Friday, January 7, 2011

The Myth of Having it All

As a young girl I grew up wanting it all. I watched my mom, a working mother before the phrase was coined, work in a factory while taking care of three kids and a husband. Sure, we were latchkey kids, but she always had food for us in the oven and snacks galore. She made it look easy. 

I watched The Cosby Show, my favorite sitcom in the 80s. I wanted to be Claire Huxtable. She was a beautiful, articulate, intelligent black woman with five beautiful children and a black husband who was a doctor. Her hair always looked great and her clothes always fit well. She appeared to be a perfect size 6 and her teeth were purly white. What T.V. doesn't reveal are the difficulties of getting through college, paying those steep tuition bills and struggling for years with a Bachelors degree to get a foot hole into opportunity.

T.V. never shared how hard it is to find a decent man of whatever race, but particularly a black college educated man who would be loyal and kind. I didn't come across that man until I met my husband at 27-years-old. This was after the stalking boyfriend or the lying, cheating boyfriend. No one ever told me that I'd be married for six years only to discover that my husband was reluctant to have children. Or that no matter how great a job is, it will never be perfect. I had no idea I'd give birth to twin daughters, but not be able to afford to stay home with them for longer than four months. I know, some women actually get six weeks home with their child, which is really ridiculous. If men gave birth to children, that law would quickly change. I would have liked being home for at least a year before I began to work full-time again. However, that dream was not possible because I wasn’t Claire Huxtable the lawyer, married to Cliff Huxtable the doctor. My husband and I are two college-educated people living a very middle class life. But it could be worse. I’m very aware of my blessings. My parents, brothers, husband, and in-laws became my village. I’ve needed their help juggling it all through this parenthood journey. For those without a supportive family (village), I can’t imagine how they do it.

You definitely need a village to raise children, help pick them up from school since most jobs ask you to work until 5 or 6 p.m. while most schools let kids out at 3 p.m. What is a parent to do? I was lucky that my parents had retired and were willing to be my village. I was lucky that my brothers and I enjoy a close relationship, so they sometimes watch my girls. I’m lucky that my husband took to the role of fatherhood beautifully –doing the 10 p.m. and midnight feedings, changing diapers and now watching them whenever I need a night out with a girlfriend. He might have been terrified to take the leap into parenthood, but he’s adjusted to the changes well.

Yes you can have it all, but not without an understanding company that allows you to be available sometimes for your children, loving parents that want to be grandparents and do what they can to make whatever arrangement you have work for everyone. Or great childcare or a nanny you can trust. A loving husband not filled with drama that wants all the things you desire. Now that I've reached my mid-forties, I've found all those things but I'm still climbing, learning new skills, reinventing myself and my relationships. It's an uphill climb to have it all and a never-ending battle to survive but with patience, hard work, understanding and love it’s a life that is achievable, but will never be perfect.

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