The polls are in! Women today are unhappier than they were in the 1950’s. After fire pits ablaze with bras, equal opportunity employment, a female candidate for president (and vice president…well kind of), the glorious invention of tampons (and later the whispered-about “keeper”), the legalization of abortion, and the sexual liberation in the form of birth control, illicit drugs and Madonna, women today are officially (according to one study: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14969 ) unhappier than their penis-laden counterparts.
Some naysayers of gender equality have used this handy little report to try to shove a big fat “I told you so” in the scrunched up (and prematurely wrinkled) faces of distraught feminists everywhere. “Try to have it all,” they sneer, “and you will end up miserable.” But although the appeal of a simple “return to family values” may seem like the quickest easiest solution, we all know that era is dead and gone and really didn’t work so well in the first place. It is time to usher in a new era of family values which may or may not include 2.5 kids, a dad (or partner) and hopefully a mommy not on the edge of a nervous breakdown, who has it all or at least has everything she needs to be a happy woman.
As Elizabeth Gilbert reports for the oh-so-Oprah magazine (http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/wayoflife/05/03/o.well.lived.life.key/index.html?hpt=Mid), women’s increased unhappiness may indeed be because of increased freedom and a surplus of possibilities available to women today; but all this potential is not the doomsday scenario traditionalists make it out to be but rather a ginomous learning curve for women everywhere.
“We don’t have centuries of educated, autonomous female role models to imitate here (there were no women quite like us until very recently),” writes Gilbert. “So nobody has given us a map.
As a result, we each race forth blindly into this new maze of limitless options.”
Without a map there a bound to be a few missteps along the way, one of the biggest is the “having it all” or more preciously “doing it all…perfectly” syndrome.
No matter how many extra hours we put into work, we will occasionally miss that report deadline. No matter how many times we read Green Eggs and Ham to sleepy children, one night we will burn the casserole and order pepperoni pizza from Dominoes’. No matter how much we try to get up at 6 a.m. and go to that yoga class, we will still gain 5 pounds around the holidays and not fit into our pants.
In the bigger picture, we may sacrifice a promotion for a family or a family for a promotion. We will prioritize what we want in life and some things for the sake of time and sanity will be cut. What we must do is not look at the cutting room floor and mourn what is there, but instead look at our full complete lives and thank the feminist gods of that we were allowed to choose what we filled our limitless lives with.
Gilbert wraps up her article beautifully will this simple advice:
“Blow it all catastrophically, in fact, and then start over with good cheer. This is what we all must learn to do, for this is how maps get charted — by taking wrong turns that lead to surprising passageways that open into spectacularly unexpected new worlds. So just march on. Future generations will thank you — trust me — for showing the way, for beating brave new footpaths out of wonky old mistakes. Fall flat on your face if you must, but please, for the sake of us all, do not stop. Map your own life.”
Mapping your own life is easier said than done. For a little help with this life-long project, come to the Younger Women’s Task Force Spring Educational Event about work/life balance tonight May 27th, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. at the Y USA, 101 N. Wacker. The young women of YWTF along with speaker Sue Mackey will lead the group into answering this “wtf is work/life” question as well as creating a rough draft for participants’ maps into their new and limitless futures. For more information of the event, please visit Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=124789837539729&ref=ts or email firstname.lastname@example.org or see the flyer: YWTF_Spring_Event_Flyer