I was wondering which of the Desperate Housewives I am. I don’t have a gardener, we’re not rich, my kids are not dysfunctional, I’m not blonde in real estate and I’m not pretty and stupid. I guess some would say Lynette is the closest to me, because she has billions of children and was a great worker outside the home. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I adore that I’m a mum of four children. Each of my kids is incredible and I’ve learned so much about myself and life’s purpose with having each othem around. I’ve been a parent for 17 and a half years now. That’s a really long time – nearly half my life. when I had my first child, I was about 10 years younger than any of the other mums in the parenting groups, and I was pretty much a fish out of water. But even though it was incredibly challenging, I did it, and did it really well.
I also worked outside the house. Because I wanted to. And that fantastic juggling act was about the most impressive thing I’ve ever done. It’s not about being a ‘superwoman’, it’s about being an individual. Someone who wants to try to do as much as possible and doesn’t want to make “choices” that the women’s movement and society says you should.
I gave birth to both my second child and my first magazine for ACP in the same year, without a nanny or cleaner or whatever. How did that work? I pitched a plan to my publisher, Nick Chan, that I would telecommute (the first ever at ACP) and guaranteed him that he would get the best editor for the job if he appointed me. Even though someone else wanted the job (who was also female, but not pregnant at the time), he gave it to me. Some would congratulate Nick for that – what a forward thinking guy he is. I find that pretty condescending and basically offensive to both Nick and me. I know Nick is an incredible professional and he appointed the person who was going to do the best job, all things considered. It was a business decision, not a ‘socially courageous’ one. He appointed me because I freaking well rock.
How did he know that?
I had put together an 8-page sample of what the magazine would look like, gathered a small team of potential staff, and done a budget. I made commitments to him about how the magazine would run and undertook my own market research with that team of potential staff. I approached it professionally.
And I followed through.
Far from the ‘easy’ road, it’s had its challenges. My kids have grown up in a variety of different caregiving arrangements over the years, but never fulltime 8-6pm every day because that’s never been what I wanted to have happen with them. I’ve paid more than I should have had to for childcare because I wanted a particular type, place, time. I have even taken time out from full-time employment a few times because I’ve wanted to take a bit of a break. But I’ve always ended up back in the workforce, in jobs I’ve loved.
I am the sort of person who looks for reasons how to make things work, not reasons why they can’t. I don’t care about social norms, about what’s ‘acceptable’. I’m not post-feminist. I’m not Lynette from Desperate Housewives. I’m not full of aching resentment and confusion about what my role is. I’m loving my life. I mix it up.
I’m sick of people wanting to do one of two things: first, make me some poster girl for women everywhere. While I appreciate you may admire my ability on some levels and I admire women too, I think it’s about taking responsibility for yourself and making things happen for you. Don’t point to me as an ‘example’. You should do whatever you want, and feel empowered to do it. If you don’t feel empowered, then get to the point where you do. It’s YOUR responsibility to find your motivation. I don’t look elsewhere for empowerment, but I do for affirmation. I find affirmation in women who are doing those little tough things that don’t get recognised. I will never forget dropping my kids at daycare at 8am, meeting up with another mum doing the same; however she was actually a shift worker who had started work at 4am, and was on a break from work. She had picked her child up from one carer to take him to the other one at 8am. She was a woman who needed to do something, adored her family and did what it took to make it work.
In both our cases it wasn’t going to last forever. It probably wasn’t going to last even 12 months. Kids grow up, jobs change. But for a period of time you sit up and say this is how it needs to be, and I’m going to make it happen. Don’t look to the spouse, the grandparents, whomever to ‘help out’. If you want it to go a certain way, then you find a way to make it happen.
Secondly, I don’t like people who look at what I do and then find either excuses as to why it is easier for me (oh you must have lots of help at home), or even evidence about why I’m not succeeding as well as I should be (oh you must be a bad mother, or you’re cutting corners). None of that is true – my kids are not only fantastic, well adjusted people, they have the benefit of seeing their mum achieve some pretty amazing stuff while they’re there to share it with me. The boys recognise that women can do anything, at any stage of their lives. And my daughter, at 17, is recognising that she can make choices that suit her in life, not some social norm.
Unlike the women’s movement of the 80s, I don’t tell my daughter she can have choices. I want to be a mum who lives her choices – just as any individual can, male or female. I want her to see that working inside the home is just as important as outside, and women can and should be empowered to feel fulfilled doing whatever it is they choose to do, in whatever mix. And that there is a balance that can be achieved, and that balance is different for everyone. And she has to be personally empowered to make a balance for herself. She doesn’t have to thank anyone other than herself for taking it on and making it happen.
Take control. Make your own way. Stop finding excuses for whatever is on the backburner. Find reasons to cook it all up now. Empower yourself and be your own inspiration. Get rid of Lynette.