Are we "airbrushing reality" when we say women can have it all?

Turns out, a lot of you are. A lively commentary ensued with the majority of readers commiserating.

While productivity certainly has its rewards, being overly busy gives us the sense that we are missing something. It knocks us off balance.  I’ve long felt that “balance” is elusive.  We may think we’re pulling it off, but are we consistently engaging with people and projects in the way that we desire and that makes our experiences meaningful? “Harmonizing” our lives, as Sheila Moeschen of HerSelf First puts it, feels more attainable, healthier. The problem is that career, family and personal harmony is only as possible as our society will allow.

I promised a follow-up to my earlier blog. Today I bring that to you in the form of what will likely be a controversial statement, a statement that goes against everything you’ve heard for the past several decades. Are you ready? Here goes:

Women CAN’T have it all.

I have a friend who routinely says this to me. At first, I disagreed, like many of you possibly.  But over time, I’ve come to realize that there is some truth in her statement.

My friend’s view is that today’s generation of women has been fed a fallacy since girlhood. 

Whether it’s come from society or a tampon commercial or your own mother, throughout your lifetime, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Women can have it all.” And if your mother told you this, believe me, she meant well. She was excited that you would have more opportunities than she did. She was proud to see you become a career woman AND a mother AND a wife AND a volunteer…AND AND AND.  Indeed, these are wonderful freedoms and roles for which I am deeply grateful.

Where, then, is the fallacy? 

What none of us factored in was that while we’ve made it impressively clear that we can DO it all, that does not mean that we are doing it all WELL. Not all at the same time, at least. And when we don’t do it all well, we blame ourselves for not being a more productive employee, a more involved parent, a better housekeeper, etc.

In her recent piece in the Atlantic, Anne-Marie Slaughter calls the women-can-have-it-all mentality “airbrushing reality.”

When you feel “too busy,” do you also feel that you’re not being true to yourself? During a given week, how often do you feel you are reflecting your true self (your full potential, your most meaningful contributions) in ALL of your roles – wife, mother, professional, volunteer, CEO of the Home, etc. Can you relate the notion of an airbrushed reality?

I’m not saying women can’t have a lot. And maybe we CAN have it all. But are we engaged in each of our roles at a level that enriches our experiences and elevates our contributions? 

I can imagine a number of ways to mitigate the downsides of women being able to have it all, and they all center on taking more control over our schedules. I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to work largely from home so that I can be with my children. While that can create a whole different kind of craziness, at least it increases my choices in the pursuit of harmony.

But as Slaughter illustrates in her article, it’s not up to us alone to find ways to control our schedules. There is a much greater force at play; more American businesses and organizations must make a shift that puts focus on “how we can help all Americans have healthy, happy, productive lives, valuing the people they love as much as the success they seek.”

Until then, I’m advocating for quality over quantity in our lives. It’s a step in the right direction. Say “no” when you need to; say “yes” when you want to. Trust your gut. Know when you are doing yourself – or the very thing to which you are committing your time and energy – a disservice because you are unable to fully engage. Give all of yourself to only a few things at a time. And make sure that your own health and sanity is one of those things.

Inspired Wining is an example of where I've gotten it just right. Take a close-knit group of women. Add a monthly gathering over wine. And top it off with the most significant service projects of my life – fighting a disease that is threatening my friend’s family while starting a movement among communities of women to find their own special group and cause. That’s how I’ve been able to capture a quality experience.

So, how about you? Do you think women (and even men, as Slaughter points out) can have it all? I invite you to read Slaughter’s article, if not in one sitting, then over time. I think you will find it a quality read as you ponder your own quality time. And by all means, please leave your comments. I’d love to hear from you. 


Spontaneous Euro-Bungy

Ever have  occasions  that you are delighted you were spontaneous? Last week, I had one. After relentless requests from our 6-year-old daughter,  we allowed her to jump in the middle of a mall food court with a "Euro Bungy." 

Ridiculous!!!! Who does this??

Here's the deal. Charlotte was secured with a harness between her legs and had bungee cords attached to either sides of her hips. The technician then had her jump on a trampoline and raised the cords so that she would ascend 20-25 feet in the air. 

As Charlotte became more comfortable, she figured out how to jump high enough to flip around. Within minutes, she was jumping 25 feet in the air and completing double somersaults. It was amazing how quickly she learned. It was truly a "HOLY COW!" moment.

As I sat there watching, I realized I had no clue who these people where hoisting Charlotte into the air, nor did I have any knowledge of the equipment, nor did I sign any form  that was considered a legal consent/waiver. When does this ever happen?

Because we were SPONTANEOUS, there were no directions or "pros vs. cons" conversations. Charlotte took a risk and you know what? She had a blast!

It was a great lesson for me as a parent and a person. Yes, we should be sensible and smart with our decisions. However, sometimes it just pays to take risks, live a little, and trust that things are going to be okay.
So my challenge to you this summer-----take some risks, get uncomfortable, and be SPONTANEOUS!!

Alexis Williams may not be a good housekeeper and she’s even worse at being the tooth fairy. But she loves laughing, traveling, spending time with family and being a part of a community that makes a difference. Alexis is officially Inspired Wining's “go-to girl” for just about everything from developing community partnerships to securing our venues for Inspired Wining on Location events. A wife, mother of 3, a church and school volunteer, Alexis is the sharp-witted sweetheart of the group.


Summertime surrender

“I do not save time, I spend it. Time is the one thing you cannot save. Time is spent without even trying. Don't save time, use the time that you have wisely.” –Danielle Bath, caregiver and mother of three.   

Sixty seconds is all it takes to recharge, get an energy boost, or mentally, emotionally, and physically repair. At HerSelf First, “Make Friends with Time” is one of our Four Ingredients for Harmony, the four essential principles all moms/women/caregivers need to sustain their long-term wellbeing. As such, we created My Minute, a regular tip segment that offers easy ways to make your daily minutes work for you. The last thing anyone needs in our busy, over-scheduled, overly plugged-in lives are tasks added to our days. My Minute reinforces a model of working with the given time we all have over the course of the day to, ultimately, broker a new relationship to time that helps us to nurture and enhance our wellbeing.    

This week’s My Minute: Summertime Surrender  

Summertime is a season when schedules shift, priorities adjust, and the world literally seems a bit lighter. Yet many of us insist on plowing through these lackadaisical months at our usual break-neck pace, and before we know it the leaves are tinged with orange and the familiar rush and hurry routines of our busy lives are back in play. Why not try a different approach? This season, surrender to the natural rhythms and cues of summertime to recoup your energy, reengage with your friends and family, and reinvest in your well-being.

Play in the Rays: For those of us who would mainline that sunshiny Vitamin D if possible, the longer daylight hours are definitely a plus. Take advantage of those precious post-five-o’clock-punch-out rays by serving dinner in the backyard, patio or deck. Leave the laundry folding and other chores. Kick off your shoes and get outside.

Photo courtesy of S. Moeschen
Get in the Kiddie Pool: Not literally, or, o.k. maybe, go for it! By this, I mean, take a cue about summertime surrender from your kids. For them, every day is a blank canvas rife with endless possibilities. Play more, laugh a lot, be silly, take naps, have ice cream for lunch, spend more time simply spending time.

Lighten Up!: Everything about summer—longer, hotter days, lush blooms, leafy trees, lulling water scapes, open-toed shoes and lighter clothing—screams at us: “Slow down! Relax! Lighten Up! for Pete’s sake! Let’s not make her yell at us so much; lie on the grass, laze in the pool, ditch the sandals and walk barefoot on the beach. Surrender to summer.

About Dr. Sheila C. Moeschen, PhD. Sheila Moeschen is the Director of HerSelf First, a program sponsored by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy that helps caregivers invest in their wellbeing on a regular basis. She holds an Interdisciplinary PhD. in Theatre & Gender Studies from Northwestern University. Her research and writing has appeared in Women’s Studies Journal, Disability Studies Quarterly, and The Huffington Post. She resides in Boston.


Summer's simple pleasures

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy”-George Gershwin

Ahh.... Summer. The time of year when we linger with friends a little longer, allow our kids to stay up a little later and enjoy a less hectic day-to-day existence. For us, as soon as school is done, mornings become less rushed, meals are more casual and the ever present “to-do” list gets a little easier to manage.  

Although we are only a few weeks into summer (I know that officially summer doesn’t start until June 20th, but humor me), we’ve already made some great summer family memories, and almost all of them have been very simple.

Watching our kids run through the sprinkler and laughing for hours.  Sitting on the grass and watching a baseball game on a Sunday afternoon while the kids danced and played with friends.  Planting a small vegetable garden with the kids and telling them stories about my grandparents’ garden when I was a girl.  Having dinner with friends and laughing over a good bottle of wine.

So, my Inspired Wining friends, please join me in my quest for summer’s simple pleasures by sharing your ideas and suggestions for fun and simple family activities.  Also, if you have a favorite bottle of summertime wine or beverage, please share that as well.  After all, the grownups need to make some fun summer memories of our own.

Michelle Gauffreau is a customer service consultant for Broadcast1Source and  a founding member of Inspired Wining. She is also a wife, a mother of two and an active volunteer in her community.


Red wine, yoga and girl time

As a guest panelist at a conference last month, I listened as one of the attendees posed the question, “How do you not burn out?”

I was the first of the panelists to respond. "Red wine and yoga," I said.

The room fell silent as the attendees chewed on that thought and then a slow laughter spread. But, I held steadfast. “No, I’m serious. I go at such a fast pace, juggling home/work/marriage and pushing our company to the limits that I need a consistent outlet to catch my breath and refresh. Red wine and yoga are my outlets.”

As I was leaving the conference and dashing off to a shortened girls weekend, I pondered the thought
more and kicked myself for not adding girl time to that list. My mom and girl friends reenergize me whether it’s just by being there to listen or give advice or to cut up and de-stress with laughter.

And you know what? During that girls weekend, we laughed and laughed. It felt great. The laughter started in a gift shop where we found a hilarious line of gifts and cards with circa 1950's and 60’s photos with funnies on them.

A magnet that said, "Wine is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Another magnet --- "Behind every great women are lots of women."

Cards -- "Grab the toolbox, let’s get hammered."

Cocktail napkins -- "I’m on a liquid diet and it’s going well; I’ve lost two days so far" and "You don’t have to put yourself down; we’ll do that when you leave."

Of course I loaded up on chatskis for the special girls in my life, but I thought all of you, too, would enjoy a chuckle. Hope it will de-stress and energize you if only for a minute.

Tiffany Crenshaw is a  North Carolina native, wife, mother of 2 wild and crazy kids, and an entrepreneur. She loves her family, a delicious glass of red wine, girl time and the occasional spa treatment. As an enthusiastic member of Wednesday Night Whine, she rarely misses a “meeting” unless she’s traveling for business. She is the President and CEO of Intellect Resources, a recruiting and consulting firm specializing in the healthcare IT industry.