I’m so sick of posts talking about how women can have everything, just not at the same time (a Claudia Goldin quote, I believe… she was talking about the generation of women who are now retiring).
I especially hate the way that disagreeing and saying, “Hey, I have everything” makes me look like a jerk. Folks should be able to say, “I have everything and you can too. You may not have it now, but if you keep trying it can happen.” People shouldn’t have to apologize for being awesome. People shouldn’t have to say, “The only reason I’m awesome is because I have had advantages that you don’t (so don’t even bother trying).” The truth is that we can all be awesome, or at least awesomer than we are now, but some of us have to work harder than others at becoming awesome because of differences in advantages.
Here’s why I have everything.
I’m smart. I have good genetic material. A family that values intelligence. My mom ate crazy healthy when I was in the womb. My parents were active with me as a baby. My house was full of books. But smart isn’t just an inborn trait, it’s something you have to use and nurture by growing dendrites and taking on challenges. You can become even smarter, starting now. (Read Mindset by Carol Dweck.)
I’m focused. I know what I want and I make plans on how to get there.
I’m well-prepared. I’ve sought out and taken many educational opportunities. I understand the culture I’m working in (I didn’t at first, but I learned and changed). I had solid training. My parents also gave me tools to navigate the adult world… I can budget, invest etc. If I can’t do something I know how to find out what to do. The best thing my mother ever taught me was how to use the library.
I’m determined. I’m not a shrinking violet. I know I’m valuable. If I’m not getting what I want, I figure out how to get it. I don’t have everything I want, but I’m going to keep trying until either I do or I decide I want to try a different game. I realize that often opportunities don’t fall into my lap, but I can ask for them (firmly and politely). And if some people think I’m not staying in my place, that’s their problem, not mine. Sometimes I strike out, but I still go up to bat.
I’m hardworking. I no longer work 80 hour weeks, but I sure don’t work less than 40 hrs/week either.
I have a growth mindset. Set-backs are simply set-backs. We learn from them and work harder to get ahead.
I have the perfect partner. We don’t fight. We don’t guilt. We shoulder the load. We comfort. We support. We look for solutions together.
I’m not a martyr. I don’t see any reason that I should have to sacrifice myself for anybody or anything. Yes, I did all the “right” things when DC was a baby, but never at huge sacrifice to myself, and I got to decide what was “right,” after a lot of research. I did what I did because that was what I wanted to do because I thought it was the right thing, not because I wanted people to think I was a saint or because I was trying to convince myself not to feel guilty for whatever reason.
I’m lucky. Also privileged by geographic and demographic virtue. I have to work harder than a white male from a tony family but I don’t have to work as hard as an equally perfect female from an underrepresented minority family would to get to the same place. I don’t have to work as hard as someone from another country, and being an American gives me untold advantages and safety.
Perhaps most importantly: I get to define “everything.” My goals are achievable. I don’t want to work 80hrs/week and be at home for my child 168hrs/week. I want a happy independent kid who works to hir own chosen potential. I want to be respected in my career and to do good work. I want to be continually growing. I want to make enough money (and spend reasonably enough) not to have to think about it unless I want to. (#2 thinks that the ability to have it all depends on how you define “it” and “have”. Do I sound Presidential?)
Anyhow. If you’re feeling unhappy about your lot in life, instead of complaining about how women just can’t have everything in yet another blog post… well, ask yourself what you can do to get what you want. Changing the game is difficult, but there are still strategies you can use to get ahead as a player. And it’s not fair that it takes more effort for some groups than others, but if that’s what it takes, then that’s something you can do.
What can you do to make your life better? Are you trapped?