BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

How To Do It All… Now, Because Mom Did!

Posted by danielleac on May 8, 2011

After reading an excerpt from the new book,  ”Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for Perfect and Find the Career–and Life–That’s Right for You” by Barbara Kelley and Shannon Kelley, a mother-and-daughter writing team tackling generational issues, I feel compelled to offer a slightly different viewpoint.

Barbara and Shannon propose that Gen Y women are stuck in a bad place, a miserable place, one that gives them too many options, and not enough satisfaction. They believe that Gen Yers suffer from “analysis paralysis” and “grass is greener” syndrome, and conclude that much of the problem is due to “a lack of role models to pave the way.”

I’d have to disagree a bit. I’m a quintessential example of a Gen Yer – educated, married, 2 kids, and working in a job that offers both work-life balance and feeds my need to make a difference in the world…. and I’m also a woman veteran. I’m wearing many hats simultaneously – mom, wife, student, employee.

And, yes, I’ve felt the sting of not knowing which choice to make…or how to prioritize all of the great options I’ve been afforded due to the efforts of the women who’ve gone before me. One of the most important of these was my own mother, a pixie of a woman who left military service to be a mother and wife, homeschooling us for several years, until divorce struck. This didn’t slow her down, though – she went on to raise her four children singlehandedly while putting herself through nursing school to better our circumstances.

That being said, I suffer from a different problem – how to do it all. NOW.

My mom did it all, because she had to. Life didn’t offer her the luxury of picking and choosing – food had to go on the table, rent had to be paid, and kids had to be washed. I remember watching her struggle through hundreds of pages of reading, curse her way through physics and chemistry, and rail against the fact that her responsibilities left little time for repeat trips to the firehouse, dairy farm, and strawberry fields that used to fill her days as a stay-at-home mother.

So, now, I do it all, because if she could do it, I can do it. Her example shines before me as a beacon of fortitude, and the stress, struggle, and juggle of it all keeps me dashing through every open door, running swiftly down all available avenues , and continuously striving to live up to the expectations of today. It’s not analysis paralysis I suffer from, it’s the inability to say no when opportunity knocks. And, I don’t feel depressed or angsty at all… unless I think about how hard it must have been for my mom to do it all by herself.

It’s not always easy to follow in the footsteps of greatness. But, it is challenging, and I welcome the responsibility of continuing to break down the gender barriers as those who came before me did. We aren’t there yet, but thanks to my mother and many others like her, we’ll keep trying.

Happy Mother’s Day to Joni Olson and all of the other supermoms out there!


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