Friday, June 24, 2011

Can we really be all things to all people?

If you could have a clone, what would he or she be doing right now? Mine would be home cleaning and ironing my clothes. I spend anywhere between 17 to 20 hours a day working. I wish I could say I was one of those “concentrate on finishing one project at a time” people. But, I am all over the place every minute of the day.

As women we often feel guilty about spending too much time at work and too little time at home. If men are feeling the same, they sure aren’t talking about it as much. In March, covered the topic in an article titled, “Women feel guilty about work-home intrusion.” The study found that, although women have become economic providers in dual-income households they have different expectations from men over the boundaries separating work and family life. ‘These forces may lead some women to question or negatively evaluate their family role performance when they're trying to navigate work issues at home,’” Scott Schieman, a co-author of the report and a professor at the University of Toronto in Canada, said.

When I was a little girl I despised chores. I would roll my eyes in my skull when my mother would say that these were things I HAD to know how to do as a woman. I would say that my husband can do his share of the chores and then scurry along to do as I was told before I didn’t live to meet him. I became a little feminist in my elementary days.

I still have my fourth grade yearbook from Lincoln Elementary School in Springfield, Mass. In the little, “When I Grow Up” blurbs, all my female peers were gushing about being future wives and mothers and I said I wanted to be a rapper (I idolized MC Lyte.), married to a man named Ted (Still don’t know where that came from) – AND HERE IS THE KICKER – I actually wrote “I WILL HAVE NO KIDS.” Looking back, I think I was setting the tone for no one telling me what I COULD or SHOULD do.
I don’t like the idea of being pigeon-holed or labeled. We let others do this to us all the time – housewife, party girl, businesswoman. No one person is all or nothing. We have layers.

Men juggle as well. I can almost here them now, “We just don’t complain about it.” I know many who say they are leaving meetings early or canceling events because it’s their son’s soccer game or girlfriend’s birthday.

David Kurtz told Fortune Magazine he left his job as a director of production at the Walt Disney Co. in order to spend more time with his family. "I completely changed my work environment to suit being able to be home at 6 p.m.," says Kurtz. "It's an improvement for our generation. Men and women feel the same way in the workplace; they are struggling with the same issues."

In the article titled, “The changing face of the American working dad,” Kathryn Reynolds Lewis examines this increasing trend. “While in previous generations, it would have been silently assumed that men stake a larger portion of their identity to their careers than women, a recent study from WFD Consulting and WorldatWork's Alliance for Work-Life Progress found that there are little, if any, differences between men and women on this front, similar to results from Brazil, China, Germany and the United Kingdom,” Lewis found.


Is your career tied to your identity? And if so, does prioritizing it ahead of anything else make you selfish? If you remember: last year I blogged about being at the Next Level Development Conference for Women. At the start of one of the workshops, I was instructed to introduce myself to someone, but I could not talk about my job or family. It was one of the most awkward and difficult introductions ever. Who was I, if not a mother and writer?

A LinkedIn discussion posed a similar question: “How much of your identity is wrapped in your profession/career selection? Have you selected a profession that speaks strongly to your core values and desires, is your profession merely a paycheck, or are you somewhere in between?”

One professional answered: “My identity, however, is father, husband, son, brother, cousin and friend.” Another, “I am what I do. Ain't never gonna retire. Plan on being the irascible old guy that is too good to be gotten rid of, since he has the only key to the coffee storage.”

My career is tied to my identity. I am a writer. I am always amazed when I meet people and they say if they weren’t doing what they were doing, they’d be doing this or that. I have NEVER thought of doing anything else. Anything else I ever did prior to writing full-time was precisely so I could eventually write full-time. Everything – God, love, laughter, beauty, ugliness, pain, joy, heartache, good and bad – stems from the same place inside of me, my soul. This is who I am completely stripped. It is from this same place I find motherhood, friendship and more. It is not about choosing one over the other. I need to be me first in order to be remotely decent at any of the others.

My Mommy

Maybe that is what life is about, fitting in a little of everything. My mother always had remarkable hustle. She was a nurse, my hairdresser, our housekeeper, pastor, travel agent and everything in between. Maybe we need to stop worrying about being all things to all people and invest more time in managing what we have to do.

If there is one thing I know, my future hubby will definitely know how to work a vacuum. And I can do what I do best and WRITE him a nice, “Things To Do Today, Ted” note.


  1. Awesome post that makes you think. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Love your post! I think you’ve made some truly interesting points. Not too many people would actually think about this the way you just did.