Tonight, my mind is whirling after some inspiration from a fantastic piece of writing on mothering and feminism, and also from a friend's blog entry about her struggles. Together, these pieces of writing have me pondering the disservice of the "You can have it all!" myth.
Children are told they can be anything they set their minds to. Girls are told they have the freedom to pursue any path they want and that they can excel at everything. They can be a doctor and a mommy, and they can simultaneously be the best doctor and the best mommy because feminism has paved that road for them.
And so, we little girls grew up and we took that message to heart. We excelled in every class (even math and science of course!), we went on to post-secondary institutions to earn fabulous degrees, we secured careers, we planned lavish weddings, we birthed a few kids, we baked cupcakes for the bake sale, and we kept an immaculate home every step of the way. We can have it all! So we will have it all! And we'll do everything to our fullest and perfectly because we expect it of ourselves.
And yet...none of it is all perfect and grand. We have some things that come easily to us and other areas where we struggle. We passionately pursue some areas of our lives but we feel resentful about other areas. We feel less than perfect and we beat ourselves up for our failings. We try to stretch ourselves to be everything all the time but there simply isn't enough of us to go around. We're tired. We're overwhelmed. We're disappointed in all the failings we see when we can't quite be fantastic at everything.
Here's what I think: I think that we can't have it all. I think that everything is out there for use to have, but that we need to choose what we want the most for us, whether it's for today or this year or this lifetime. And then we have to go after that with a dedication and joy that doesn't care about all the other paths.
If we want to delve deep into the attachment parenting world and breastfeed on demand for years and make all our own home cooked foods from scratch and homeschool our children, then so be it. If we want to have wildly successful careers that require 60 hour workweeks which don't leave time for children or for us to be our child's main caretaker at least, then so be it. Pick one and go with it.
If we want to be the spontaneous mother who is forever bringing her kids on adventurous vacations and pursuing in-depth hobbies by moving to some guru's hut for 6 months, then we should. If we want to be the well-planned-out mother who has an intricate carpool schedule to get each of her children to their activities on time as well as racking up at least three volunteer commitments each week, then we should. But we can't carpool from our guru's hut and we shouldn't beat ourselves up for that.
If we want to graduate from high school and delve straight into family life and have all our kids grown and moved out by the time we're 45, we should embrace that. If we want to attend 15 years of post-secondary and then backpack around the world for a few years before settling down, we should joyfully pursue that path. If we want to parent in the boundless energy of our youth or in the tempered wisdom of our more mature age, we should welcome the gifts we have to give our children each day.
We can't have it all and be it all and excel at it all. There are too many tempting valid options in every area of life to take a piece of everything all at once. We can, however, deliberately choose the path we set upon and walk each step with full awareness and joy. And maybe that's having all right there, after all.
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