We as women are lucky enough to live in a time where we can ‘be anything.’ We can have whatever we want, as long as we work hard for it, or so we are told. But sometimes I wonder if women stop to think about whether they WANT all that ‘being anything’ entails.
As a child, I knew I loved children. I was the neighborhood babysitter as soon as I was old enough, and often would stay after a babysitting shift ended to chat with the mother of the children I watched. I also loved to do things such as baking and crafting. I was probably the perfect ‘Suzy Homemaker’ by 1950’s standards. But I was also book smart. I did well at school and enjoyed reading and writing. So there was sort of this expectation that I go to school and ‘make something’ of myself.
While I think it is pretty misleading to assume that women either fit into the working mom box or the happy homemaker box – many of us enjoy both roles – it can also be hard for us, as women, to try to be both and to do so as perfectly as possible. We can be anything, but as more and more women are realizing, we can’t be everything. At least not all at once.
Life is full of choices and the roles a woman plays, especially a mother, can often be in direct conflict with one another. One thing I have found to be true in recent conversations with other moms is that it is very hard to feel like you are succeeding fully in any of these roles, when you are trying to BE all these roles at once.
It can be hard for career-minded, driven women to admit that we may need to dial it back a bit. I know, I know – we can do it all, right?! Wrong! Many women are making themselves miserable trying to maintain the façade of success in all areas, and we are doing ourselves a disservice in the process. We constantly feel the pressure to ‘succeed’ professionally, while putting on a happy face and giving the appearance of having it all. Meanwhile, we can feel burned out and like those closest to us aren’t getting the attention they deserve from us.
It should be ok for women to be able to say we want to focus on our families. After all, plenty of people who don’t have families say it is because they are focusing on their careers. What if I was to go to my boss and say, “You know what, I don’t want to be considered for that promotion, because right now isn’t the right time”? What if we were to admit that we were in a certain season of time, and that season didn’t equate with taking on demanding roles at the office that left us stressed and burned out? And what if we sought out new opportunities professionally that meshed more with our current personal needs, such as spending time with our families?
Certainly there are women who feel this way, and have done something about it – whether that means they have become stay-at-home moms, moved from full-time to part-time roles, or turned down roles that required more time and energy at the office. But I believe there are many others who slug away at the office, whether because they have to or because they feel they need to. Maybe they worked too hard to get to where they are and are afraid of losing momentum professionally. Maybe they don’t want to come across as weak or not a team player. They make the sacrifices they need to to be everything to everyone.
It is time that we, as women, give ourselves permission to choose. We can choose what matters most to us, and focus on that, should we have the means to. We should not feel guilty for making the decision to not be the top salesperson or the employee of the month. We should be able to happily enjoy attending our children’s after-school events instead of late-night boardroom meetings. We should be able to choose what fulfills us, without the guilt of not living up to unreasonably high expectations. We can be whatever we want, but we shouldn’t have to be everything, all the time.
In what ways have you dialed back your responsibilities or role at work? Has it made a difference in your personal life? Tell me about it in the comments, below.