Friday, July 20, 2012

Great Expectations

The topic of "having it all" has been spun around a lot lately and people have asked me some very good questions. If you haven't read the outrageously long but honest article by Anne Marie Slaughter 'Why Women Still Can't Have it All' I recommend you give it a try--at least read the beginning and the end. She makes a really good case explaining the lie of the feminist movement and how it doesn't really quite work well in real life.

What does it mean to "have it all"? Well, let's start with the basic. What is the meaning of "all" in this case? A perfect husband (and what exactly does "perfect" in this case even mean?), a high-level job, a house in the suburbs, 2.5 perfect children? Does it mean upper middle-class? Does it mean happy relationships at home and at work 100% of the time? Does it mean you live close to work? Or that you live in the city and not the suburbs? This Psychology Today blogger thinks she has it all--but all according to whom? She even says "I guess my standards are too low." She's not really sure what "all" is.

The first problem with the feminist lie of "you can have it all" is that "all" is not defined. So no matter what you have, you'll never reach this undefined goal. There's no litmus test to let you know that yes, you now have it all--congratulations. It's open-ended and therefore, unreachable.

The second problem is that no one can truly "have it all"--male or female. As humans, it's our nature to always want more. We accumulate--food, friends, money, houses, boats, babies, books, shoes, closets, pets, hobbies, etc. There's never a point where our human nature says "Yep, I think I have it all now. I don't want anything else." It just doesn't happen. The old adage of "you can't have your cake and eat it too" exemplifies this point. There's just no possible way to "have it all."

And also, since we're human "all" doesn't just mean stuff to us. It would include healthy relationships. We know that although you may be married, have kids, and have a great job that doesn't mean it's all going well. Your kids may be rebellious, you may feel disconnected from your husband, and you may feel under appreciated at work. Surely if all that is going wrong, then you don't "have it all."

The idea that someone can have it all is preposterous. To have it all is to truly have a perfect life (at least perfect in the eyes of society). And this is the expectation that we've put on entire generations of women--perfection of life. And the idea spread from women to men.

We all learned from the classic novel that great expectations usually lead to equally great disappointments. When we strive to follow the feminist mantra and have it all, we set ourselves up for failure. Where's the liberation in that? It just makes us all unhappy, depressed individuals because we feel something is wrong with us. If we were better, smarter, more efficient we would be able to accomplish the goal. But when the goal is undefined, there's no way to accomplish it.

I think women are getting to the point where they realize that striving to have it all doesn't make them happy. Women, and men, have a hard enough time juggling what they have on their plate already, let alone trying to juggle "all" once they attain it.

A more realistic approach is to realize that life is about balance, about choices. What do you want out of life (and for Christians-what does God want from you in your life)? What are you willing to sacrifice to make it happen? If family is more important to you than your career, then don't pander to the feminist movement because they are the "end all" of womens' ideals. For men, make decisions while keeping family at the top of the list. If career is more important, then be sure to let anyone you date or eventually marry know that about you. Or don't marry at all if that's your choice. But be honest with yourself and your loved ones about your priorities--that will lead to a greater sense of fulfillment than striving for someone else's undefined goal to have it all.

Attempting to have it all is truly chasing after the wind.

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