We live in a time and place where there are many more doors open for women. In the work world, there are many fields that are available that were not open in the past. One hundred years ago the only jobs that women could have were all nurturer roles: mother, teacher or nurse. Because of those changes wives can be earning more money than their husbands. Even if the income disparity is there women often do more than their share of housework, child care duties, etc.
This is where the idea of “having it all” comes into conflict with the realities of being a woman today. There is still an expectation that women will fulfill all the old roles and the new ones and somehow have time to take care of themselves, and be sane!
The “All” that is being referred to is about an image of an ease of moving from the challenging professional world to the private space and having time in there to prepare meals, help with homework, read books, sample wines, plan fantastic events for the children’s birthday parties. All of that and with time for self-care, doing one’s own therapy and planting a garden. There are not enough hours in the day let alone enough energy to fulfill all these functions and remain a happy and balanced human being.
Not to mention that men seem to be largely absent from this unending series of tasks and functions. Yes, men are supposed to be there as providers and do some household chores. But the expectations are so much lower. Men are often surprised when changing a diaper or taking a child to a school event is not met with tumultuous applause by their female partner.
In the old days, a family could be supported by a single income which often meant that women were at home taking care of all the things a family needed to function. That is not the reality for most families. They need two incomes in order to provide for themselves and their loved ones. What has not changed much is how little men (not all men) contribute toward the functioning of their families.
John Gottman’s studies of couples based on thirty years research he found out one of the key predictors of a marriage failing or not was how much of the housework was done by the man. When men pitch in they are leveling the playing field and relieving some of the stress from their spouse.
Like it or not men have been given cultural permission in our society to be selfish. Leftover from the rule of the patriarchy men have been seen to only needing to inhabit the provider role and the rest of the needs of the kids, spouse is not his concern. I am over simplifying, of course, but there is a truth in it. I have a friend who told me that when she asked her husband to clean the toilets in the house replied, “I have better things to do with my time.” Needless to say, a conversation ensued where she let him know that using his time to clean up the bathroom was indeed a good use of his time. Or at least as good a use of his time as it was a good use of her time. She also was working full time outside the home.
So, it seems that the roles have been changing in our society and it would be helpful to redefine “having it all” to mean the family as a whole “having it all” which means all family members need to contribute toward the rich and rewarding lives we all desire to live.