I described my typical day to her and admitted that my weekends were filled with school. I was in an executive program so the classwork was concentrated into Friday night and all day Saturday each and every weekend. We talked about how my reading and writing was tucked into every free nook and cranny of my day. I read theory in the bathtub, nursed my baby while completing problem sets for statistics, and studied for tests at stoplights. It wasn’t easy on my baby or my husband. He spent his weekends lurking around the school near break time so that I could nurse my baby on my class breaks. While everyone else had 15 minutes to bond and exchange pleasantries, I was nursing my baby. “That’s great.” she said, “It must make it easier to get through the work week to have your baby used to having you gone already.”
“No.” I said while sadly shaking my head (she couldn’t see this as we were on the phone). I described my work week – my fears that I was balancing my career and ambitions on my baby’s (and husband’s) backs as we all ran through life at top speed. My baby was at daycare more than she was at home. I wanted a good relationship with her (and the baby I was carrying). I would graduate from my graduate program about the same time I gave birth to my second child so, the way I calculated it, I would take the time freed up by graduation to spend on both of my children. Perhaps at that point, I would be able to slow down the weekends and spend some time with my babies.
We talked about how public realm duties (i.e., work life) sometimes bleed into home life. I loved my job and worked hard to get my career in place before having children. But I have written reports at two in the morning, read audits while rocking my baby to sleep, and again read like a crazy person at stoplights. Every minute counts when you have both young children and a job. School had necessitated giving up entertaining on weekends. But graduating would not really free up time to spend with friends; it would only solve the family time we needed so desperately.
I expressed my concern that we were lying to women everywhere by saying you can have it all. I shared my belief that life is zero-sum. You take one tasty slice of pie by making one of the other slices somewhat smaller. And sometimes those choices are heart-breakingly difficult as you work to slice a pie that meets the goals of yourself, your spouse, your relationship, your children, your work, your friends, and for some of us – your school. I stated that having it all is a cruel myth and that talking about having it all really means we’re only getting a tiny piece of each slice you want. Knowing this could facilitate a larger conversation about how difficult it is for women (and, as a result, the men who love them) to balance everything in a way that makes a good life for everyone. She said she’d changed her mind and declined to interview me for her article.
I noticed a few weeks later she’d written an article about a single mom that spent her days working, running to and from daycare, and handing her baby off to her ex-husband every other weekend so she could “have a break” – and was proud to say she had it all.