Jul 31 2012

Can Women Have “It All”?

Published by at 6:52 pm under Philosophy,Rants

No. The answer is and always will be “No,” because absolutely no one on this planet has boundless energy and money and effort to devote to every single thing that really captures their passion.

Why do people concerned with equality between genders ask this stupid question? Can a woman who is talented and has the drive and motivation attend college? Can she become a senator? Can she become the CEO of a company? Yes, yes she can.  And by the same token, can a woman who wants to stay at home and take care of her children, (disregarding any money concerns) do so? Yes.

Equality has never meant equal outcomes. Equality doesn’t mean as many women become CEOs as men.  It means women have the same opportunities to take that path. I don’t know if this is true with regard to social pressure but there is nothing in place legally to systematically deny women those opportunities. Rather, there are numerous protections against such systematic denial in place.

But some people aren’t satisfied with having opportunity. They want it all. That is not equality, that’s above and beyond equality.

My dad gave something up to work full-time, outside the home.

He gave up the ability to, largely, make up his own schedule day-to-day and decide his own priorities. If sour cherries were ready to go, my mom could take a few hours to drive us to the orchard to pick, and then pit the cherries.  She could decide, at least in some measure, how she wanted to spend her time. What her priorities were for the day. Granted, there were emergencies and chores that had to be dealt with, but there was a freedom there. A freedom my father did not have.

My father saw his kids on weeknights, when we were tired and stressed from school and he was tired and stressed from work. He saw us on weekday mornings, when we were tired and irritated at the early hour. He got to spend time with us on the weekends, at least until we filled those hours with friends and work, or just wiled them away in our rooms. My mother got to have a deeper connection with us, hearing our stories when we got home from school and meeting our friends more often. That’s another personal cost of working.

I don’t think either of my parents had an easy job. What I think is this — when we started bean-counting as genders, we stopped appreciating all kinds of work. We stopped appreciating that working outside the home is stressful in its own way. We stopped appreciating how wonderful it feels to come home to a house where someone greets you with a smile. Hell, we stopped appreciating how wonderful it can feel to be that person at home, smiling.

No one can have it all. So instead of bean-counting, we need to talk like this: Every one – man, woman or child – needs to have work that makes them feel valuable and engaged in the world. For some people, that means being a CEO, for others it means being or a nurse or a parent or a spouse.

In a culture where value is determined by ever-increasing growth, I don’t think we can re-iterate our emotional needs often enough. We don’t NEED to have it all. We NEED to be satisfied and feel as though we contribute something of value to the world — whether the world includes our home, our office, our community or something else entirely.

Everything else is gravy and tallying up gravy is stupid and messy.

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