LZ Granderson: The question of the moment is whether women can have it all
Granderson: It's a ridiculous question since it implies men have it all, but we don't
He says instead of this fruitless debate, we should focus on what makes us happy
Granderson: "All" is a mythical concept, not obtainable
Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.
Can women have it all?
That seems to be the question of the moment.
And it is a rather ridiculous question if you ask me, because it implies that men have it all.
But we don’t. Not even close.
If we’re married, then we don’t have the freedoms that come with being single.
If we’re single, then we miss out on the comforts of marriage.
For every hour that is spent late at night in the office trying to make partner, there is another hour in which Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” creeps from being a song to being our biographies.
On average, men earn more money.
We hold most of the executive jobs.
We don’t get pregnant.
Believe me, I recognize the cultural and anatomical challenges and respect the sacrifices women make in order to balance family and a career, or family with no career, or career with no family. But constructing this entire conversation around the premise that men are exempt from this balancing act minimizes the role of fatherhood, discounts our stake in romantic relationships and blinds us all from this greater truth: No one who needs to work has it all.
Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte has fame, World Series rings and millions in the bank and he doesn’t have it all. The season is 162 games long – half of which is spent in hotels, away from his wife and children – and that doesn’t even include spring training. He’s been doing this since 1995. Imagine how many once-in-a-lifetime moments he has missed.
George Clooney has good looks, model girlfriends, fame and fortune, but no wife and kids to come home to.
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey became a billionaire before 40, and worked 80-hour weeks to get there.
So, I don’t know where this notion of having it all in the workplace came from, but very few people with jobs have it.
Women may think men have it all, but only because we’ve been socialized to express the emotions that are tied to this reality differently, which is to say, men are not to express the emotions that are tied to it.
But that antiquated code of silence comes with a price, like not being home to see our newborn’s first steps. Not to mention how internalizing stress contributes to heart disease and depression and negatively affects our mortality.
As much as women worry about the affect maternity leave will have on their careers, so do men worry about taking paternity leave. America is the only first-world country that doesn’t have a mandatory paid family leave policy. That is why some working parents feel worried when they actually do take a leave.
Last year, the National Partnership for Women and Families found that only 14 states and the District of Columbia have laws that help new fathers and mothers who work in the private sector. Another 18 states only help new mothers or state employees. Considering how far behind the United States is compared to other developed nations with regards to parental leave, that’s shameful.
Instead of this fruitless debate about having it all, men and women should focus on what make us happy. Instead of comparing our lives with people we don’t know who are making sacrifices we don’t see, we should try to find the right balance between home and work life. It’s a very personal choice.
There is no way to physically always be there for your children and always be at the office and always be present for your significant other and then take care of yourself. The laws of physics necessitate that somebody or some thing is going to get the short end of the stick.
That’s why it’s more important for women to define their own sense of priorities instead of adhering to someone else’s. At the end of the day, they are the ones who have to live with the choices they make. Same for men.
Last summer Kirk Gibson, the manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks, raised some eyebrows when he decided to skip his son’s high school graduation in Michigan in order to spend more time at the office.
“You’re supposed to graduate,” he said after the game. ”His mom and the rest of the family will be there. He’s coming to see me next week.”
To some, what Gibson did wasn’t that big a deal.
To others, he was an ass.
To me, it’s just another example of men not having it all.
Chances are if Gibson was working in town he would have gone to his son’s graduation before it was time for him to head over to the baseball park. But he was 2,000 miles away and he had to make a choice. It’s not the one I would have made, but then again the work-life balance that Gibson needs in order to be happy is probably different from mine. I suspect the work-life balance that one woman needs for happiness is different from what another may require.
It’s personal, not universal.
“All” is mythical, not obtainable.
So, just because men have been conditioned not to express remorse (or many other emotions), doesn’t mean we don’t have any. The trick is to find the remorse you can live with.
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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.