Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Redefining Happiness

A while back, I wrote a post "Celebrating Women" in honor of Mothers Day.  In addition to the writings I've done on the topic, I've been following along with some of the "Mommy Wars" (please tell me you didn't miss this little gem from The Bloggess) which really aren't limited to "Mommies" but rather have tentacles to women everywhere who are just trying to do the best they can.  Too much of the conversation these days is negativity about how women are perfect at one aspect of their life and not at every other area.

The latest controversial post to hit the big time is this article by Anne-Marie Slaughter entitled "Why Women Still Can't Have it All."  Her article, written from the perspective of an incredibly high-powered woman, resonates with me big time.  I've been doing a lot of soul searching about what my priorities are, what I see for my future, whether I ever want to settle down and start a family, what kind of person I want to be remembered as... all big things hanging over my head for the last six months or so.  I don't know what all of my answers will be to those big questions yet but I do know that I need to redefine my own version of the American Dream if I want to survive.

I've learned that no one, not men or women, no one can possibly survive and really have it all because our definition of "having it all" is a disaster.  Something has to suffer because we are not super-human.  I hate to break it to all of you out there who are still "living the dream" but it isn't possible to do everything perfectly 100% of the time!  And it may never be possible but certainly not right now.  I love Slaughter's closing paragraph of the article.

We’ll create a better society in the process, for all women. We may need to put a woman in the White House before we are able to change the conditions of the women working at Walmart. But when we do, we will stop talking about whether women can have it all. We will properly focus on how we can help all Americans have healthy, happy, productive lives, valuing the people they love as much as the success they seek.

Re-envisioning what "success" means is a tough lesson for me sometimes because I truly love being seen as someone who excels in a career-focused environment.  I like being a big fish in a small pond, if you will, but in order to be that, even though I'm new to this whole career thing and not finished with my education, I have had to set other things aside.

I don't even have a family yet or possibly ever (aka - children... because you couldn't possibly have a family if you haven't given birth) and I've still had to make some tough decisions about how I want to prioritize my life.  I took a job in a city where I didn't know anyone, far away from my family, in order to excel in my career.  I've done exactly that.  But for the first 2 years that I lived here, that was all that I did.  I can honestly say that I didn't really have friends in that time - much less have any semblance of a dating life.  In order to be closer to my family, I'll probably have to take a step back in my career.  I have always wanted to pursue my PhD but that requires me to put my career on hold completely and probably move to an entirely new and different place.    As I've realized that I can't put relationships on hold, and can't rule out the fact that I may want to settle down some day, I've realized that might mean making sacrifices in my career.  The problem is, I don't like sacrifice.

That being said, the latest realization I've come to is that maybe I don't need to be "the best" at anything.  Maybe just being average at it all is ok.  I hate mediocrity but that's not what I'm talking about.  Maybe it's absolutely perfect not to climb so high in my career, pursue the terminal degree in the same way I once thought, marry a rich doctor and have a dozen perfectly adjusted kids.  

Maybe the American dream, having it all, should be more along the lines of finding a career that you love and that you are decent at, get as much education as you enjoy getting, fall in love if you meet someone worthy of sharing the rest of your life and have kids if it suits you.  

It's not lowering expectations.  It's redefining happiness.  At least for me it is.


  1. I wish this (and Slaughter's original article) was required reading for my parent's generation and above. Or really anyone who finds an appropriate follow up to "when is the wedding?" as "when are you having kids?"

    How about "do you want kids?" Or shit even just don't ask. It strikes me as possibly the most personal question that society still deems okay for people to ask each other.

    And I wish maybe instead of the looks of disappointment people try to hide when I try to find a nice way to say "I'm not having kids, and my uterus' occupancy is none of your business," that people could just be happy that I've found someone I love enough to spend the rest of my life committed to.

    Seriously, I want to get business cards printed that say "I will not be having kids, and the next time you stop to ask someone that, maybe you should consider how much you're intruding on their sex life. Creep."

    Which is a little more than defensive, but I think if one more person says "oh, you'll change your mind." I will punch them in the throat.

    AND EVEN THEN! What if I really WANTED kids, but wasn't able to have them, or had tried and something horrible had happened? I can only imagine how hurtful that question would be.

    ...this post may have touched a nerve. But thank you for sharing.

    1. Your rant is the highlight of my afternoon for so many reasons. I really do hate how the norm is still the same as it was 50 years ago. I love my family, but if one more person asked me following Abby's wedding if I was next, or when mine would be, or why I wasn't first, they were going to die. And THEN the kid conversation always comes up.

      On a lighter note, please tell me you've seen the SATC episode where Miranda launches into her "Dating Lots of Un-Special Guys" routine. Still cracks me up.

    2. I haven't, (though I looked it up for a good chuckle!) but I think you need to watch this:

    3. That... was hilarious. Thank you!


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