I’ve been really enjoying watching the Olympics the last few days. The kids planned an opening ceremonies party on Friday night. They made “patriotic eagles,” red-white-and-blue strawberries, and Olympic rings brownies, as well as a host of other “international” foods—gumbo (because Louisiana’s kind of like a foreign country?), crepes, Swedish fish (laughing), and “Fronch bread” (paging Lane Meyer’s mom). No one watched any of the opening ceremonies because the kids opted for swimming instead. Even though I was a tiny bit annoyed that no one enjoyed the big projector I had set up so that they could watch it on the huge wall of our living room, it seemed oddly appropriate that they chose to swim rather than couch-potato-it.
I’ll watch most any Olympic events, but my favorites are gymnastics and swimming. There is no other time in my life when I will sit on the couch for 2-3 hours and just watch TV. I just never do it. I also never let my kids stay up past 10:00, so the fact that we’ve spent the last few nights watching TV together until midnight and 1:00 a.m. signals something special at our house. Shoot—I even let my students convince me to let them leave the TV on during part of class today (muted) so we wouldn’t miss anything.
So I was particularly interested in this article that talks about the focus this year on athletes who are also moms. I saw two different tag lines.
First: “Olympic moms have it all.”
Sigh. Why are we still talking about women having it all? Nobody has it all. Somewhere, someone started telling us that we could have it all, so we started scurrying around, trying to get it all.
We can’t. We can maybe have more of “it all” than we used to and some of us who are privileged/lucky enough have more ability to choose which parts of “it all” we want to try to get, but we can’t have it all. Occasionally, a stay-at-home mom friend will say, “Wow, Heather, I just don’t know how you do it all.” Do it all? I don’t do it all. Carrying out my daily life requires a veritable army of people to whom I farm out every possible household task (errands, house cleaning, lawn mowing, ferrying the kids around, dry cleaning, I even sometimes pay someone to go grocery shopping for us). And I really like my job. Most of the time.
So I have it all, right? I’m married and have three kids and a great, flexible job. But I miss lots of things and I rarely hang out or play with my kids. I spend much of my day racing the clock and forgetting things and wringing my hands. And I work. Too much. Every night. And a few hours every Saturday and Sunday. I’m tired. So no, I don’t have it all.
And second: “She’s a mom. So what?”
Sigh. So what? I’m 39 and I’ve had three kids. I’m not gonna lie: having these kids has taken its toll on me—physically and emotionally. I’m already to the point where I go to the doctor to ask about this or that and she pretty much says: “Yep. You’re 39 and you’ve had three kids.” My kids (ages 9, 12, and 15) have taken to laughing at me because I have to go to the bathroom all the time. And every time they tease me, I say, “Hey now. I have y’all to thank for this problem.” So back off already. Growing another human being is hard work that is not without consequence to a woman’s body.
So while I can appreciate this argument . . .
I still can’t help longing for the day when being a mother who also has her own professional achievements – whether as a CEO or an Olympic medalist – is no big deal. When it’s understood that motherhood and everything else in a woman’s life and career are not at odds. I want dads to get credit for raising athletes and for being athletes too. I want motherhood to be an important part of our identities but not our first names. I want Mary Kom to be Mary Kom.
. . . we’re not to the point yet where we can honestly say, “She’s a mom. So what?”
So while we shouldn’t be saying, “She’s a mom. She has it all” (because I doubt she does), I still think we should be saying, “She’s a mom. Awesome.”
What say ye? Should we hail these Olympic women as having it all or should we just give the combination of mother + Olympic athlete a collective “meh”?