I have raised my daughter on my own; oh, yes with my carefully curated family of friends always a phone call away, and with the steadiness of two sitters who are sisters (when one graduated college, the other took over until she too graduated, and by then, the child was a self-sufficient Tween) who picked her up every day from elementary and later middle school, cooked her dinner, did her homework with her and listened to her daily rounded up for, while I pummeled away at the corporate gig. I always was in attendance for my daughter’s events, I ran my team, I tried to see my friends regularly. I was in charge of the housework as I was the only lifeguard on duty, I ran the weekend errands often with the child in tow, I walked my dog three times a day, I did all the grocery shopping, and I managed to talk to my parents on the phone everyday. I did it all, everything that it took to run a well-balanced life. I still do; my daughter, now a Teenager, requires more parenting and less shuttling around and the career, well, it has its challenges, ageism rearing its Medusa-esque head. Still. These last 18 years is my version of the juggling act, of Having It All, a 70’s era term that Third Wave Feminists like myself inherited from the Second Wave, a term that the Fourth Wave seems uninterested in, and I applaud them for that. Having it All is no longer the defining line of the liberated woman. “All” is relative; you only learn this as you gain experience, living life, making your choices. For Second Wave Feminists, Having It All was a battle cry of liberation, and of a complex juggle–career and family life–that their generation had to fight for. For Third Wave Feminists—of which I am one—”all” was a concept hanging heavy over us. I was in my twenties when we declared the Third Wave, and for me, Having It All was irrelevant to date, because children were not part of my equation, the career was. And the career? It was, in my twenties, elusive at best; I was vilified for being buxom, I was stuck in desk bitch hell, I was consistently ignored by my higher ups. One male supervisor took me aside and told me I was “distractingly sexy.” In my thirties, I clawed my way into every staff job, as well as every freelance assignment; I was fortunate to have BUST, but even that came with its set of disappointment. It wasn’t until I became a solo parent, and had to confront the challenges of childcare that the real balancing act of “all” presented itself to me. Raising a child and earning money in order to raise her was a requirement, not a choice. I didn’t care so much about Having It “All”; I was more concerned about having a roof on my head, food on the table, healthy child. While I raised her, I did not do much personal entertaining; I avoided relationships, choosing to be the master of my domain. I didn’t see that as a sacrifice, but rather, a choice. Having a third person in that tender dynamic was not attractive to me. “All” became really a relic. “All” was part of an ideal that included a partner, that meant, amongst other things, someone had to prepare dinner for the other adult in the house. “All” did not really apply to me. As for work/life balance, that’s been up to me, what I say yes to, what I say no to. The latter? Also the biggest obstacle, being able to walk away from one important thing and towards another. And “all” doesn’t factor in. I have, in essence, what I want, what I imagine the Second Wave feminists yearned for: An independent life and a family I’ve cared for, which includes a thriving brilliant daughter and a mischievous dog, and friends I am fiercely loyal to as well as a career that’s been a rollercoaster but for the most part, been fulfilling. So, for the Fourth Wave Feminists, and for every woman wondering what her “all” is, I say this: strive for what you want. Because what you want? Really, that is All.
Linda Brown, RIP.
Hair dryers and roast chicken are a thing.
I like the updated cover of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Are there gluten-free options for Passover? Why, yes, yes there are.
The Nanny Trials, in a nutshell.
Oh, being a mom is tough, it really is.
And now have a laugh with Nikki Glaser.