Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Having it All 2/I Love Seattle

Well I had a terrific time on KUOW the other night, and it whet my appetite for my visit to Seattle next month for several readings and luncheons and a book salon and even a TV appearance. There just is such a difference between the east coast jadedness I'm used to, and a certain pacific northwest smartness, and a utopianism I really appreciated.

So what does it mean to have it all? At show's end, Jeannie Yandel, the producer, asked us to think about alternative phrases. A sequenced life? (referring to working and family-caring and working in sequence, but not at the same time). That sometimes describes it, but many women and men move in and out of the workplace, they carousel, and they do part time work. A reflective life? A thoughtful life? These get at the comined spiritual and intellectual senses of really calling our rhythms into question, and considering how they fit into the structures around us. The next day, a Seattle woman and new friend emailed to suggest that we call it "a satisfied life." There's something fitting about that. It doesn't have to be about a megalomania. Life doesn't even have to be excessive. It echoes some of the pop-psychology literature on how it's okay to be a good-enough mother. We're used to thinking about 'satisfactory" as not so great, like getting B minuses in college. It's satisfactory, but not anything to write home about. We've got to change that sense. Real life isn't college, and it's not graded on a curve. It's good to be satisifed.

Tomorrow I'll pull out my notes and write about the discussion, becuase it was so interesting to me, in part because men and stay-at-home dads called in and we got to hear a bit of what was on their minds. As I go about undermining the mommy wars and the tendency to divide women into camps against each other, I also want to make sure we don't start building up oppositions between at-home mothers and at-home fathers.

A good night to all.


Elizabeth said...

The phrase "a satisfied" life made me think about Barry Schwartz's book, The Paradox of Choice. He argues that people are happiest when they "satisfice" -- decide what their minimum standards are, and then go with the first option they find that meets those standards -- rather than trying to get into the maximally perfect situation. I think the concept has a lot of implications for work/family issues.

I've blogged on his argument here:


chip said...

thanks for remembering the dads! too often these kinds of debates forget that we're parents too, or treat us as "babysitters"...

I like satisfactory. it gets away from the competitive, status-driven model that has gotten us in so much trouble in these areas.

Miriam Peskowitz said...

Hi Chip, Hi Elizabeth,

I've just been over checking out your blogs! And that's a great link to the Paradox of Choice book, that so much of the anxiety of parenting comes from the idea that we have so many choices out there and we need to prepare our kids (and ourselves) to face them all. How overwhelming. No wonder we're exhausted.

I'm all into remembering the dads. Dads are crucial to parenting, and to more justice and equity for moms, too (which sounds very self-serving, but you know what I mean.)

And "satisfied" has been helping me lately. This morning, to try and sort out a new dilemma, I wrote a list of what in life would satisfy me--not a list of all the fantasies I have that I still feel at times compelled to wish for--but a real life list of what actually makes me feel I'm living the life I want. It helps. It really does.

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