What Does It Mean to Have It All?
Editorial note: The cover story of the July/August 2012 issue of The Atlantic launched a national discussion about whether or not women in America can “have it all.” At The High Calling we think it prompts some even broader questions, such as what it means to have it all and how this affects men as well as women.
When I reach over to flip the switch that turns on the garbage disposal, the machinery jumps to attention and water in the kitchen sink swirls counterclockwise down the drain. I rinse a cereal bowl under the stream of warm tap water and reach behind me to place the inverted bowl on the top rack of the dishwasher. I can feel the rag rug underneath my bare feet, and I hear Frank Ocean crooning tunes from a laptop in another room. Convinced that I’m not going anywhere but right here in front of the kitchen sink, the dog drops heavy with a sigh and sprawls out on the floor next to the kitchen table.
I can’t think of a better way to spend this moment and I flip the switch to turn the disposal off.
My home is my new office. “I haven’t felt like this in decades!” It’s what I’ve been telling people who ask about my new job. They know I said good-bye to the insurance company, along with its steady income, benefits, and paid time off. They know I cried on my last day in the cubicle. They know I left to follow my dream, and they know dreams don’t promise six figure incomes, or corner offices, or travel budgets, or expense accounts. “I feel as if I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Exactly where God wants me,” I tell the people when they ask. And then, “I haven’t felt like this in decades!”
I open the door to the cabinet under the sink and grab a can of Ajax. When I was in middle school, my Home Economics teacher taught us to clean the kitchen sink so it would shine. I never questioned the fact the class was filled with girls. Not a guy in sight. I wonder who thought the economy of home was just for girls? I turn the can of Ajax upside down and watch as dots of white dust the surface of the kitchen sink.
I’m wasting water now, because I’m standing still in front of the faucet with water running and in my mind I’m thinking of the women (and the men) who say they want to have it all. I wonder what that means. I wonder what would happen if instead of “all” we wanted things to be “well” or we wanted to live life to the “full.”
I turn off the water and twist the dishrag in my hands until the dripping stops. It’s true I haven’t felt like this in decades. But standing there, in front of my kitchen window with the dog chasing squirrels in her sleep on the floor at my feet, I can see that all the places I’ve been before have led me to this very moment. The years I stayed home with my children and cooked them pancakes for breakfast, the part-time jobs, the executive roles, traveling in the corporate jet. All of it led me to this spot in front of my kitchen window, looking down at a shiny sink. My own, personal, beautiful “all.”
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How do you respond to this debate? We invite you to join the conversation in the comments below or by posting on Facebook or your own blog.
For further reading, consider the original article as well as several responses.
- Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, by Anne-Marie Slaughter (The Atlantic; see also multiple responses on their website)
- Can Christian Women Have It All? Debunking the Work-Life Balance Myth, by Leslie Leyland Fields (Her.meneutics)
- Constraint and Consent, Career and Motherhood, by Kate Harris (QIdeas)
Related reading by Susan DiMickele for The High Calling: