt because you have something other people want, but you don’t want it. The guilt alone can lead to living an entirely false life. I see this more with men than with women, probably because the roles for men have been sort of “set” for generations. It can be tough being a woman, but I think that in some ways, being a man seems to come with a lot of stricture beyond just sexual mores.
Three cheers for having something interesting to do! Nothing is more destructive to a creative intellect than boredom. Good health, interesting work, enough money to avoid financial worries, and some interesting people to know – that’s the good life to me!
I also think this is an introvert/extrovert problem. A high-powered job with tons of people and decisions and noise plus a houseful of kids plus a lot of travel is not what most introverts want! I have two noisy kids, but it’s balanced by the fact that I stay home with them. It gives me the quiet writing time I wouldn’t have if I had a noisy job, too.
In other words, I *do* have it all.
Ooh, good point, Margaret! Extroverts tend to go to work, then go out with friends after work, then spend all weekend going out. As an introvert, I often feel like my job is quite enough ‘going out,’ thank you very much. 🙂 And when I do go out, I prefer it to be in smaller groups, to quiet places suited to talking. My ‘all’ is rather quiet.
I’m glad you have your ‘all!’
We are programmed to think this is what we should want–even if we don’t want it!
I LOVED this post. It made me feel calm and hopeful somehow–and that you are my new best friend! Yay!! Another person who feels they can do it their own way without being a bully, feeling trod-upon, or confused 🙂
Thanks Aniko 🙂
We are very lucky to live in a time and a place where we can choose to make our own priorities. Even now, lots of people aren’t getting to make these choices. That’s why I think it is very, very important we leverage our fortune to do whatever it is that fulfills us, because that is what we are meant to do. It humbles me when I think of all the generations of people – not just women – who have been thwarted by societal oppression due to politics, gender, color. We need to be proud of our choices, and be brave enough to make the ones that are right for us. There is a lot of social conditioning or programming, but introspection and catholic reading can cut through most of that!
I’m glad we’re friends! I do my best not to be a bully. But I do sometimes get confused! 🙂
LOved this post Aniko 🙂
It really annoys me that people always put limits on women. Why? It also annoys me when as a woman you don’t meet society’s standards – i.e. don’t have children yet, aren’t married yet, married but have no children, not submissive enough in work place, not gutsy enough in workplace, too bitchy in workplace…on and on and on… Ridiculous! In war times it is the women of a country that do it all, keep the country ticking over, look after the household/family while the men are off fighting…Women are usually the ones left to raise children in divorce situations or even if the man just decides to up and out when kids enter the equation…Women have been doing it all and having to defend all our actions through every era…I am not a feminist because I don’t want to be equal to a man or do the things a man does…I want to be 100% woman and equal only to my own abilities…Very sad too that the original article was written by a woman! Tsk Tsk 🙂
Glad you enjoyed the post, Kim.
Like you, I wouldn’t define myself as a feminist. I am a humanist, I believe in people. I believe in the transformative power of individuals – both to change themselves and to change the world. That said, I am frustrated by the daily assault of articles about how women *should* be, what they *should* wear, how they *should* act. There’s been a lot of hate towards women video gamers in the press lately, some truly vile persecution. Why? Because women want to see video game characters that are whole people, not just places to hang some digital boobs and a raster butt. As part of my protest against social norms, I decided to wear a party dress to work the other day. I like the dress, it is not inappropriately tight/revealing for the workplace… so I wore it. You know what? Everyone liked the dress. We had a company wide meeting, and I was the only one in crinoline and lace. I’m sure I’m not “supposed” to wear that, but I did because I wanted to. If someone wanted to laugh, I don’t care. I’m not like everyone else, and neither is anyone else – no matter how they dress.
I don’t want to be equal to men, either. I just want to be myself. And wear party dresses whenever I want!!
Most all of it’s been said already (the problem with getting behind in my blog visiting, I guess. You still have another post newer than this one which I have yet to read. sheesh 🙂 ).
Anyway, I’ll just say that I’m glad you are happy with what you have. Seems like you may not have “it all,” but you have enough things that make you happy. As has been mentioned in the comments I believe, there is no such thing as “all.” There could always be something more. I think we need to find our happy place, so to speak, and be content there. Not to say we can’t push ourselves, but it shouldn’t be out of a need to be happier. That’s folly.
Paul D. Dail
http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog
Paul, you’ve been one of my most consistent and thoughtful commenters since almost day one of my blog. I appreciate you visiting – of course! – but if life intervenes, I understand if you miss a post or three. 🙂 I believe you’ll come back when you have time, and don’t want you to feel stressed about needing to visit!
I am happy. It isn’t perfect, but I realized that if I could live indefinitely with the life that I have and be content. That’s a lot nicer than feeling like I have to keep trying for more and ‘better’ things, many of which may not be realistically attainable.
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