The pressure on women today is great, as the expectations for us to ‘have it all’ continue to mount. We must be all things to everyone; do it all, have it all, with the added pressure to be the best, most blessed, women alive. It’s no wonder women are feeling like failures.
It’s taken me a few years, several successes and failures, and a wise realization that I don’t have to keep up with these expectations for having it all — because I already do. You probably do, too.
I love my job. I mean, I really, really love my job. I love teaching and especially love teaching future teachers. There are opportunities for me to stretch my creativity and step out of my comfort zone. I also have the chance to interact with and advise students individually as they navigate the college life. I have a great deal of flexibility in my time commitments so I rarely, if ever, miss the important family times.
But there’s a catch. In higher education there’s a little thing called rank and tenure. If you think of it as a hierarchy, it starts at adjunct, then instructor, then on to assistant professor and so on. Even though I have a Ph.D., I’m an instructor. Not quite the bottom of the barrel, but certainly not up in the desirable ranks, either.
At some point I had to have a reckoning with myself. I may not ever move up the ranks and that has to be okay. Because, the truth is, while I really do love my job, my job isn’t everything. My job doesn’t define me nor does my job complete me as a person. My job is one part of a much bigger picture.
Honestly, no one cares if I’m a ranked professor or not. My students don’t care. I wouldn’t be a better teacher or a better person if I was. The only person who may care about my rank is me and guess what? I’ve decided not to care. I have accepted things as they are and appreciate my job for the long list of pluses. I have a great job. Period.
As a writer, it’s not much different. There are countless bylines that I wish I could land. There is always a longing for more ‘likes,’ and more followers. There’s always an opportunity to see what I am missing. But my writing isn’t everything. My writing doesn’t define me nor does it complete me as a person.
No one else is looking at my work and thinking how much better I would be if I could only land a Huffington Post byline. The only person who cares about that is me and I’ve decided to stop caring. I actually have a long list of bylines and my catalogue of publications is something to be really proud of. So, guess what? I am really proud of what I have accomplished.
As a mother, well this one can be tricky. There’s a heap of expectations out there and I’ve found it can be hard to drown out the noise. Comparison is the thief of joy and when left unchecked, the spiral into disappointment can be swift. It can be hard for contemporary families to not see what’s around them, sometimes. I readily admit it can be hard not to compare our life to friends lives. It’s really easy to compare kitchens, cars, and vacations.
At the end of the day, I ask myself if I am happy. I wonder if our kids are happy. I think about my husband’s happiness. If we are all honest, truthfully, we really are happy and for me, that’s all that matters. Instead of focusing on the kitchen renovation that I wish I had, I focus on the fact that I have a fully functioning kitchen. I have everything we need to make dinner, homemade cakes, and good memories.
We may not travel internationally or spend a month out west every summer but we do make the most of our getaways. We focus on the time spent together as a family. I spend more time gazing out into view from our balcony in Navarre Beach, Florida and zero time wishing we were in Turks and Caicos. It is enough. The way we spend time together as family is enough. Besides, where we chose to vacation does not define me as a person or us as a family.
Every year during the lead up to Halloween and Christmas, I make my kids a variety of candies and baked goods. Things like white chocolate dipped strawberry ghosts and brownie and pretzel reindeer. Let me be very clear — my baking skills suck. The ghosts usually look sad and scared of me, and often my reindeer look more like grief-stricken dogs with baskets for hats. But this minor detail does not stop me from doing this each year and loving every single minute of it.
Why? Because nothing is prefect. My baking skills do not define me. No job, no life, no kitchen, or experience is absolutely perfect. The reason we feel so much pressure is because of the expectation for perfection or the unattainable search for better than what we currently have. You want to have it all? Easy. Don’t buy into this falsehood.
There is a great deal of joy to be had in appreciating the moments that are simply ours to enjoy. No one else cares about any of this so why should we? Sometimes, we get in the way of our own happiness.
The truth is, I do have it all and you probably do, too. How? By letting go of comparisons and focusing on the good that already exists. Too often, we’ve just spent too much time wishing for more or something else and that reality slipped by us. Remember, nothing and no one is perfect. But I’d argue that when you look carefully at the beauty that surrounds you now, in its current, unchanged state, that’s pretty close to perfection.