There’s been no avoiding the latest mothers-who-also-have-paid-work debate, a.k.a. the mommy wars. Does anyone else out there think there’s something missing in this latest salvo?
& no, I don’t mean the daddy’s, although one has to wonder what’s going through their minds re this ongoing quandary their wives & mothers & sisters & girfriends find themselves in…maybe if they put down their eToys for just for a moment & paid attention to their ladies’ voices, they could focus their keen male minds on what they, personally, can do about this deep angst that (nearly) every undervalued ‘working’ mother faces…
Wait, note to self: I really don’t want to talk here about the daddy’s. What I want to talk about is – the Grandmas! Because hey, not only are we now mommy’s X 2, but many of us are those (visionary? misguided? pragmatic?) 70′s feminists who just wanted to (or had to) figure out how to manage ‘work’ & families…not unike female primates have done for millions of years. I seriously doubt any of us primate grandmas thought of this as having it all, since in reality it’s more like having to do it all.*
Nevertheless, as a female & yes, feminist member of the apparently responsible generation, I thought I’d better track down where this concept of having it all came from. In 1975, (the year I stopped reading Ms. magazine because I thought it was too conservative,) Superwoman was published with the fateful phrase. Shirley Conran’s book about household management tips for working women stirred up the feminist pot, so much so that fifteen years later she herself published a follow-up book, Down with Superwoman. Conran is probably most well-known, however, for her groundbreaking book, Lace (1984), which broke the fiction barrier about women & sex. To Ms. Conran, having it all necessarily included meaningful work, happy kids, & good sex. Now 80 years old, she contends “if I had the situation all over again, I think I would definitely decide not to have children. It puts you at a disadvantage as a person.”
Well, this is an interesting twist from the founding president of the (now-defunct) Work-Life Balance Trust! It’s impossible, in this current era we find ourselves in, to have it all, after all. Whew! - can we now toss this phrase, please? & can we now start seriously talking about how to make this life work out better for both boys & girls? Because after all, the prospect of no more babies goes against our – you guessed it – fundamental primate nature.
& (surprise!), we grandmas just might have something to say about this. We weren’t born yesterday, ya know, & most of us aren’t yet confined to rocking chairs (not that grandmas ever were) – in fact, many grandmas are still doing that dance of trying to balance work & family (including aging parents), with our own added twist of figuring out how to best be helpful to our adult children & their families in these difficult times.
I don’t want my grandson to grow up needing or wanting to have it all. I just want him to feel good about sharing the pie fairly with his family, his friends, & the rest of earth’s creatures. If there’s a roadmap out there for this era, please send it our way, because it seems to me that the combination of economic recession, rapid climate change, & out-dated social values is challenging for us all. Don’tcha think?
*Some of us have been lucky to have a male primate in our lives who truly embraced sharing the load during those child rearing years…with deep appreciation to R.