How Women Can Have It All

flowers in Pennsylvania

On Wednesday night I came home from a work trip to Elizabethtown College, where I was leading communications and organizational change workshops for United Methodist Women. I hung out with my fam and then flopped on my bed with the latest issue of The Atlantic. I LOVE their cover stories; the issues on single women, obesity, and parenting have given me a lot to blog about. (For example, see Letting My Kids Find Their Own Happiness.)

My first reaction — and I feel bad about this — was sheer jealousy. As the author, Anne-Marie Slaughter, admits several times in the article, she is elite. Ms. Slaughter worked for the Obama administration and is now a professor at Princeton College. Sure, I have an advanced degree and a decent job. But as I consider new ventures in the coming months, I don’t get to pick between national policymaking and the Ivy League. (Or do I? Perhaps, it’s true, we women aim too low?)

I feel held back from success, not  just by the age of my kids and the demands of my work, but also by my husband’s chronic illness. As a friend commented on Facebook, “I’d like to have written that article, but I’ve been too busy having it all.” So yes, I was jealous. I wasted time comparing my achievements to Slaughter’s and I came up short. But as the saying goes, Don’t compare your insides to others’ outsides.

I found a lot to like in The Atlantic Article on Having It All, including Slaughter’s suggestion that kids’ schooling hours should match parents’ working hours. As an after-school teacher, (yes, I have part time jobs to go with my full time job), I think kids should stay longer at school. And they should do fun stuff, like drama and sports and art. We all need more time to play. Let’s make work and school more playful and creative and then it’s not such a drag.

One missing ingredient in the article is the need for everyone to create a supportive community, not simply have an awesome spouse. I know I get by with a lot of help from my friends and family. You can pursue happiness  –and remember the pursuit is guaranteed, not the attainment — if you have a village behind you. I’ve written about the three things we need for community: hard work, passion, and diversity.

I need to remember the hero’s journey. The hero has to try and fail several times. And the hero has to leave, even if that means going on a business trip to Pennsylvania!

“You leave the world that you’re in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height. There you come to what was missing in your consciousness in the world you formerly inhabited.” (From Joseph Campbell on The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers)

As I set out on a new journey professionally, I know that I will fail. Like Odysseus, the homeland will be in sight and then the winds will whisk me back to the sea. Yet I will adapt. Each of us must make our own quest. With flexibility, creativity, and community, we can pursue happiness (a.k.a., have it all).

Happiness is not found in professional or material success — though give me that success and I’ll let you know. Honestly, success is found in having good relationships and in creating beauty and in being in nature.

So pursue happiness. When you embark on that pursuit, you become the mythic hero on a quest. You become the hero of your own life story. And you can have (or pursue) it all.

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Lose It!

According to this month’s cover Atlantic story, The Perfected Self, by David Freedman, people, including the author’s brother, have lost weight with the free app Lose It!

The application seems a perfect way to use social media to connect people around positive life goals. I know I have blogged (almost) every day because of the prodding of my online community of Catherine Flowers, Julie Jordan Scott, Kim Koning and Meredith Cardenas Weis at Post A Day (Week) Challenge at Postaday2012 on Facebook.

I have another friend who regularly documents the pounds she is losing on Facebook and she receives a ton of support (and a bit of unasked-for advice!)

The Freedman article is an homage to the psychologist B.F. Skinner who advised positive reinforcement as a route to changing individual behavior for the good of society. Alcoholics Anonymous does this for problem drinkers who seek sobriety.

I’m not sure if an app can replace a support group (or peer pressure). For me, one real-world application for this app is: Sure, I feel good when I work out — but I feel even better when I work out and other people compliment, encourage and admire me for doing so! (Or compete against me!)

I’m always bragging (complaining) to my kids — “I did Pilates and rode my bike to work today!” To which, they shrug!

I like praise for working out! I’m just not sure if an app will praise me enough. Will the app shrug at my efforts for health and fitness? I may try it and find out and document my attempt at: Running Aground, my health and fitness blog.

Why Be Happy?

I was looking at a draft of this post as an earthquake just rippled through New York. Several of my workmates felt it. I didn’t — I was dreamy, lost in a break from work, reading my own blog.

My niece made this heart in the sand. Kids are amazing.

Here’s the post I was looking at when the rest of NYC felt the tremor —

***Maybe I should stop looking for happiness and start looking for meaning.

In How To Land Your Kid in Therapy the writer Lori Gottlieb asks: “Could it be that by protecting our kids from unhappiness as children, we’re depriving them of happiness as adults?”

I’ve blogged about this  A Generation of Disconnected Kids And decided I’m going to walk the middle ground between helicopter mom/tiger mom and neglectful mom.

Gottlieb’s article is tearing up the blogosphere. Even the blog, The Quotidian Hudson, http://quotidianhudsonriver.com/, devoted to the awesome Hudson River, quotes Gottlieb’s article:

“Happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.”

That is something it seems we don’t teach much anymore.  As the founders/Jefferson put it, Happiness is not an unalienable right “the pursuit” is… (Robert Johnson)

I think part of my problem with over-parenting is that I am overly involved with my kids’ happiness. I need to step back and let them pursue their own happiness. Then I can pursue my own.

I can do less, but that means I need to ask for more help. Asking For Help.  And that’s not easy.

But remember my Number 2 Rule? Pile on the People!

And though everyone’s talking and blogging about Gottlieb’s Atlantic article. I hope the discussion on overinvolved parents (read mothers) doesn’t devolve into a mother-bashing session,  ’cause God knows, we mothers are doing the best we can.

That would be a nice after-shock to the article — if people had a greater appreciation for a mother’s work and helped one another out more.

The End of Men?

A report by Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic‘s July/August cover article, “The End of Men,” subtitled “How Women Are Taking Control — Of Everything” is so good. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/8135/

The previous month’s cover story, “Fat Nation” with an obese Statue of Liberty on the cover was also really provocative. The magazine is just so good at noting and analyzing trends in the nation. I love following trends. And this one’s pretty interesting.

One trend noted — and I so hope this is true — is that companies are looking towards an effective and new kind of leader, a transformational one.

My one worry about women taking over is that I like partnership. It’s cliche but it’s true. “Don’t walk ahead of me, I may not want to follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not want to lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” I thought that equality — not superiority — was what the women’s movement was all about. That, and equal pay.

I still think that’s what it’s about. Because while I am excited that women are taking over, I know that women are not being paid fairly for their new leadership and on-going labor. Women are still paid about 80 cents to every dollar that a man earns. Until there is no wage gap, men are probably not too worried that their end is near. Although, perhaps, it is.