Anne Marie Slaughter’s piece on the ongoing struggle of women to balance work and life is one of the most-read pieces ever in The Atlantic. And the media were ablaze these last few weeks about Marissa Mayer ascending the Yahoo! throne while seven months pregnant. I’m starting to feel useless and inadequate. I’m not pumping out kids and I’m not the CEO of a tech company. In other words, I’m NOT Superwoman. But I’m at peace with my choices and circumstances.
I’ve decided not to have it all, and it’s all good.
Why distill the existence of women down to mommy versus worker? Life is fulfilling on many (simple) levels. Surely family is most important, and work unquestionably dominates our lives. But we need to encourage and celebrate other noble pursuits beside raising kids or working 100 hour workweeks. Here are examples from my own life:
- Community Engagement - I volunteer, using a unique skill to connect with people more deeply than just dropping off donations. I’m working with the Los Angeles Youth Network to offer free onsite yoga classes.
- World Citizenship - Building bridges by traveling to other parts of the world and observing how others live, talking to them about their values, gaining perspective.
- Personal expression – I write music, and this task requires isolation and free time. Where would we be without the world’s great musicians, writers, and artists who shaped the world?
- Self-Realization – I value time to meditate and reflect on who I am as a person, what I contribute to the world, what my relationship is to a higher power.
These practices don’t get much respect and tend to be viewed as self-indulgent. But this kind of “self work” is important. It’s essential to have the time and space to reflect and appreciate, not just survive and produce.
Check out this piece from NPR, which gives history and background on Thoreau’s writing of On Walden Pond. The ultimate self-indulgent exercise, it resulted in some of the most inspiring writing and philosophy in American history.
Tags: anne marie slaughter, having it all, marissa meyer, sheryl sandberg, thoreau, work life balance