Having It All: The Bad Deal We Have Negotiated
If the secret to a happy life is balancing work and family, what does it actually look like in practice? We pay lip service to the idea of a family-friendly workplace, but we’re certainly not seeing it in America today. Does having it all have to mean working full time jobs at two jobs — our careers and taking care of our families? If so, then women have negotiated a very bad deal for themselves and their families.
So many women tell me that they feel stressed and guilty much of the time. They worry that they are shortchanging their families. They worry that they’re not doing their best work at their jobs. They’re upset that when they come home, depleted and exhausted by work, they have no emotional or physical energy left for their children, let alone their partners or themselves. Research has shown that chronic stress can lead to both physical and psychological issues for adults and children alike. Women suffer, and their most important relationships suffer.
I had a woman come up to me at a speaking event and tell me that I was trying to make women feel badly. That’s not my intention. I want to make women and their families feel better. but sometimes feeling better requires confronting the feelings which make us feel badly. When we’re told to ignore our feelings and deny we’re feeling stressed, it’s because our society values material success over the health and well-being of families.
Maybe we need a new paradigm of what it means to have it all. This requires that we realize that we realize we can’t give 100% of our time, effort, and attention to our families, intimate relationships, and our careers at the same time. It means that we have to take a long, hard, look at our priorities. It means distinguishing between what we want, and what we need, and deciding what is more important.
Why not rethink why we work, and what being successful really means? Couldn’t having it all mean having more flexibility and control over how much we work, especially when our children are young? Having the time to nurture our relationships with our partners, family, and friends? To focus on the pleasures of caring for and connecting with our children? We will never get the time we spend away from our families back. Life is long, and we have more time than we think to do all the things we want to do. Sometimes stepping out of the fast lane, and living at our own pace, can put us on a more interesting, and more fulfilling path.
Erica Komisar, LCSW is a psychoanalyst, parent guidance expert and author whose book Being There; Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters published by Tarcher/Perigee is being released April 11, 2017 and is already in presale online.