“Having It All”, Feminism, and Me

I’m writing this after reading three recent articles.  (All are cited at the bottom of this paragraph).  One is a response to Sheryl Sandberg’s recent comments about women in the workplace, one is an article about Betty Friedan’s predictions about feminism and the workplace, and the other is about how 20-something women shouldn’t feel bad about wanting boyfriends.

http://ideas.time.com/2013/03/07/confidence-woman/                           http://ideas.time.com/2013/02/15/what-betty-friedan-saw-coming/ http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/women-in-their-20s-shouldnt-feel-bad-about-wanting-a-boyfriend/273737/

Rather than critiquing each individual article, I’ll attempt to comment holistically on all of them by sharing my thoughts regarding dating, marriage, and children.  (Insert usual caveats about how not all women have the luxury of choice, other women are free to make different choices that work for them and their families, etc.)

Regarding the Atlantic article, I think the prevalence of the “hookup culture” is exaggerated. I don’t know anyone who actually hooks up.  Maybe that’s because Midwesterners are more conservative, or maybe it’s just the crowd I run with.  Keeping in mind my sample might be biased, I don’t know anyone who’s ashamed of wanting a boyfriend.  My friends tend to fall into two groups. Most of my high school friends are engaged (one’s married!). Most, but not all, of my college friends are single, and aren’t focusing on relationships right now.  It’s possible that they do secretly want a boyfriend and are in fact ashamed of it, but I’m inclined to take them at their word.

I fall somewhere in the middle of the pack.  I’m not in a relationship right now, and I’m okay with that.  I’d rather be single and happy than married to the wrong person (especially since I wouldn’t consider divorce except under exceptionally grave circumstances). However, some of my college friends do consider me slightly romance-obsessed.  I’m not in a rush to get married, but if I did meet the right guy, I wouldn’t postpone the wedding solely on the basis of my age.

Although I want to have kids, I can’t see myself as a stay-at-home mom.  Being home all day leads to me crashing in front of the TV and/or the computer.  I need social interaction with ADULTS to function well. On the other hand, I don’t want to be insanely stressed out all the time.  Even assuming my future husband substantially helps out with the child-rearing and household duties, that’s still a lot of work.  If that means I have to cut back on my work hours or take a less challenging position, I’d be willing to do that.

I don’t consider thinking about work/family balance when considering careers to be a problem; I consider it responsible.  There are only so many hours in the day, and climbing to the top of the corporate ladder does require a huge time commitment. Some people are willing to do that.  After much consideration, I’ve realized that that’s not what I want out of life. Sheryl Sandberg’s schedule works for her, but it would leave me feeling frazzled. I want work outside the home to be a fulfilling part of my life, but not the only source of fulfillment.  In the words of Betty Friedan (as quoted by Judith Warner), I want to “fully realize my potential.”

In addition, I don’t want to make promises to my employer that I won’t be able to keep.  This is where I disagree Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to “don’t leave before you leave”, referring to women avoiding less-demanding positions even before they leave to have kids.  As a single woman, I have no problem with this.  I’m going to live my life and not wait around sitting for Mr. Right, since for all I know I might not marry until I’m like 50 (that is, assuming I do marry).  But if I were married AND planning to have kids in the near to immediate future, it would make a lot of sense to choose a job with less pressure that would allow me to spend time with them.

I do consider myself a feminist.  I’m glad I’m not automatically slated as a future housewife just because of my gender.  In my understanding, feminism is about being able to make my own choices about what I want to do with my life, rather than having them dictated by society.  And I refuse to let society tell me that my career must take precedence over my personal life.


2 thoughts on ““Having It All”, Feminism, and Me

  1. Interesting post. I liked your last paragraph. It’s nice to see your take-charge attitude. Everyone should focus on family or career however much they want (within reason of course), Listening to what society wants you to do is simply a way to end up miserable.

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