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You Can’t Have it All

Piling onto this conversation a week late, but… sometimes I just can’t help myself.

About that New York Magazine feature story: How the Pill Changed the World, that had so many smart folk talking last week: Besides the fact that it was somewhat inaccurate, derivative and kinda insulting, it also seemed to miss the point. In my opinion.

But first, since I’m sharing my opinion, I feel I should also share my background story on this one. I’m on and have been for almost 20 years. BUT, and this is a big but, it’s not for birth control. It was/is prescribed to help control 2 separate issues. And, my would be negatively affected if I went off of it. And I’m not going to say anything more about that.

Now that that’s out of the way – YES, many women (of my generation SPECIFICALLY) take the pill for 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years straight. Some of us have absolutely no idea what our body’s natural rhythms would be like. None.

And, some of us are hyper-focused on our careers in our 20s and 30s and wait until after 35 to have kids. Which isn’t the wisest thing to do. We’re not stupid. We know we shouldn’t wait that long.

But, and here’s another big but, there are a lot of people on this planet who do dumbass things. Make dumbass choices. I make them all the time. In this particular case, I’m going to hazard a bet that most women in this situation (the pathetic women in their late 30s and early 40s that Vanessa Grigoriadis, the author of the piece writes about) weren’t blinded by the pill. Nor weren’t they too stupid to realize their was declining with age.  They were just focused on trying to have it all.

I’ve written about the whole, having it all, thing before. I don’t think it’s possible. Never did.

The superwoman with the great career, fabulous husband, well-behaved kids, amazing home and no household help = MYTH. At least for most people. Maybe there’s the rare exception.  But they’re rare.

Life requires choices. And most of us make our choices without realizing we’re making them.  Millions of women have CHOSEN to focus on their careers during their 20s and 30s, instead of having kids. And some of them, when they get to their later 30s/40s have buyer’s remorse.  They want to undo that .  Pretend that they didn’t know.

But they knew. OK, some people are really stupid.  This country elected Bush twice.  So a portion of them might have not known. But the majority KNEW.

You can’t have it all.  You can’t spend your 20s and 30s focused on everything but babies and then wake up one day and say, “Oops. I want a kid.  I’ll do anything to make it happen.  If only I’d known.”  Because that just perpetuates the myth that women are foolish and stupid and shouldn’t be allowed to have complete control over our own bodies.  ’cause, gosh, look how irresponsible we are.

So basically, my issue here is with the narrative. The cause and effect. Who/what is getting the blame. Yes, it would probably be smart if women (ALL WOMEN) thought about fertility in their early 20s and made a personal choice – when do I want kids/if ever?  They could always change their minds in the future. But they should think about it and make a conscious choice when they/we are young. So that they realize that the X number of years of school and the Y number of years they’ll need to get firmly established in their careers… will bring them to approximately aged whatever.  Or maybe they’ll decide to defer one of those things.  Or not.

Most of the women I know didn’t do this. Make a rational choice while the rational choice is still theirs to make. Instead they opted to try for EVERYTHING. And some of them ended up as married moms with careers who are struggling to live with the facade that everything is perfect.  STRUGGLING (and frequently miserable). And others are my age (or near it) and unmarried and thinking, Holy shit I hope it’s not too late. All of which makes me sad.  Because, y’know, we’re free to do and be whatever we want.  But lots of us bought into the whole, you can have EVERYTHING superwoman bullshit.  And that’s just a lot of self-defeating nonsense.

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8 to “You Can’t Have it All”

  1. lee says:

    Wow! Best piece you’ve ever written. Now I can’t pretend like I don’t know my thirties are only 3 years away. Better get cracking on those big decisions.

  2. Sandyvs says:

    Bravo! I second what Lee said, and totally agree with what you’ve written. Good thoughts there.

  3. jamy says:

    I guess I don’t buy either version of this narrative. I’m an example of a woman who “knew” but never met someone I could marry. I’ve always wanted to have kids but was never desperate about it. If I’d met a compatible person in my late 20s, I would have gotten married. That didn’t happen and I here I am in my early 40s, still not married and still no kids. I don’t regret the choices that brought me here. I am fairly ambitious in my career and I’ve dated plenty, but I don’t think there was a point where I could have just STOPPED and decided “kids now” at least not the way I wanted to have kids (with a partner). And how was I to know at 20 or 30 that I wouldn’t be married by now? If I could have predicted that, I might have made different choices….

    • Tay says:

      I agree with what Jamy has to say. I am 26, my boyfriend of 4 years just left. My friends are telling me I am getting old and should settle down (whatever right?). But my point is, I have wanted to have kids anda husband for the past 6 years, at least married by 25. Well, he never proposed, there are no kids, I refuse to settle for any man. So what I do have is my career at the moment. I do hope that someone comes along that will be my husband. But sometimes we have to realise that our choices are kind of made for us. And you have to deal with the hand you dealt.

  4. pansophy says:

    I didn’t go back and read the article to see how they framed it, but it strikes me that there is entire scientific literature on how people make decisions – whether they are driven by short-term versus long-term factors. Put a piece of candy in front of someone and do they eat it now or do they save it and eat it later.

    A LOT of people are short-term decision makers so why would ‘having babies’ be any different than say saving money for retirement? People think about things when they want to do it rather than planning ahead. To me this isn’t a woman issue, but a people issue.

  5. Alex says:

    Simone. I’m not on the pill either. 😉
    This post comes at a time when I’m having to “make some choices.” I’m not terribly happy about that.

    Kids. Damn kids. I don’t really want em. The woman does though… A matter of time? Perhaps. Anyway, bravo. Love this!

  6. LadyD says:

    I’ve been on the Pill (mainly for health issues) since I was 19; I’m 44 now, and I’ve never wanted kids. I’ll be on the pill until they tell me I have to stop taking it; then I’ll start taking hormone replacement. I’ve had a couple opportunities to marry in my 20’s, but I just knew they wouldn’t be right and/or would end in divorce. I do want to be married – I’m at this point now where my life is calm and I feel open and grounded, and want that partner in my life. It’s my main focus for this new year: find my mate & partner. I am grateful for the choices I have made this far, and I honestly have no regrets, which is something few people have. I’ve made mistakes and missteps, sure; but thankfully have been true to my heart and did not allow myself to get caught up in situations that I knew just weren’t right. I don’t believe that I’m meant to be alone – I will find my partner – it’s just a matter of time.

  7. Black Iris says:

    I think a lot of women my age and older didn’t realize they might have trouble getting pregnant if they waited until their 30s. The research wasn’t out there and the problem wasn’t being talked about.
    Also, I know many people who had kids in their 30s or even 40s. I think most people I know who tried to get pregnant late did manage it. The people who don’t stand out because of how hard it was for them, but I don’t think they’re the majority, actually.

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