I grew up in an age when women were told they could “do it all” and that they should do so. I distinctly remember the old Enjoli perfume ad based on the classic Peggy Lee song, I’m A Woman which aired in the 70’s.
The Enjoli ad starts out,
I can put the wash on the line, feed the kids, get dressed, pass out the kisses and get to work by 5 to 9. ‘Cause I’m a Woman, Enjoli!
I can bring home the Bacon! Enjoli. Fry it up in a Pan! Enjoli. And Never, Never, Never let you forget You’re a Man! ‘Cause I’m a Woman! Enjoli!
Wow, that’s heady stuff! And I’m not talking about the perfume. It is energizing and empowering…until you try to do it. Then it’s completely de-motivating and depressing. I soon learned that I’m not the kind of person who can, much less desires to, “do it all” all at once. I came up with my own ideas to balance my life and let each role have its moment.
Years later I read a little book that validated my feelings. It was written by Mary Catherine Bateson (not inconsequentially, the daughter of famed anthropologist Margaret Mead), called Composing a Life. As a cultural anthropologist herself, she wrote about creating your life like a beautiful and unique patchwork quilt. Reading it 10 years ago, with a newborn baby, 2 active school children, and a full-time job, I found much inspiration in her words. (And in researching her I just learned she has a new book out, Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom. This is definitely one for my list of 50 books to read!) She spoke in her book about “doing it all”, just not all at once.
So, this does beg the question, how can I attempt my 50 by 50 when I’m still so ensconced in raising a family and working full-time? It’s a very good question and one I’m still struggling to answer. Part of the answer is that my roles are starting to shift. I got very involved in non-profit work when I was 40 and have been on the boards of 2 non-profits since then.The first one I joined was a very big time commitment and, one particularly difficult year, was an almost constant pull on my time. I’m so pleased to have seen it through the worst of times and poised for its next phase of growth. I was term-limited this past January and part of my 50 by 50 is re-defining my role with the organization. In the end, though, it’s a large time commitment from which I’ve been released.
The other change is coming up…the transition of my son from high school student to collegian. As he takes on a more adult role in life I take on a less time-consuming role in his. No longer will I be doing his laundry, fixing his dinner, and picking up after him on a daily basis. I won’t have as active a role in his intellectual growth either (which you have to know this “college professor in the body of a 17 year old” to really appreciate!).
So, some of my time will be freed-up for my 50 by 50. I will still be the best mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, employee, board member, etc. that I can be. I may even have some specific items on my 50 by 50 that relate to those roles…but 50 by 50 is about me and my growth. It’s about picking up those half-finished quilt blocks of my self, that were set aside long ago. Setting them aside allowed me to become the person I am, with the ability to develop myself in all those roles. Now it is time to admire the finished squares, set aside a few that I’m not ready to finish, continue on with the center-piece squares, dust off some which have been neglected, and look for a few new patterns!
Find the Joy in the Journey!