I was recently invited to a screening followed by a discussion with the cast of Sarah Jessica Parker's film ” I don't know how she does it” and after watching the film, I can tell you how the character does it; i.e., holds down a high powered job in finance while attempting to mother her kids– she relies heavily on the help of a babysitter and her husband who has a really flexible work schedule. But watching the character throughout the entire film she appears, stressed, unhappy, barely gets any down time with her kids- to just sit and be, she and her husband go without physical intimacy for weeks, and the only part of her life that seems to be moving in the right direction is her career.
This is not a post about bashing women who work full time– I work full time too- albeit, most of the time I do it from my couch, sitting in pajamas at one am, because it's the only time I have been able to carve out for this career of mine. But there is one thing I know for sure-my belief is that unless you are a woman who is wiling to make the conscious decision to forgo having children so that you can devote your energies to your career and professional advancement- having children (whose childhoods you want to be fully present for and entrenched in) will certainly put the brakes on your ability to truly rise to the pinnacle of your profession.
How do I dare make such a statement- and in doing so am I pushing back the feminism movement- and devaluing the work so many of us do by trying to have it all? No I don't think I do- I think I'm a just being realistic- about the ability of a woman who also chooses to be a mother, can really achieve.
Case in point- three women who have surged to the top of their fields- Oprah Winfrey,Diane Sawyer and Condoleeza Rice– what do these three women have in common? They all have made conscious choices not to bear children, or adopt them into their lives. And let's be honest here- in their chosen fields and professions- had they also been mothers- would it have been possible to achieve that high level of success- without missing out on much of their children's childhoods- which would be relegated to nannies and housekeepers? I'm going to have to say yes.
While it's true there are many women who are trying to have it all- like the character in SJP's film- but like her character the ability to juggle and be successful at everything is nearly impossible. Something had to give– if as a mother you want to spend time with your kids- more so than man who also has kids at your respective job- but has his wife and the mother of his kid's holding down the fort so perhaps doesn't feel that same pull to be there at his child's first day of school, play, field trip or hold their hand while the dentists drills their tooth–as a mother who works full time these are all things you might have to sacrifice.
I think when you choose to be a mother–it is really hard to delegate those firsts, those experiences, to a nanny, or baby sitter and not feel a twinge of guilt and remorse that you will never have an opportunity to revel in those experiences with your kids once again.
Sure there are many of us women, who are the primary breadwinners in our homes, and in that sense if we've got a good man at home watching our kids, if we have a parent experiencing those first and milestone moments with our children- the big and small stuff- it is not as gut wrenching to be at a job we presumably love- or at the very least to keep a roof over our family's head.
But in a home where both parents are working full-time, and full speed ahead at professions that relegate most of their kids experiences to be had with a paid professional/ babysitter nanny, I think that's where the having it all for a mom gets fuzzy. Do men feel the same way- are they asked how they do it all, how they balance it all? NO- because perhaps it's not a part of their DNA to feel this guilt; this need to be present at the big and small moments of their kids' childhoods.
But for so many of us moms- this thing they call balance is just not attainable. At least for me- I know if I want to get to a certain level of achievement- in my career I would not be able to spend as much time with my kids as I wanted to. It would be impossible. And I know when I look back on my life and what will be most important to me as near the end of my days are the relationships I've made and knowing that I played an integral role in my kids development.
This is my truth, this is my goal in life- and so I know unless I am willing to sacrifice having these experiences with my kids- I cannot have a career on par with that of a woman who doesn't have kids and has the mental capacity to invest her whole heart and soul into her professional endeavors.
Am I totally off the mark, can you have it all without sacrificing time with your kids?