Can Women Have It All?

Anne-Marie Slaughter on NPR

My girlfriend Tanya had a job at a law firm making a great living. However, they expected her to work more than 60 hours a week. When she slowed down, to give birth, they docked her bonus. It has been hard for her to stay excited and motivated in her career, with these challenges every day.

Interestingly, Anne-Marie Slaughter did an interview today about an article she wrote addressing this issue. Here’s a great podcast of an interview with Ann-Marie on NPR today. Why Women Still Can’t Have It All . (Picture taken from NPR link).

The difference between Ann-Marie and her husband
I loved how she mentioned that when a mother drops her kid at daycare, she feels guilty; when a dad drops him off, he feels proud of his involvement as a parent.

Some women don’t engage in any of the professional strategizing and sacrificing that comes with being a working mother. Some women are able and are comfortable staying home full-time. However, I know from the tons of women I have worked with over the years, that this has its disadvantages too.

When women decide to reemerge into the workplace, they will be behind financially and career wise. Additionally, there is that requisite, “How do I adjust?” And, “Why do I feel so devalued in society when a part of me knows that staying at home was so valuable?”

There’s no easy road and the grass often looks greener on the other side. (Forgive my overused idioms, but you know what I mean). No sweeping solutions are available yet. Please listen to the story.

Why Debbie Doesn’t Leave the House

I just ran into Debbie.

Me: “Hey did you go to the  ______ get together?”

Debbie: “No Cherilynn, I can’t even leave the house anymore. Whenever I go out and do something in the evening, my husband leaves the house in such a pigsty it takes me an hour to put everything away. He doesn’t get the kids to bed and they don’t get their baths. I have to work extra hard just to shut down the house and by the time I get to bed I’m in a really bad mood. I feel tense and resentful. I regret I ever left the house. I’d rather spare myself this discomfort. So, I just don’t leave the house anymore. That’s my best option.”

Hmmm …

Is this a good plan?

What do you think? Please, weigh in.

Meet the author.

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Mary Todd Lincoln’s Difficult Life Journey

Have you seen the movie Lincoln? I liked it a lot. I am a big biography buff. My fascination with people and their lives was probably what lead me to becoming a therapist. Back to the movie, though, and what I found most interesting — the portrayal of Mary, Abe’s wife.

Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln has long been characterized as a hysterical depressive figure. I remember reading in historical literature about her bouts of depression, her hysterics and her lack of public popularity. Conversely, our beloved Lincoln usually gets credit for being the stoic, “in control” husband and father — father of a nation and his family. Just look at how he is portrayed so powerfully in his stone chair at the Lincoln Monument. I’ve been there. You get a sense of the heaviness of his life, his introverted emotional nature, as well as how strong and capable he was.

Mary had the opposite reputation, and this was long before public relations were available to manage and polish one’s public image. If Mary were around now, I would advise her to invest in some good PR. However, poor Mary had a lot going on

Let’s look at some of Mary’s stressors during Abraham Lincoln’s life …

1. In addition to witnessing her husband’s assassination, Mary was shattered by the deaths of two of her children, one of whom died while her husband was in office. One son who died was her darling Willie. He died in the middle of the strain of the Civil War. Unfortunately, he passed while Mary was entertaining in the White House. Understandably, Mary was devastated and burdened by her absence at his death. Duty came first for her, and that cost her dearly at an already stressful time.

2. She endured the challenges of being married to the man who was directing and was partially responsible for the Civil War. This was our country’s most devastating war. Thousands of our boys died. The country was horribly divided too. What woman in her shoes wouldn’t worry and feel anxiety? Marie Antoinette lost her head when the tide turned in her country. Wouldn’t you be stressed?

3. She was lonely and apparently had little or no support from Lincoln or anyone else. According to biographers, Lincoln worked very hard and was gone a lot even before winning the presidency. An article featured in the The New Yorker, (see below) writes that “prior to the presidency, Mary lived in a boarding-house room, alone and without help. She often functioned as a single mother, because Lincoln’s lawyering took him on the road.”

We haven’t heard much about the strengths of Mary’s character or the accomplishments in her life. Did you know she was dedicated to helping the ex-slaves who had moved into the North, fleeing slavery?

In the movie, when the war has ended and Lincoln and Mary seem to be moving into a more peaceful existence, Mary calmly makes a joke about how history will perceive her. The actual Mary probably knew on some level that she’d get the short end of the stick.

Lincoln kindly reassures her though. He seems to say the public may judge her, but they don’t know what she’s been through. Interestingly, he points out that unlike himself, she had the courage to feel her emotions and get through it to keep moving forward. Lincoln knew that only he had a window into the devastation in her soul, and he respected her for it. I hope they really did have an exchange like that.

Culturally, women are encouraged to feel their feelings and express them from a very early age. As adults, the tide turns. Crying and getting upset becomes a show of weakness or manipulation. Professionally, it can quickly result in a loss of respect. What’s a girl to do? Thank God for the ladies room! That’s what I say.

Emotional Self-Care for Today’s Woman

1. Don’t let other people’s judgments about your emotionality get in the way of your feeling and how you deal with them.

2. Having normal emotional responses to abnormal or difficult events is what being a human is about.

3. If you don’t feel and deal with your emotions, you will pay a price. Submerging feelings and not expressing yourself will cause stress. Stress affects us physically and medically. In addition, unaddressed emotions under stressful circumstances fuel the fire of addictions.

4.  Be empathic of others who are expressing themselves “too much.” Perhaps there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about. Try not to judge.

So, feel and deal, no matter what others say or think. At the same time, don’t go to extremes and walk around martyring yourself. Using good social judgment is always wise and prudent. When the situation arises and it is inappropriate to “get emotional,” excuse yourself and go to the ladies room, or call in sick and lick your wounds. Then, move up and on.

Poor Mary became a widow and was financially devastated after Lincoln’s death. She lost another child as well. Eventually, she was placed in a sanitarium by her remaining son. I hope she found some peace there.

For more insight into Mary Todd Lincoln, I encourage you to read “Reconsidering Mary” in the The New Yorker.

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Helplessness as Manipulation

Helplessness as Manipulation

Some people act helpless in an attempt to manipulate others. Detrimental Caretakers fall for helplessness every time. DC’ers are trusting, helpful and giving, as well as competent.

Manipulation is the process of controlling or playing upon another by artful, unfair or insidious means, especially to one’s own advantage. I believe people can be manipulative without even knowing it themselves. This is especially true for those who act helpless.

“I Can’t SEE”

My girlfriend, Colleen, asked her husband {let’s call him Paul} to take the 11 pm feeding one night. The baby was 3 months old. Colleen had been nursing him and she needed a break. Before going to sleep, she asked if Paul was OK with taking the late shift.

“I got it,” he said and flashed her his ‘I’m not an idiot’ eye roll. Little Sam started to yowl just before midnight. Colleen waited a minute or so before nudging her husband. “Honey, baby’s up. He needs you.” {Insert loud baby howls here.}

“I got it,” Paul grumps. Yet, he is still lying there. The baby wails. She rustles the covers and wakes her husband from dozing. “Honey … the baby.”

Paul slowly gets up. He is in the hall, taking a loooong time. Baby is still crying.

“I can’t see, Colleen. It is so dark out here.” Colleen’s adrenaline pumps and she is pissed. She flies out of bed. Into the hallway she goes. “It is so dark … Where is the light?” her husband asks again.

Colleen flips on the light. Her husband says, “Thanks. I got it, babe.” But by now she is wide awake and annoyed. Her first thought is, “It is probably better if I just do it myself from here on out!”

Seeing Better

Paul has a master’s degree and is a successful businessman. He is very smart. Did he really not know how to turn on a light?

Could Paul have manipulated Colleen through his actions?

Have you ever experienced situations where others don’t try or act helpless and you end up completing the task?

For the record, I don’t believe Paul for a second was thinking about how to manipulate Colleen or how to shirk his responsibilities that night.

Having a Conversation

That said, a manipulator can operate with ease when he/she has a Detrimental Caregiver at his service. Colleen chose to have a hard conversation with Paul in the light of day about her expectations … how she needed to be able to count on her husband to handle things.

Resting Better

The next time it was Paul’s turn to take the late-night feeding, Colleen felt the relief of having help … she rested better.

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The Upside of Being a GAG and a Mom

GiveAwayGirl

I plan to write about some of the pitfalls and challenges of being a Give Away Girl (GAG) and a mom. But first, I want to talk about the gifts. After all, there are tremendous positives due credit. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of GAGs and see how they serve the purpose of motherhood effectually.

  1. They love to love. Give Away Girls as mothers are great at caring for their children. They love to love. They are highly motivated and competent caretakers. Having a loving mother is a core foundation every child needs and deserves.
  2. They are helpful, encouraging and emotionally supportive of their children. Along with the care and love comes empathy from the Give Away Girl.
    If Tabitha skins her knee, she will get that hug she needs.
  3. They work hard. They get it all done: classic Supermoms. It’s rare to find a lazy codependent woman or mother. Kids depend on their moms for so much, and GAG moms are on top of every detail … so reassuring. The whole family can count on mom.
  4. They’re real “yes women.” Saying “yes” comes naturally for GAG moms. They volunteer at the bake sale. They help their kids put together the last-minute lemonade stand. They’re the room mother at school. And they’re so much more.
  5. Self-sacrifice comes automatically. A Give Away Girl mom is quick to jump out of bed in the middle of the night for any and all needs. She gives her children and her family 110 percent (always).

This is amazing stuff! So for now, let’s give credit where credit is due.

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