Friday, December 15, 2006

On Not Getting It All

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was reading MomsTown Guide to Getting it All: A Life Makeover for Stay at Home Moms. Normally I would not have even considered something with such a title, but someone in my SAHM book club chose it as our November book. The woman who chose it hadn’t actually read it, but thought it looked interesting. When she began reading it, however, she found it an utter waste of time and recommended that we choose another book to read instead. Not being one to let a book go unread, especially one that I’ve paid for, I decided to read it. It ended up being a quick read, mostly because it was insipid garbage and I was able to skim through it.

The crux is that there are two kinds of stay-at-home moms, “ordinary SAHMs” and “GALs.” GALs are SAHMs who are “Getting it ALl” Clever, huh. I’ll save my secondary rants for another post, but here is my primary aggravation: When are we going to stop trying to convince people (moms, in this case) that they can get it all? I realize that these two women make their living by making women believe that they can get it all, and that if their argument wasn’t convincing they’d be out of a job.

But it simply isn’t realistic.

When you make one choice, you automatically eliminate a whole host of others. If you choose to stay home with your kid(s), your career is most likely going to take a hit. If you choose to go to work and leave your children in the care of someone else, you’re going to encounter a whole host of other issues. For me it was not feeling completely present in my job because I really wanted to be with my kid. For other women I know it’s feeling that they never have enough time to spend with their children. For others it may be something else. But I don’t believe for a second that we can “get it all.” We create our priorities and we make decisions based on those. Not everything can be our top priority. Such a notion sets us up for failure. It makes us believe that if we don’t live up to that “getting it all” standard then we’re not doing the best we can. It’s hard enough being a mom without having someone telling us that unless we’ve “got it all,” we’re “ordinary SAHMs.” I was especially amused by their constant reminder that while we pursuing our passions in order to "get it all," we may find that we need to utilize child care during the week. Um, if I wanted my kid in child care, I wouldn't be staying at home with him. It's that kind of logic that made the book so aggrivating.

The irony is that the book we chose to read instead of this one was Little Earthquakes. One of the plotlines is about a woman who tries her best to “have it all” and realizes that it isn’t possible, that you have to make choices, and when you choose one path you have to accept the fact that you’ve eliminated the possibility of many other paths. It was refreshing and much more real than the “get it all” myth.


Darby said...

Amen, sista! :)

I loved "Little Earthquakes"

Sarah said...

One of the things I find so furstrating about this whole this is that, generally, men don't have to make this choice. I might like to have children. But I really like having a career. If we want children, I have to do the pregnancy and labour thing, and take time off to do that. So does it make sense to disrupt two careers when the disruption can be limited to one? Men just aren't expected to make these choices and it drives me mad!

martha said...

Why do I get the feeling that the people who are encouraging women to think they don't have to make choices are the same people who are encouraging women to judge the choices of others? Is it sort of implicit in the idea that '*you* don't have to choose' that women who acknowledge the reality of having to make a choice are wrong? I feel like, at a time when we seem to have moved past the 'Mommy Wars' (by agreeing that women who make different choices than us aren't wrong or bad) this kind of book may be trying to refuel that fire. Ick.

Jenny said...

I think the key is not "having it all" but being satisfied with what we have. Oh, wait, that isn't just in staying at home with our kids, that's in LIFE!
Who started the notion that we think we need "more"? What's so wrong with being happy in where we are in life?
And I don't mean that doesn't mean we have dreams and/or aspirations that we currently don't have. What are dreams FOR, if not dreaming? But there are times in your life for reaching for your dreams, and there are times in your life for focusing on other things (besides "ME" and "MY WANTS"), and right now it's rather more about those two little boys who are tucked cozily into bed (thanks to their Daddy... uh, I think I have an awful lot right now)...
Uh, Jenny, get off your soap box and stop shouting...

Mary Beth said...

Sarah--I agree. If you're a woman with a career and you want to have a baby, then you have no choice but to make a choice. Men do have a choice. I'm lucky because Jay stayed at home with Joshua for his first seven months so that I could work. Granted, he didn't have to give up his career to do it, but he did make some major sacrifices along the way (like sleep).

Martha--Oh no, the Mommy Wars are still raging. I see it all the time on my birth board at Babycenter. Circumcision vs. intact, breast vs. bottle, rear-facing carseat vs. forward-facing carseat, daycare vs. SAHM. Everyone has an opinion and every is right. (Of course, what people should really realize is that I am always right. That would make things much easier).

Jenny--Well said, er, shouted. I feel like in some ways I've had my chance to live a life that's all about me. Now my life is about other people. Do I have to give up who I am because of that? (The answer, of course, is "No", but it's funny how people at social gatherings tend to stop talking when I say I'm at a SAHM). I kind of wondered how you would feel about this since I know you still get to spend a little bit(?) of time at CP. I'm glad we're on the same page.

Jenny said...

I would love to be able to spend more time at CP these days but I realize that it's not going to happen, and I'm okay with that. But currently there's a lot going on with "strategic planning" and I would love to be involved in that, or at least transcribing another diary like I did the winter I was pregnant with Mark, and I realize I can't do that, and I'm sorry about it, but wow, I got to do some really cool things over these last few years, and it was 8 years we were married before we had kids; it was all about "me" and "us" for a nice long time. I don't regret what I've had to give up in order to be mommy to those little guys...
And I'm with Martha (and you) on the childishness of people who think that "THEIR" way is the only right way. One of my best friends has very divergent opinions on birth and child-raising (in fact she's preparing for her home birth right now) and we've just agreed that we don't have the same philosophies and that's okay. She accepts that I was happy with my epidural though she wouldn't want one, and I say bully for her pushing through it her Jacuzzi...

jreale said...

We're all doing our best to deliver our wee ones to adulthood, and it doesn't help anyone to quash a book that intends to help those of us who maybe don't have the task as wrapped up all neatly as you all.

If people weren't confused, if people didn't need guidance, if people were always uplifted, you would probably be out of a job as a pastor, too, but I would never accuse you of keeping anyone that way for your own benefit.

So let's give us MomsTown fans just s a little break, OK? Personally, I enjoyed it mostly because I don't read any book expecting a panacea. And after all, you could have just checked it out from the library instead of buying it, for goodness sake.

patty said...

There are thousands of women across this country who do aspire for something more. However, something more does not necessarily mean sacrifices.

Thousands of women ARE staying home...raising their children and running very successful home businesses... from the corner office of their own homes.

Why does it have to be work outside the home or not? I personally left a corporate job when my daughter was born, am raising her without daycare and have a very successful internet publishing business.

She sees the example every single day that her mom is creating something incredible, helping other women AND still get to take and pick her up from school every single day.

She gets to see that there ARE more options that being in just a job. It's also taking responsibility for our own financial future and not leaving that to somebody else.

Having it all doesn't necessarily mean luxurious cars and mansions, but as adults, we have forgotten how to dream. Forgotten what it's like to think you're invincible and can be anything we want "when we grow up."

This is what is so incredible about childhood. Children think they are can be anything they want when they grow up, then life happens and slaps them in the face.

Well, Mary and Heather have helped thousands of women to dream again, to consider the possibilities of "what if?" AND to be incredible mothers, too.

It doesn't have to be one or the other. It CAN be both.

hsharp said...

I am also a SAHM who gave up a promising and financially rewarding career to be "just" a mom. No one can take my place in my children's lives, and I would not give it up for anything.

With that said, my husband busts his butt so that I can stay home. I, on the other hand, run 2 home businesses out of my house.

I read MOMSTOWN after doing this for 7 years already. I find that this book gives a lighter, and not so redundant look at how (if you wish) to start, operate, and grow a business out of your home. Being a GAL is not a derogative, or making yourself a sex slave to your husband so you can continue your home biz, it is about feeling good about yourself, and being confident. It is also ONE PART of what the author's offer to help women/moms who are trying to start a business. I suggest that you peruse their website, forums, and radio show to see how they HELP women with guidance, and lots of free advice and publicity.

Mary & Heather, the author's of this book are also moms who have a business. With that said, these two women have opened their arms to many of us, giving us opportunity to grow our business. Because we WISH to.

It does not sound as if you need the advice of starting, organizing, and growing a business, since your are a pastor on leave with a husband who seems to make enough money to support you.

Other women out there have dreams they want to fulfill, and this book is just a guide. You can take it with smile and laugh some, or find another.