That's the question I've been asked to reflect upon tonight at 8, pacific time, on Seattle/Puget Sound Public Radio's KUOW Presents (see to stream it to your computer/).
What does it mean to have it all? I did a quick jotting-down of notes. Having it all seems so quaint, an old-fashioned term that's more a problem than an ideal worth holding on to. It seems to have emerged during the 70's, when feminism was in part boiled down to a vision in which women could have kids, and have an interesting, well-paying job (the interesting and well-paid job was the ideal, anyway, we know most jobs fall short). But anyway, having it all was family and work.
From the perspective of 2005 and mainstream culture, that seems awfully simple and easy. Now 'having it all' means the family and the job--which must be a great job-- and it means having a great, in shape body, and being fashionably dressed, and driving a fancy car and owning a house in the right neighborhood. It's turned into a much more material vision of what life needs to be good. A much more narrow vision.
And a nearly impossible one, what with longer working hours demanded from all our jobs, and less support for children than we need. Not to mention how damn expensive that dream's become. having it all is less about the relative simplicity of family and job for women, and more about how women and men both need
So what does it mean, now, to have it all? Even that's not how I'd answer it, I think first we need to take the question apart even more. Were really talking about figuring out what gives life meaning, what makes it worth living. Just as I detest the word 'balance' that's used as shorthand for all that, perhaps we should also get rid of having it all. Having--posessing? All--everything? What does possession have to do with it? Why understand what we want in those terms. What happens when we get rid of the catch phrases and instead put the desire back in: What do I want? After all, there's so much cultural pressure these days. The standards are ever raising. If mothers and wives once just had to keep their homes relatively clean to pass the neighborhood gossip's eye, now you've got to follow the latest decorating and interior design trends. If once you just had to get the basic foods and vegetables on the table, now you've got to be a foodie too, and it all must be organic and expensive, not to mention locally grown and not wrapped in plastic. And the cultural standards for raising and educating our kids are through the roof: ivy-education for all? As if that's what all our kids want? What would it mean for all of us to be able to be more critical of all the pressures and class-related competitions and ambitions, to locate them, to anaylze them, to put them up for question and in the midst of all this, say: now what do I want? What really makes me happy?
I have other thoughts, too, on how for many of the women and men I interviewed for the book, working less and attending more to family meant investing more in public life, in civic life, and in neighborhood life, and that I think this is very positive, Left out of any of the having it all definitions is the sense that part of leading a good life might be feeling part of one's community, and participating in something that's bigger than our family lives, and that's not paid work.
But for now, it's off to school pick-up!