Monday, July 19, 2010

It turns out I can't do it all

not even in sequence.

I find it amazing that women are the ones asking that question: Can I do it all? I wonder if a man has ever asked it of himself? I imagine men being stressed, over-worked, missing their families. But do they feel obligated to figure out how to "do it all" (like having orange iced pumpkin muffins for the second grade class and showing up in an impeccable suit for the business lunch, all in the same day... and knowing that weeding and laundry, grocery shopping and homework supervision are waiting for him at home).

I tend to think men get thanked as helping out when they load the dishes. I don't think they feel like failures when they wake to ants crawling on plates of pie crumbs because they collapsed exhausted into bed instead of cleaning up the kitchen at midnight. When men do it all, they are praised as enlightened, good husbands/partners, doing more than their share, helping their wives/girlfriends, setting a good example for the kids. If they don't do it all, but try - they get credit for trying. If they don't even try, we excuse them as male—men aren't required to do it all in truth; they are invited to pitch in once in awhile.

Some women appear to do it all. They manage their weight, get their nails done, pay attention to diet for the whole family, match pillows and wall paint, throw terrific parties, run marathons, earn lots of money, nurture children, self-educate: going to book and garden clubs, volunteer, and are reportedly great in bed, too. (That was exhausting to type—imagine living it!)

I can actually think of a couple women I know who fit the description in that scary intimidating paragraph. (I love them! Wish I could be them! I wonder if they like being themselves...)

I heard on the radio today that kids between 4-15 are getting less allowance than they used to, due to the recession. Current figures say that the average allowance is $9.00/week for boys and $8.00/week for girls. What? Girls get less allowance than boys? Seriously? They also said that boys tend to spend their allowances within days and girls tend to save up for bigger purchases, delaying gratification.

Maybe that's the difference: boys still feel entitled to a life that has more room in it for what they want, when they want it (perhaps they can spend it all and get more from mom and dad, more easily than girls). It appears that girls are trained, even subconsciously, from an early age that they will not get as much, must make it last longer, must make it appear to be enough, and are still required to compete with those boys as though they are equals.

Perhaps the "do it all" mentality ought to come with a price tag. It seems really tough to get it all done on low income or too little free time or not enough partner support. I wonder what would happen if women just stopped and only did what they can afford to do (emotionally, logistically, financially, relationally). I wonder how men would see us. What would our children think? What about our friends? I wonder how we would see ourselves.

I think it's time to stop over-spending on our ideals. I'm going on an "image diet." Wanna join me?


Rick said...

Not an apologist :) - but as a male, I've noticed that I see things differently than my wife, and she's more in line with what you've posted here. She see "I have ALL THIS TO DO" and it's often overwhelming. Instead of ALL THIS, I tend to see "I have THIS to do NEXT", more sequentially than simultaneously - and one thing lends itself much better to procrastination than everything lumped together.

julieunplugged said...

That's actually really helpful! I need that reframe of how I see the to do list. Thank you!

JoVE said...

I think I've been on one of those for years. And I agree with Rick. When I just focus on what's next, it is much easier.

Also, why are so many women looking after capable adults and young people in their households so much? Why do they ask their partners to "help" instead of expecting them to take responsibility for the running of the household?

I know a woman who is the only wage earner in her household of 4 adults and 2 kids (age 10 & 12) and she's still doing a lot of the maintenance of that household. Why is she even cooking? Much less more than once a week? Why isn't it reasonable for her kids to make lunches, do laundry, etc.

My partner is away right now and I've hardly cooked. My 13 year old has been trying new recipes, planning meals, etc. She's loving it (and REALLY hates washing dishes) and learning so much. And we are both taking responsibility for keeping this household going.

Jump in. The water's fine. (P.S. I ignore the ants and earwigs. And my kid gets $5 a week allowance)

jo(e) said...

I think I feel for the "the wife-mother can do it all" myth early in my marriage. Yeah, turns out I couldn't.

Now when I don't even try to do it all, I tell myself that I'm a good role model for my daughter.

Colleen said...

I do think women tend to make life harder for themselves, creating ~ or playing into ~ the idea that they must do it all, yada yada yada. They/we are all too often incapable (unwilling?) to operate sequentially, as Rick so aptly said, and simply do the next thing. We expend ridiculous amounts of energy talking and thinking and wringing our hands about our "to do" list, during which time half the list could have been knocked off. My sense is that it's a by-product of our culture more than our gender.

At the same time, both men and women accept the myth that there are certain jobs which "should" be done by a particular gender. In fairness, if I want to remind my household of men that a penis does not render one incapable of scrubbing the shower stall, I have to be willing to check the oil without a chip on my shoulder, kwim?