WHITNEY: 'Having it all' is a lie
I'm going to cut to the chase here: I agree with Matt Lauer, who recently said, "Having it all is not a gender issue."
Out of context, that quote is completely defensible. He is a thousand percent right.
The problem is that he made it defensively after getting slammed for asking GM CEO Mary Barra if she could do her job and still be a good mother. Here's how the conversation went:
Lauer: "You're a mom, I mentioned, two kids. You said in an interview not long ago that your kids told you they're going to hold you accountable for one job and that is being a mom."
Lauer: "Given the pressures of this job at General Motors, can you do both well?"
Barra: "I have a great team, we're on the right path, we're doing the right things, we're taking accountability. And also, I have a wonderful family, a supportive husband, and I'm pretty proud of my kids in the way they're supporting me in this."
Some might say (and I might agree) that it's problematic for Lauer not to ask the same question of male CEOs who grace the couch of the Today show. Can men truly be great fathers if they're spending long hours at the office and traveling around the world, activities I'm sure must occupy any CEOs of global corporations like GM? Can they really "have it all" — the great career that is fulfilling both spiritually and monetarily, the family life that would inspire envy in most perfect of sitcom families, and the personal life brimming with friends and a loving spouse?
It's a shame that, if Lauer truly believes "having it all isn't a gender issue," that he didn't lob the question first at a male executive. I'd like to imagine he could've made headlines for being so bold, but I assume the question when posed to a fellow dude would've been seen as softball, fawning admiration and not edgy morning show journalism. But enough of that. I'm no authority on journalism.
I'm here to say I think Lauer is right. Having it all is NOT a gender issue. It's kind of a whack idea that afflicts all hard working families, whether both parents are working, one is staying at home, or everyone's unemployed. The secret is that no one ever has it all, because their neighbors are summering in Traverse City. And a new iPhone is launching in the fall. And there's always one more thing you have to attain before you can really be set for a while. And that's just the material stuff.
There's also the abounding questions about whether you get enough time with your kids and with your spouse, and whether you're using that time wisely. Are you savoring every possible moment (is that even possible) or are you covertly checking Instagram as you push the swing from behind? Are you screwed up if it's the latter? How about your extended family? Are they happy with you today? How about your friends? When was the last time you met for drinks or dinner without the kids? But, crap! You're supposed to be fully enthralled with worshipping your children. It's gonna be hard to squeeze in a night out with that kind of commitment in your planner.
This all sounds stupid because it is.
There is no such thing as "having it all." No matter if you're a working mom, or a stay-at-home dad, or a guardian grandparent, you can have a lot of good things, but you'll always have to sacrifice something to have them.
Instead of striving for "having it all," let's start asking new questions that I promise are more equal-opportunity than what Lauer had in mind.
Why isn't what we have enough, and why are we continuing to let 'them' convince us that what we haven't isn't everything we need?