As I write this post, the Today Show is airing a piece on having it all, based on the Shriver Report on the subject. Balancing work and family is something we need to talk more about as a nation, so I’m looking forward to the conversation.
But I have to say this: I never wanted it all. I am not the most ambitious person, and it feels risky saying this, because I’m a career coach and I supposed to be tweeting and blogging all the time, giving inspiring speeches, wearing suits everyday. But that’s not me and it never has been. I grew up suspicious of that life. I mostly work from home, through the tech miracle of Skype. My mom worked full time when I was growing up, and she was an amazing role model, but she was so….. tired. And she didn’t look happy. Now she’s retired and she’s like a different person. It shouldn’t be that way.
So like many Gen Xers, I decided to do something different when I had children, and now I’m mucking around, trying to do just that. I’m not into Leaning In. I’m not opting out. I’m just wandering around here in the middle, armed with a jogging stroller, a laptop, my to-go mug of coffee and some weird-tasting energy bars.
Here’s where I think things get confused in the workplace. Ambition equals intelligence and ability for many people. If you work part time, or even if you work full-time but have to leave at 5:30 p.m. to get to the daycare center, you’re seen as not quite as smart and worthy of kudos.
Primal scream, anyone? Yes? All together now (Mine has a Charlie Brown-just-missed-the-football flavor). AAAaaarrrrrrrghhhh.
And if one more person tells me to put my oxygen mask on first, I’m going to find one and strangle them with it. Single moms working full time are not avoiding self-care. They don’t have a single minute to do anything but put out fires sometimes. Can we just reject the plunging plane scenario altogether? I want to be on a plane to Maui. I’ve got a fruity drink, and my kids have sippy cups of pineapple juice.
Okay, I’m getting off track. Bottom line? I dream of a day when there are tons of part-time jobs with benefits in every field that PAY WELL, and the people in those jobs are there for all kinds of reasons: someone likes to go heli-skiing in the winter, someone else has an aging parent they care for, a person down that row of cubicles over there is training for an Iron Man. Etc.
How do we get there? It’s not going to be handed to us. We’re going to need to be very ambitious about not being ambitious, if that makes any sense. Here are some people who have said all this better than me, like this and this.
The people who aren’t CEOs need to start speaking up, and telling lawmakers what we need. We need reasonable maternity leave, we need more types of work options, we need on-ramps and off-ramps. We need to stop saying it’s all about women, too. It’s a human issue.
End rant. Hope you have a good Monday, and you’re able to catch some of the conversation on this!