Having it All by Not Expecting it All

For a number of reasons Thought Tools and Susan’s Musing posted 24 hours behind schedule this week. Why am I mentioning this? In addition to apologizing for being late, I thought that what occurred provided an apt introduction for what I had planned to write concerning Anne-Marie Slaughter’s lament, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.  Many, including my friend Diane Medved, have written insightful pieces about The Atlantic magazine article, in which the author expresses her disappointment that society hasn’t progressed enough to actualize the feminist vision of being highly successful in one’s career while also having a stellar marriage and an exemplary family life. She is perturbed that her prestigious and powerful job responsibilities conflicted with her children’s needs and her desire to be more involved in their lives. I wanted to ignore the article and comment on the misconception the title reveals.

Frequently, authors don’t get to choose titles, but even if the title was crafted by an anonymous editor, it is still telling. What immature calculation suggests that anybody – man, woman or child, can “have it all”? One of the major tasks that good parents perform is teaching their children to deal with a finite world. A newborn infant wants everything he wants, RIGHT NOW! To the best of their abilities, his parents comply. Yet, as the months and years go on, toddlers and young children learn to deal with realities of the physical world. It won’t snow just because I want it to; my ball won’t change trajectory and avoid the neighbor’s window no matter how much I wish for that to happen. Expanding maturity teaches them to consider others’ wants and needs as well. At a relatively young age, we teach our children than they cannot have both friends and the option of only playing the games they choose; they cannot ridicule a classmate one day and expect to be invited to her birthday picnic the next. High school and college students continue learning truths. “If I go to the party tonight, I might do poorly on tomorrow’s test.” “If I go out for football I can’t also go out for baseball and track.”

In what alternate universe does anyone have it all?  What does that even mean? In a passage of Genesis, after fleeing the house of Lavan, his father-in-law, Jacob encounters his richer, outrageously more powerful brother, Esau. The interchange between them gives a different perspective on having it all. Despite his wealth and position, Esau tells his brother, “I have much.” Two verses later, Jacob says, “I have all.” (Genesis 33: 9-11)

Esau, like most human beings, can find more to want, no matter how much he already has. Money, status, power, satisfying work, vacation time, lack of stress, a wealthy lifestyle, marriage exactly when it fits one’s schedule, a happy marriage, commitment, a lack of commitment when desired, a younger, more attractive spouse, health, no children when you want, children when you want, perfect children, a longer life, a society free from want, a world free from war… If you put on ‘dissatisfied’ glasses, you will always see what you don’t have. In contrast to his sibling, Jacob’s spectacles look at what he has. “I have all.” That doesn’t mean objectively having every possible desire fulfilled nor does it mean meekly accepting the status quo. It does mean living in reality, shouldering the consequences of one’s decisions and choosing appreciation over grievance.

Having it all is a result of working on our attitudes and perceptions. Neither women nor men can “have it all,” anywhere but in their own minds. What does this have to do with Thought Tools and my Musing being late? I have enough of an ego to believe that had I wanted to pursue an esteemed professional life, with attendant stature and income, as Ms. Slaughter did, I could have done so. Certainly, with his many talents, my husband could have taken a different path as well.  Instead, we chose, and continue to choose, a road that allows us to integrate our love for God, for each other and our children, while we hope that we strengthen our country and offer resources of value to many of its citizens and others around the world. Not being in the corridors of power and having the concomitant benefits that Ms. Slaughter had, we have more flexibility than she did in her position. Unlike her, we don’t think that society is at fault if we can’t “have it all.”

On Friday, just before Shabbat, my husband and I discovered that one of our grandsons was hospitalized with a serious infection. We were filled with gratitude to God (and to the scientists, doctors and nurses who were His messengers) when we heard after the Sabbath that the infection was under control. Nevertheless, our grandson needed to stay in the hospital for a few more days. We agreed that I should head over to our daughter’s home a few hours away, to provide an extra pair of hands as she and her husband juggled caring for their eldest with the needs of their younger children and their other responsibilities. I was delighted to do so, but I was also reminded what an undertaking caring for young children is. My computer was barely opened from the time I got to their house until I left, certainly not enough to post these weekly messages.

Once again, I apologize for the delay, but on this Fourth of July, I am grateful for so much, including the freedom to make choices.  It is a wonderful day to be reminded that the illusion that government and societal intervention can solve every problem and fulfill every desire is false and that pursuing that path is dangerous and destructive.












5 thoughts on “Having it All by Not Expecting it All”

  1. Diane Rinehart

    Dearest Susan – Thank you for sharing yourself with “us!” We are kindred spirits and reading your musings is like getting a long awaited letter from home. May Our Father bless and keep you in His tender loving care. Diane Rinehart

  2. Susan – thank you for the post and link to Diane Medved’s article.
    What stood out immediately upon my perusing Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece was the proliferation of first person pronouns. “I … me … my … I … I … my … me. Alright, enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”
    In Psalm 77, Asaph, in his misery does just exactly the same thing, at least for the first half of the psalm. What snaps him out of his misery is his transition toward God in the middle verses, followed by the recovery of his joy in acknowledging the wonderful attributes of his Lord.
    I’m reminded of an aphorism: Humility is not thinking less of myself; it’s thinking of myself less.
    Though I don’t like to generalize, I can’t help but perceive that modern day Ivy League university graduates most conspicuous university acquired asset along with a world class Rolodex of ruling class contacts is their surfeit of hubris. Madeline Albright modeled hubris for Hilary (both at Wellesley College grads) at the State Department. Ms. Slaughter is now modeling hubris for the current crop under her purview as she states that she has “not exactly left the ranks of full-time career women: I teach a full course load; write regular print and online columns on foreign policy; give 40 to 50 speeches” blah, blah, blah. She seems concerned that folks might conclude that she retiring to her comfortable sinecure in the academy. OK, apparently not – at least not yet.
    At the peak of his worldly success, the late media magnate Robert Maxwell would arrive by helicopter to the rooftop helipads of the buildings that comprised his empire. It was reported that his security team, in communicating over their headset microphones as his aircraft safely touched down would declare “The ego has landed”.
    Robert Maxwell’s life ended an apparent suicide. It is supposed that he intentionally slipped into eternity from his luxury yacht as it cruised the Atlantic under cover of darkness, his dwindling media empire success no longer able to sustain his inflated sense of self.
    In my summer reading I’ve learned that the Atlantic Monthly and Harpers were the only two major publications who could not seem to find any space at all to review Russell Kirk’s seminal work The Conservative Mind when it was burst onto the literary scene in July 1953. O.K., I’ll come right out and say it: I have a sneaking suspicion that there just may be an ideological agenda at the Atlantic Monthly.
    I am thankful that we, unlike Princeton University have not deserted the Kingdom of God for the Kingdom of Man. Instead, we instill in our children respect for the wisdom of our ancestors as we endeavor to model reverence for God in every aspect of our daily lives.

  3. Well done, Mrs. Lapin! I am reminded of my comment to your recent editorial piece ‘Happily Neanderthal.’ The relentless droning in our ears of ‘equality’ from secular humanism translates into the calculated enculturation of every distinct group of humanity to want and demand greater and greater equality, also to want more and more and more.
    What groups of humanity are these? Any conceivable group is targeted: Blacks, Hispanics, LGBT, atheists, women. When feminists receive this drone of equality, they are inspired to want equality to men. This means equal roles, equal job opportunities at equal rates of pay in a dynamite career. At the same time, they crave the biological and spiritual fulfillment of being a wife and mother. But aren’t these goals mutually exclusive? While you are enchanting the corporate boardroom, what will your children be up to? The Catch-22 would seem to be that you can have it one way or you can have it the other way, but you simply cannot have it both ways at once. Better to do either one or the other rather than to undertake both and do a shoddy job at both.
    And better still to separate your needs from the wants and nice-to-have’s. Control your wants. Once upon a time my wife and I had to move out of our natural habitat, to live as ‘guests’ in a highly socialized state. Our family of four subsisted on a mere $18K a year, but never applied for heating assistance. There we stood out among our neighbors. We were told: ‘We’ve never met anyone like you. You are poor and struggling, yet you are content with what you have.’ That’s exactly right. The secret is to be content with what the Lord has given you and to give thanks without ceasing.
    Wanting more and more and more is a baited booby trap where we will founder like mastodons in the tar pits. And listening to and acting upon the drone of the ‘equalizers’ makes you the unwitting tool of those who would divide humanity into bickering camps behind barricades, one against the other, until all of humanity has been divided and conquered…and enslaved by the next Big Government Nimrod.

  4. karenbelsky@comcast.net

    I read A. Slaughter’s article and watched the video/interview before reading your article. May I thank you for your very realistic and mature comments. Your article resonates with me and expresses my own feelings/reactions to A. Slaughter’s “analysis” of her situation. I don’t think she learned a thing from her feeble attempt at introspection.

  5. Susan, you make me smile. You have indeed achieved “an esteemed professional life with attendant stature” and are exemplary of “having it all.” The critial word in that term is “it”: I can’t imagine a more significant or laudable life than raising seven ideal children, bringing thousands of people to God, and joining with your husband in a worthwhile career you can enjoy together. You, Susan, are the poster girl for “having it all.”

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