Recently, one of our daughters sent my husband and me a link to a podcast that she thought we would find interesting. We did. We each independently listened and then we each responded to the podcast’s creator, Kate Hendricks. I asked if I could share the link to her podcast with my Practical Parenting and Musings audiences and she graciously assented. Here is the link and then the two, rather different, reactions from my husband and me.
Here is my husband’s note to Kate:
Just listened to your “Women Can’t Have It All” podcast on the advice of my wonderful daughter #6, a recently married executive in NYC. You sound so wonderfully genuine; I felt I was being granted a glimpse into your soul. I travel a lot on business and the most heartrending sight I see on almost every trip (perhaps I am especially alert to it) is women with anguished expressions talking on their phones in the Admiral’s Club or the Red Carpet Club wishing their kids goodnight or trying to assure them of how soon they will be home. It’s sometimes more than I can bear. The women whose letters you read filled me with sadness especially since I am often asked to talk to husbands who are cajoling their wives back to work soon after a baby. Just wanted to thank you.
Here is my letter to Kate:
My daughter forwarded me your podcast and quite frankly as I listened to it I had two conflicting emotions. At the same time I wanted to hug you and pat you on the back as well as bark at you like a Marine Sergeant and tell you to “Woman Up!”
The podcast I heard is titled, “I Don’t Think Women Can Have It All.” I would ask where you possibly got the impression that any human being can have it all except that I think this is a lie that society has been peddling for too many years. Do you honestly think that men can have it all? If nothing else, the rising male suicide rate should make you question that assertion.
The myth of “having it all” is exacerbated by social media. The ease with which we can share our emotions with others and share the emotions that thousands of people choose to share with us is the proverbial blessing and curse. On the positive side we can forge relationships with those we might never otherwise meet and we can feel less alone when facing a difficulty that those in our immediate vicinity are not facing.
On the negative side, it has encouraged us to feel like failures no matter what we do. In the olden days, we had to cope once a year with getting Christmas cards from friends extolling the accomplishments and achievements of their children. Or maybe we received a few pictures in the mail from a friend whose professional performance allowed her to travel to an exotic locale when we are strategizing simply to make it to the drugstore to buy a new lipstick. Now, the accomplishments and achievements of strangers continually assault us.
On the flip side, we are also too easily tuned in to the frustrations and disappointments of others. When we were young mothers, a friend and I would sometimes telephone each other with a “poor baby” call. Maybe three kids had the stomach flu, maybe someone spilled cereal over the floor one too many times, maybe we just couldn’t handle constantly being on call. Not to mention having to make supper again and again and again. We would call, identify the call as a “poor baby” and get a few seconds of sympathy. We did not then call dozens of more friends and replay our self-pity party over and over. The expectation that life should be a breeze along with the ability to get positive feedback for complaining has turned us into a bunch of dissatisfied whiners.
Here are some truths. Life is full of challenges. There are challenges to working full-time, there are challenges to not working; there are challenges to being married, there are challenges to being single; there are challenges to being female, there are challenges to being male; there are challenges to having children and there are challenges to being childless. This is true whether one had a choice of didn’t have a choice in any of these things. As recent studies on grit have shown, there are even challenges to not having enough challenges. Welcome to the real world.
My dear Kate, I have so much more to say to you. Actually, I say a lot more regularly on my blog and I am currently writing a book that says much more on the topic. My bottom line in response to your podcast and to the women who wrote you is that in life there is no choice we make that doesn’t have trade-offs. We can spend the majority of our time choosing to be grateful for what we have or we can live in a constant state of disappointment. We can accept the difficult aspects of our lives as normal, shed a few tears and do whatever is necessary to pick ourselves up or we can keep reaching for “having it all” and fail over and over again.
If you are interested, here is a blog post I wrote in response to a card from one of my six daughters (we have one boy as well and no, he isn’t our youngest) expressing her thanks for the sacrifices I made as a mother. I appreciated her gratitude and rejected her premise. I title it: Having It All. https://rabbidaniellapin.com/having-it-all/
Hugs from one mom to another,