Monday, April 18, 2005

What Does it Mean to Have It All?

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!

11 comments:

billy shakes said...

So, this is long, but it's only part of much more, a diatribe by a man at home with a toddler going a bit bonkers...


We needed to get the hell out of the San Francisco Bay Area. The tech boom had busted for us and despite an undeniable love for the region we could no longer pay our mortgage. So, faced with the option of moving into a mobile home off 101 or moving out of the area, we opted to bid farewell to our Bay Area friends, our family, and almost two decades of work and school history to trek towards cheaper pastures. Billy Shakes was packing up his four-door sedan and moving the wife and little one north. A sedan AND a wagon to be precise, Ms. Soo Moon (aforementioned wife) had little Nathan in the wagon.
Selecting our destination required one map of the continental United States and one dart. A few inches to the left and we would have had to buy a boat. Although not entirely that random, we were fairly open when addressing the question of a new address. We were not entirely destitute, our years of carpet-bagging during the dot.com (re)construction era provided us with more than a modicum of flexibility.
After Soo shot down my idea to move to Nepal and become shepherds, we were fairly certain we’d stay within these United States. Having both grown up in sunny LA we weren’t particularly interested in Northeast and Midwest winters (we were hatching this plan in September). The demographics of the Southeast (to say nothing of its track record on integration) made that region a no-go, not only for the comfort of my Korean-American wife, but for our collective peace of mind in regards to the formative years of our Amer-Asian boy.
The Southwest was enticing, particularly LA since most of our families still lived there. However, employment opportunities, the desire to try someplace new, and all the reasons we left LA in the first place led us to rule out LA in the end. AZ, NV, NM, UT, etc…were never seriously considered. That left us with the Northwest. And when you say Northwest and high-tech you’re really talking about Portland and Seattle. If you’ve ever been to Portland, you’d know why we chose Seattle. The Las Piedras Island part was Soo’s discovery. Without moving too far away from civilization we could afford more house, more space, and still be able to get into Seattle without undue effort. Assuming we would find jobs in Seattle proper.
That is the key phrase, we are still assuming we will find jobs in Seattle. In the interim, to keep me busy, to entertain friends and relatives, and to provide a record for all posterity, I give you this collection of words and thoughts.
The title of this chapter comes from a conversation we had with the previous owner of our house about the property boundaries. It was the first time we saw the place, the only time before we made an offer, and we were walking in the backyard. She started pointing out the perimeter and said, “The other marker is behind one of those two cedars.” Soo and I looked at each other, I stayed silent preferring to remain quietly ignorant rather than speak out and prove it. Soo, however, couldn’t resist, “Um, which ones are the cedars?”
A fair enough question. It’s not like we saw a lot of cedars growing up in LA, or even in the Bay Area for that matter. We fancied ourselves as, if not city slickers, at least sophisticated citizens of the world. The occasional camping trip did little to transform our decidedly un-pastoral purview, founded as it was in SoCal suburbia and augmented by San Francisco urbania. Our feeling of utter rural ignorance was made more pronounced when, from a distance, we heard a cow lowing and Soo asked, slightly shocked, “What was that?” After recovering from the news that our potential neighbors had cattle, we grew to like it. Then came the clucking of chickens, a rooster crowing, and indications that other less domesticated animals frequented the joint. The deer fence around the garden, for instance. The prospect of living in our own little rural park became irresistible, images of the local fauna nibbling flora accompanied by gently lowing cows filled our brains. We went back to our realtor’s office and drew up an offer.
Now there were other factors, of course, that went into our decision, little things like price and timing, when we could move in (we were in something of a hurry as our house in the Bay Area had already sold). But, isn’t it funny how, when making big decisions, we can let seemingly insignificant factors influence us. And those little factors add up. Did it matter that Las Piedras Island was a short drive from one of the most pristine rain forests left in the world? Did it matter that one out of every four households had someone who made a living as an artist? Did it matter that the house was down a long dirt road away from the street? Did it matter that we couldn’t pick a cedar out of a lineup of trees to save our lives? No, not really, not individually. In total, though, we found there was something about the place that we just liked, so we moved.

A Month of Feeding the Birds

The decision to move, the act of moving, and the consequences of moving could serve as the subjects of three separate chapters, and, if I don’t get a job soon, just might. Before I move on to birdfeeding, I’ll simply report one obvious irony about our actual move. We left Redwood City (“Climate Best by Government Test”) mid-deluge. Rain poured down our driveway and lightning lit up the sky over the bay as we pulled away from our home for the last time. Forty hours later as we approached Las Piedras Island, driving through a region which boasts the wettest place on the continental United States, and is virtually synonymous with rain - the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and we felt, at least for the moment, that our decision was blessed by whatever god you want to think controls this planet’s weather.
So, we had arrived. And, what awaited us? Instructions from the previous owner’s adolescent daughters on how to feed the birds. “P.S. Chipmucks and some times squirels come and eat the Blue Jays peanuts so please put alot out.” You get the idea. They also left sugar and the recipe for hummingbird food (“NO FOOD DIE”) an ominous typo, but then birds and omens are inseparable. I took it as an omen, for instance, when we returned to the house after they accepted our offer and saw a bald eagle (really, an honest to goodness American icon bald eagle) flying through the woods east of the house and then soaring to perch on a (insert name of some large tree here) not fifty yards away. When I mentioned this to the owner, she replied (a tad cavalierly, as if eagles are no big deal!), that three eagles are frequent visitors. She then went on to relay a story about how, recently, an island resident lost their weiner dog to a bald eagle. It just swooped down and flew away with it. An amusing image, one that left me laughing too hard to ask whether it was on a leash, a question that has plagued me since. Perhaps the bird was enforcing the leash law. Regardless, there were no feeding instructions for the bald eagles, which is a relief because the cost of maintaining a pen filled with weiner dogs would prove onerous to a man on my salary. Although, training the eagles to lift weiner dogs on command and charging admission (assuming I could avoid the wrath of the SPCA) might provide the income I’m sorely lacking.
Without an occupation, keeping occupied can be a challenge. So, for that first month, feeding the birds was a welcome chore. It provided a sense of order to the day, and really, despite the incredible amount of unproductiveness characterizing March, made me feel, in some small way, productive. Nathan and I feed the Steller’s Jays in the morning (despite being categorized as Blue Jays in the daughters’ note, the book they left clearly marks them as Steller’s. I can only assume the girls were more interested in the nurturing aspect of bird feeding, as opposed to conducting an accurate ornithological study). We then either walk around the yard, getting a fair distance away from the feeding zone on the deck so the birds will feel safe enough to alight for a bite, or head inside to watch from the kitchen window. This varies in accordance with the attention span of a 16-month old little boy and his rather unmethodical unemployed father, but by and large fits the description of most mornings. By the time we have our mug/sippy cup of coffee/milk, make and eat/throw on the floor breakfast, change clothes/diapers, and get through giving peanuts to the Jays, we’re all just about ready for a nap. Sadly, not all of us can take morning naps.
Perhaps more entertaining than the Jays (although seeing Chip the chipmunk single-handedly hold off a flock of screeching birds as he attempts to consume heaping pawfuls of peanuts can be more fun than watching the cats careen around the house jacked up on a wicked catnip dose) are the hummingbirds. For one, the h-bird feeder is right by the TV, so there’s more opportunity to witness their antics than the Jays. (Get the image of the unshaven unemployed father sitting around watching the soaps, eating bonbons and gazing mindlessly out the window out of your head. We have DirecTV. I watch baseball, eat bonbons and gaze mindlessly out the window). For two, the h-birds appear to be in constant conflict with each other. This results in many mini-aerial battles, as one bird will swoop in and attack another as it delicately pokes its elongated beak into the feeder. The action heated up late in the month as the numbers grew, we soon had more than four h-birds claiming our one feeder, and restocking the sugar water, which had been a fortnightly activity, now needed to be done every few days.
These hummingbirds are fascinating, and my own fascination with them has me fascinated. I have never been overly interested in birds. I won’t try to tell you my previous exposure to birding was poisoning pigeons in the park, but it’s closer to that than to Audubon. I’ll sit and stare out the window as they come zooming in from the woods, then they’ll hover and zip from one side of the feeder to the other, flecks of gold and flashes of brilliant red and orange appearing and disappearing with every movement. Then another will come in, randomly either peacefully taking the other side of the feeder or maliciously chasing away the first bird. I’ve seen as many as four dancing around, dodging and weaving, waiting for a place or deciding whether or not to engage one of the other birds in their flying dance. Soo seems to believe there is one Bully Hummingbird that chases the other birds away. I haven’t noticed any distinguishing features as of yet. In a lineup of hummingbirds, I don’t think I’d be able to point to number four and say, “Him, that one with the long nose and beady eyes, he’s the one.” Although, were there a hummingbird police force and hummingbird murder detectives, I might have been called down to the hummingbird stationhouse to do just that.
Last week when I went out to refill the feeder, there at my feet lay a motionless little hummingbird. It could have died of natural causes, but I’m not ruling out foul play. The odd thing about it, the thing that fascinates me about human nature or perhaps just my nature, was that I was truly sad. Here’s a creature not much larger than a bumblebee, and it has died (as all creatures must), and I’m standing on the porch getting misty. While all month long on television I’ve been watching human beings kill each other with bombs and bullets and I haven’t shed a tear. Is it me or is it just a proximity thing?

The Barber from Puyarim

I’ve found that there’s no better way to get to know a place than to visit the local barber shop. That was probably more true 40 years ago before the advent of superclipbestcut salons that roll you in and sit you in front of whoknowswho, but then Las Piedras Island strives to be an America of 40 years ago so the maxim holds true here. It’s a skewed view from behind the barber’s chair, and there are no doubt more comprehensive and perhaps more accurate assessments of a community, but none more frank.
To tell the truth, I know this more through anecdote and hearsay than personal experience. I tend towards taciturn in the barber’s chair. I had a consistent hair-cutter in San Francisco named Annie who laughed because I frequently napped while she worked, which could be blamed on her conversation skills as much as my sleep schedule. The combination of a speech impediment and English as a second language made for dialogue like that between dentist and patient, were she the patient.
Language can be overrated, though. I’ve had some great haircuts, and learned a great deal, in countries where I did not speak the native tongue. I had a haircut in Florence where the only instruction I could offer was “Corte,” and then sat back, watched and listened while a scene from some unwritten Italian movie took place before my eyes. Men, and only men, walked in, sat down, stood up, spoke, gesticulated, and generally just conversed for what could have been the most amusing, albeit completely incomprehensible, 20 minutes of screenplay I’d ever witnessed. In Seoul, I got a haircut from a barber done up in what looked like a surgeon’s coat while a staff of assistants took pains to offer assistance. Scissors and shears were handed back and forth like scalpels and swabs. And before I was allowed to leave, strips of tape were used to make sure every last shred of cut hair was removed from where it had fallen onto my clothes.
There are two “Barber Shops” on Las Piedras Island and they are across the street from each other on the main drag. One services children and the other chases them out. I went to the one that cuts children’s hair not because I am still a child at heart, nor because I like the name (Chuck was the name of the barber who first cut my hair and to whom I owed allegiance until I moved away from my hometown, and “Chuck’s Barber Shop” is the name of one such business here on the island), but simply because there was a parking spot in front of Randy’s Barber Shop and sometimes listening to fate rather than enforcing your will on events can be fun. It was in Randy’s that I met the Barber from Puyarim.
I will try to resist the temptation to insert more character than really exists into the Barber from Puyarim, but he comes from a place that has assumed mythical proportions in my imagination and he performs with such grace and flair that I’m afraid all my efforts to diminish his stature will fail. He’s an exceptionally ordinary looking man, just over six feet with nondescript brown hair, and yet when he turns on that electric razor and dances around behind the chair flashing and flipping he is a veritable Baryshnikov. He has this move where he dips as he clips then flicks his wrist so tufts of hair fly free from the cuttee and float to the floor (thereby negating the need for a staff of young Asian women to pluck hairs from his client’s clothes) which boggles the senses. He works fast and he talks fast. I was afraid to say too much dare I upset his rhythm. I told him I had recently moved here from the Bay Area and asked if he was from the island, which is how I found out he was from Puyarim.
Now, I had heard of “Prim” before except I didn’t know it was Puyarim. Puyarim is pronounced “Prim” and means laughing waters in the native language of the Puyallam tribe. I had been told it was sunny there and they had good golf courses. My barber confirmed this, “Yup, only 12 inches of rain per year in the city center. Of course it goes up an inch every mile you get away from there, until you hit 112 inches a year in the Olympic national forest. Lots of pilots retire there. They call it the Blue Hole because it’s in the rainshadow of the Olympics and they know from experience that there’s a lot of blue sky up there.”
To which I replied, “Hmm.” He went on cutting and talking and I really didn’t see any need to interrupt, except for that occasional “Hmm,” of recognition so he’d know I was still awake. And, I was truly awake. The Barber from Puyarim was no Annie, he had manifold skills. It was such a pleasure to just sit there and watch and listen that I was almost disappointed with the short duration of the experience. I find myself now hoping my hair will grow faster so I can return for another performance without appearing too much like a groupie. How embarrassed I’d be if he took a look at my hair and dismissed me like a bothered rock star, “Come back when you need it, pal, can’t you see I’ve got real work to do.”
It was in this attitude of great admiration and sincere appreciation for work well done that I encountered him not two days later at the Department of Licensing. Soo and I had gone to take our Washington State driver’s test and hopefully get our licenses. I didn’t recognize him at first. Perhaps because I was flush with the success of acing my test, or perhaps it was because the Barber of Puyarim was sitting and I was standing, (an inversion of our usual postures), either way I nearly walked right past him. We did make eye contact, though, and he gave me a nod of recognition. I said, “Hey, how are you?” And, he replied, and this has given cause for hours of speculation, “Great, I’m getting my license back.”
What could this mean? Could the Barber from Puyarim have lost his driver’s license? And what might have caused him to lose his license? My mind raced, might the Barber from Puyarim have been driving while intoxicated? And, if this were true, what might be the implications of such self-destructive behavior? Might he meet a fate similar to other legendary yet tragically misunderstood artists, a Jimi Hendrix drug overdose or a Jackson Pollack car crash…
Oddly enough, that started me thinking about employment issues, I don’t know why (he writes sarcastically after listening to a voicemail from a recruiter explaining why some PR agency still doesn’t want to talk to him). What validation do we receive from our jobs, what sense of purpose? Coming from the perspective of someone who has not had a real job for almost 10 months now, and whose self-esteem teeters on every unanswered email, every resume submission that passes unrecognized, it’s not rocket science when I say, a job means more than money. I’m sure every rocket scientist that reads that will feel just a little bit smarter, just a little bit more sure of himself (or herself, of course), and will no doubt be validated in his (or her) career choice. But then what happens to the rocket scientist if he (or she) gets fired, if there are cutbacks and the world just doesn’t need as many rocket scientists anymore. What would happen if he (or she) had to learn a new trade, become a barber (or a beautician), for instance. Now I’m not saying the Barber from Puyarim was a rocket scientist, but it’s not such a far stretch to see where I’m going with this. Or maybe it is. Maybe I’m the only one who spends his time thinking about barbers and employment and what would happen if the former were treated like rock stars instead of, well, instead of like barbers. Maybe the Barber from Puyarim isn’t happy being just a barber (and maybe that’s exactly how he says it, “I’m just a barber on Las Piedras Island, cutting the hair of little brats and weird unemployed guys who lost their jobs in Silicon Valley and now sit around moping and writing stupid crap.” [OK, just focus on the “just” part]). So, maybe after he finishes work he goes and drinks away his feelings of inadequacy at the local dive bar, squandering his tip money overtipping the waitress who’ll never go home with him because he’s irretrievably unhappy, and, afterall just a barber. But, what a barber!
So, I ask you, would you rather be really good at something deemed by society or your father or whomever else you listen to, to be insignificant, or would you rather be average at something respectable and earn a decent wage. The next question, what if you were only really good at writing self-indulgent drivel that nobody else could give a flying fuck about.

My Little Drunk Friend

Soo likes to call it parenting, but what this reminds me of most is watching a friend who has massive potential go on binge after binge. You see him for the first time and he’s ecstatic, laughing, happy to see you, but he’s moody, one thing goes wrong and he’s throwing his bottle at you (he keeps bottles stashed all over the house, grabs them, sucks them dry and flings them to the ground in disgust). He’s continuously bumping into walls, you have to watch him every second for fear he’ll do some damage to himself when alone. A few minutes of silence will go by and panic sets in, you rush off into the other room and find him rolling around on the floor making goo goo eyes at the cat. It’s like he’s perpetually stoned, he’ll dig through the trash to find random bits of food. When he’s hungry and it seems like he’s always hungry (or at least always putting something into his mouth) he’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants. And then, at times, he shows amazing promise. He’ll open the door, walk outside take a look at the sunshine, and smile like it’s the first day of the rest of his life and he’ll turn things around and amount to something great some day. Then, in an instant, he’ll start saying, “bottle, bottle,” and will be inconsolable until he gets one, thrusting it into his mouth and drinking greedily as if he’ll never drink again.
Soo has found a contract gig here on the island doing the high-tech marketing voodoo that Soo do so well. That leaves me at home as the nanny, the full-time parent, the mentor, food feeder, diaper changer, put to sleeper, the sober friend of a pathetically intoxicated 30-pound staggering ball of terror. His favorite game is Sit on the Cat. He enjoys eating soup and rice with his hands and then running his fingers through his hair. If you leave the seat up the toilet becomes his own self-service baptismal font. Every dog belongs to him. In short, he’s like every other toddler on the planet.
I’m still trying to find a job. It’s not like there’s any future in daycare for a 35-year old former PR guy. Even if I could convince some desperate couple to hand over their child to me, I honestly don’t think I’d be able to give it the same love and attention I give to Nathan, which, occasionally, ain’t even all that much. Yesterday I sat down here for two minutes to check my email, during which time he had gotten into the bag of peanuts we feed the birds and had been crushing them with his heel to get the nut out. Evidence of this (broken shells, slobbered on peanuts, and paper thin brown peanut coverings attached to his socks) littered the room (not to mention his person) and I stood there attempting to recall exactly how many times in books, classes, and in conversations with more diligent parents the word “peanut” had been used in conjunction with the words “choking hazard.” It’s one thing to perform the Heimlich maneuver on your own child, but how do you explain that bruised solar plexus to someone who has paid you money to take care of their kid. “Well, you see, ma’am I was just taking a quick scan of HotJobs to see if there was anything I could do that paid better than watching your little angel. I know, I know, he’s the most important thing in the world to you and I should be glued to his every move, but if I have to spend another month pulling his hands out of his own feces I will go bonkers.” Of course, removing Nate poo from his cute little fingers is nothing short of paradise.
I’m sure something will turn up. And, in the meanwhile, I’ve got my little drunk buddy to hang out with, I mean “parent.”

What If Las Piedras Island Really Is Heaven?

There’s no doubt that this place is special, but there are times when Nathan is sleeping and I’ve had time to be alone and look around at the place where we’ve landed that I think to myself, “What if I’m really dead, something happened that I can’t remember and I died and now I’ve been transported to this sanctuary in the woods.” It could be heaven or it could be a way station, a purgatory, a place where we are to await further instruction, our next assignment. Heaven or hell is really a matter of perspective anyway. I mean it’s not like I strapped a bomb to my chest, blew up some infidels, and am now getting serviced every night by a harem of virgins. Whose heaven is that? (Just a rhetorical question).
My point is, people spend their entire lives thinking or dreaming of some imaginary place that is better than where they are now. What if this is it? (And by “this” I don’t mean Las Piedras Island. At least not for everyone). I mean, what if we all have the capacity to make our lives into the ideal existences promised to the religious in the next world if they follow the rules in this one. (Billy stopped, poured himself a cup of coffee, went downstairs to get his trusty dictionary, and looked up the word “delusional”). “delusion n. – 1. a false belief or opinion. 2. a persistent false belief that is a symptom or form of madness. delusional adj. < Do not confuse delusion with illusion.” Other interesting words heading nearby pages “deleterious, depression, descent, despondent, devil-may-care, dialectic.”
I’m not saying I’ve transformed my life into perfection, like I said, it’s just a matter of perspective. Take the Buddhist tenet, “Life is suffering.” If you operate with that thought as the underlying theme to your life, you’re bound to feel good about things some of the time. If the alternative is expecting perfection and continuously being disappointed, I’ll side with Siddhartha. With all the treacle and Pollyanna that populates pop culture these days it could do folks some good to think that some times things aren’t good. Or at least don’t always have to be. I’m a long ways from being able to make sense of a Buddhist philosophy that monks spend entire lifetimes meditating upon, and even further from explaining how it fits into this chapter. I have a tendency to grab onto bits of theories, snippets of songs, lines from movies and abstract them to fit my own world view. I guess what I’m trying to say is, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.
Let me just excerpt the Las Piedras Island Almanac 2003 to give you an idea of what this place is like and why I started this chapter, “The list of ways to dip a toe into the community pool (two pools, actually, in the new Las Piedras Aquatic Center) is endless, of course – and not much different from any other community. Except that the people who move to Las Piedras, for the most part, feel like they’ve arrived at home.” It sounds nice and everything, but something about it gave me the heebie-jeebies and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I know it’s designed to give me a peaceful easy feeling, but I can’t help remembering it’s cruel to be kind (in the right measure). Maybe I spent too much time hiding on the backstreets thinking this town will rip the bones from your back, that it’s a suicide trap, that we needed to get out while we were young because, well, tramps like us, baby we were born to run. Regardless, I was just thinking to myself that this could be heaven or this could be hell. I’m just hoping that if we go running for the door to find the passage back to the place we were before, we don’t find the nightman telling us to relax, Las Piedras Island is programmed to receive, that we can check out any time we like, but we can never leave.

Giles Wilfordson said...

I heard you on KUOW in Seattle and thought of my client who wrote a book about a guy who becomes a stay at home dad and then joins a coalition devoted to secession from the union. Interested in reading more, please contact me at gileswilfordson@hotmail.com.

Elizabeth said...

On the working moms email list that I'm on, the mantra these days seems to be "you can have it all, just not all at once." I'd be interested in your reaction to that phrase.

Chip said...

I'm glad you pointed out how problematic the phrase "have it all" really is.

For me, I feel like I "have it all," in the sense that I'm truly happy with my life. But what did I have to do to get here?

I had to realize that spending time with my kids was more important that career ambitions. So I had to kill the gender and class expectations that had been pounded and slipped into my head, and which were leading me into jobs that would have been "successful" and "prestigious" and would have paid lots more money, but which would also have crushed my soul and alienated my affections (because of time and energy) from my family.

I've written on my blog about how I think this choice plays out different for men and women, because of the way gender expectations for women in terms of family caring were in the past used to oppress and limit women. But one thing I have realized is that the ways in which this society defines "success" is harmful to the very concept of caring and nurturing (a link to my other blog), for both men and women.

I think that the phrase "have it all" focuses too often on just those standard measures of "success", while leaving out some of the most important parts of life.

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Help me Dude, I think I'm lost..... I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw him in a car lot yesterday, which is really strange because the last time I saw him was in the supermarket. No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender". He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a San Diego cosmetic surgery doctor ,to fit into those blue suede shoes of yours. But Elvis said in the Ghetto nobody can afford a San Diego plastic surgery doctor. Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger. Then I'm gonna go round and see Michael Jackson and we're gonna watch a waaaay cool make-over show featuring some Tijuana dentists on the TV in the back of my Hummer. And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . . "You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on " Strange day or what? :-)