A work colleague, who shares my philosophy on staying home, forwarded me this article today.
Though long, it makes some interesting points, largely about why we’ve been trained as a society to think we want it all, need it all. What follows are are my, somewhat more succinct, observations and advice.
- What we think we need is a falsehood to a large degree. I blame Pinterest, but to be fair, before Pinterest it was Good Housekeeping, Vogue, Cosmo, Martha, etc. The media. How original, right? The media wants you to want stuff, and they [we] have been trained very well to do just that.
- And all this perfection takes money. How do we get money? We work. Suddenly one income isn’t enough to keep us clothed, fed, and warm. We now have to be furnished in Land of Nod, clothed by Gap, and shuttled to school by Lexus.
- We think we’ve invented time. With our smart phones, iPads, calendar apps. But all we’ve done is invent distractions. Distractions kill time. That’s why we’re addicted to them to some degree. To stave off the boredom of a 5 minute wait in the carpool lane. What did we used to do with that 5 minutes?
- We no longer think our best is good enough. We always want someone else’s. Again, Pinterest on this one [sorry, I do love Pinterest, which is exactly why I can also hate it]. It’s not enough anymore to gather your closest friends, load your car with enough 5 cent grocery store balloons to be a traffic hazard, and watch your 3 year old blow out his birthday candles. Now we must make coordinated party favors, organic gluten-free cupcakes, and these new things called cake pops.
- What everyone else has isn’t necessarily real. Our online projection of ourselves is getting closer and closer to what can be seen in the pages of those magazines I mentioned. We can make ourselves and our lives look so much prettier, richer, worldlier than our reality. People Photoshop their candids after choosing from hundreds of digital “takes” before posting them on Facebook. So good luck seeing pics of your friends poorly lit, without makeup, looking exhausted/fat/normal…ever! And there’s no such thing as an off the cuff status update. Please.
- We forgot that it’s up to us to decide what we want. There’s too much information about what we’re supposed to want, what we’re supposed to be, that we’ve given up control. Having managed people, I’ve seen this at it’s budding beginnings with the fresh graduate putting in unnecessary long hours to prove herself, and the mid-career mommy struggling to keep up with this norm and showing signs of age well before her time.
- Something always, always, always gives. We may not see it or choose to admit it when it confronts us, but despite our best efforts to do it all, have it all, be it all, something bends or even breaks. Sometimes we don’t notice it because it’s not always obvious. It’s not always a life event like a health failure, a nervous breakdown, a job loss, or a divorce that alerts us something’s wrong. Sometimes it’s the child staring up at the back of your laptop night after night, or the dwindling sex in your marriage that starts out as a funny joke to do with stealing all the precious minutes of sleep you can scrape together. Sometimes it’s the extra digits that keep showing up in your pants size. Sometimes we never know, at least not until it’s too late.
I’m trying to slow down, prioritize, and get real. Balancing enjoyment of life with realistic expectations can be tough, but to me it’s more important to have what I really want and need than to have it all. Ever since I became a mother [that magic moment of peeing on a stick in 2009] my priorities shifted. My career became no less successful, just less important to me. I empowered myself to push back on travel, keep my work load and hours reasonable, and now, leave corporate life to raise my children. In taking those important steps, I’m choosing what I want, what my children need, and working on letting the rest go.