Let’s Talk About Our Cultural Double Bind- A Work-Life Balance

There are a lot of messages that people get from our modern American culture- one of the most pervasive is the message that you can achieve work-life balance, if you just do it right. I’ve always thought this idea smelled strongly of bullshit, but I’ve never really been able to articulate why.

Women, especially, are told that we HAVE TO master this, or else our children/marriage/health/careers/appeal/earning power/worth will suffer irrevocably. And the implication is that it’s completely doable.

Just seize the day!

(And do it without compromising your dedication to others or your job.)

I’ve recently discovered a new blog that I’ve been devouring. It’s the business/career advice blog of a self-described ‘neurotic Jew with Asperger’s Syndrome-‘ Penelope Trunk.

penelopeHer writing style is crisp, blunt and utterly-free of brand-management bullshit. Her topics are relevant and intensely interesting. She’s open about where she flounders in a way that seems totally un-staged.

It’s hypnotic. I’ve been binge-reading her blog for days and I just keep going deeper and deeper into her perspective of current culture.

The post I read yesterday that absolutely stopped my internal world was this: a post about Work-Life Balance and how it’s a myth.

Women need to hear this- often and loudly. She points out an often ignored piece of reality- that adulthood involves sacrifices and that you can’t have it all. You really, really can’t.

You choose to care for kids, and you will take a career hit. You choose to focus on career and you give up something of the flexibility that is vital to raising kids. It’s next to impossible to do both, and the celebrities/public figures who make themselves out to be just-another-working-mom who manage to actually handle this challenge (I’m looking at you, Marissa Mayer) are full of it. Period.

Our culture doesn’t reward the hard, full time work that is raising kids. There is lip-service paid to Moms (and Dads), but no monetary recognition of the contribution they make to society. I’d like to think the least we can do is not lie to ourselves and others about the sacrifices that are an unavoidable part of parenthood.

You can’t raise kids and commit to a full-time career in the way that American Culture demands. We just aren’t set up for it. At some point, you have to choose where your priorities lay, and accept the consequences of that choice.

I love the fact that Penelope Trunk actually points this out in a clear, unapologetic way. She points out A LOT of other things about our culture that are very poorly arranged. I may not agree with all of it, but she makes very interesting points, and I do agree with almost all of it.

Just wanted to share this tonight. Please read a bit of her blog and see if some of her points resonate with you. If you’re a woman (kids or not, married or not), trying to balance life in the face of an entire mountain of Shoulds, please read some of this and let me know if you see what I see- an open letter about all the double binds that our society pretends are not there.

But we feel them. Right?

Toddler Tantrums (my daughter has them too…)

Author’s Note:  If you like my writing, please share it! Share it on social media with friends! Unless you don’t want to. I don’t want to be that friend who makes you feel awkward about it. Unless that would work. Would it work?  Seriously though, please share if you feel inclined. I’m not trying to make money off of this (yet) or anything. Just trying to grow this blog. 

Knowing Your Weaknesses (a.k.a. Your 30’s)

I’m old enough now that I know damn good and well what I handle poorly. (Don’t ask me to do/say anything when I’m hungry or sleepy. It won’t end well. For anyone.) And I know when I need to walk away…most of the time. Okay, some of the time. I just don’t always do it.

Let’s back up here. I’m old enough that I know what I can’t handle well.

I don’t handle unfinished projects well. I want them done.

I don’t handle repetitive whining well (like a 1950’s stereotype, I think you should suck it up unless you have a severed artery, in which case you drive yourself to the ER after fashioning your own tourniquet).

I don’t handle ceaseless work well. I like my breaks, and they like me.

I don’t handle social situations where I can’t leave well. If you know me, you know.

I don’t handle situations that can’t be calmly and rationally discussed well. (Disclaimer: the Hubs will add that this is true only if I’m also right, which I usually am, so I don’t see why he brings that up.)

I don’t handle mess/disorder well. The chaos of the cosmos unnerves me. 

I don’t handle distraction well. Though I think ANYONE in this society would have ADD, I actually DO have it. And I can tell you, it’s not fake, and I’m not doing it to piss anyone off. I really can’t stay on topic that long.

In short, I never should have had kids. Or married. I should have gotten a plant or two, moved into a tiny apartment in a boring town and joined a bridge club. Yet here I am, with a Hubs, a fast-moving Toddler, a full time job (technically- two full time jobs), a house undergoing crucial rennovations, a business… and a front porch full of plants that might one day overgrow the entire front of my building. Absolutely nothing in my life is in check right now.

I’m not complaining. Just pointing out how, despite knowing my triggers, I still set up a life where I regularly bump into All. Of. Them. I’m eyeball-deep in the business of life, doing stuff I’m not good at and getting by. And that’s the part that stuns me- I’m getting by.  Amazing.

Toddler Tantrums

My little girl is a typical toddler. She whines, she smooches, she spills fresh yogurt in her lap and smears it on the table, she shrieks just to hear her voice bounce off the walls, she runs into things, she refuses to share, she does all of these things and only occasionally (right now) drives me to the edge of sanity. I knew I wouldn’t handle this stage well, but I’m surprising myself how much better I’m doing than I thought. My mom was right…it’s different when they’re your own.

Time with my girl comes at the expense of other things, and for now, that’s doable. I don’t like it, but it’s doable. I’d rather be with her than away from her, if that makes sense. I just miss hobbies. And money. And sleep. And friends.

I don’t have any grand epiphanies to share with you tonight (Unless you count discovering that my mom was right. AGAIN.). Just wanted to share my recent thoughts about mothering a toddler.

Oh, and humans are hard.


Coming soon…pictures of the recent renovations.