The Great Mother

reflecting on life: stories, wisdom, inspiration, aggravation

You Can Have It All August 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — emlott @ 6:52 pm

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted.  Here’s one I started on July 14…now it’s August 18.  The thoughts are still stirring, though, and I hope some of you will return to The Great Mother blog.  My hiatus does connect with the thoughts below on productivity and the myth of having it all.

I remember speaking with a work supervisor many years ago about babies.  I don’t know why we were talking, but someone offered the cliche, “Having a baby changes everything.”  The (childless-by-choice) supervisor was shockingly passionate about this and responded, almost with venom, “It doesn’t have to.  People just let it.”  At the time I think I was most surprised by the conviction in her voice, but from today’s vantage point I’m also struck by the fallacy of her response.

Having a child doesn’t have to change everything, people just let it.  I think that’s intimately connected with the more common belief that women can have it all and do it all.  Hear me out on this.  The logic of both is that we can fill our days to overflowing with career and family and spouse and friends and workout and volunteerism and church and maybe even find time for self somewhere in there.  We can wear high heels and lipstick while we change that diaper, file that brief, run that errand, cash that paycheck, run that board meeting, and look good to all those around who are watching.

It’s not really about a feminist dream, either, though it’s often packaged and sold that way.  This is really the offer of the American dream.  So maybe women have felt they weren’t allowed to be part of that dream and for a few decades now have fought hard to participate.  But I don’t want to participate.  I don’t want that dream for myself.  I want a different dream.  (Scroll down and find the earlier link to an article in The Atlantic to read some great comments from a mom about her dream for herself and her family.  She’s mocked for it, but I love what she has to say.)

This summer has been full and rich, but not necessarily in the American-dream-you-can-have-it-all kind of way.  I preached a lot and loved it, but that gig sure isn’t about money.  I painted with my son on the front porch and created an art gallery for him on the staircase, we played at the beach as a family, we grew tomatoes and herbs and wildflowers in the yard, and we talked in the street with new neighbors.  It doesn’t fill up spots on my resume; if anything, it creates gaps.  This life is constantly calling me to slow down, to live with less, to be present in the moment.  It’s calling me to reconsider the potential and fallacy in saying, “I can have it all.”  What can I really have?  What do I want to create?  What dreams am I holding that I need to release?  How or will I respond to hurried sisters around who want me to hurry with them?  How can I welcome abundance and simplicity simultaneously?  Is that the real offer to have it all?

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