Can We Have It All at Once?
March 25, 2010 · Posted in Parenting, Work/Family Balance · Permalink

10035790Mika Brzezinski, an MSNBC co-host on Morning Joe, has just published her book, All Things At Once. It is her story of career, motherhood and the quest for work/life balance. Though the book is not going to win a Pulitzer, it’s premise goes right to the heart of many professional women who are struggling and juggling.

Her main point is that you can BE all things at once–a mother, a wife, an invested professional–but not DO all things at once. This is great advice. Unfortunately, Mika doesn’t seem to be able to put this into practice.

She has two young children while working at an intense job at CBS and her husband works as a reporter as well. In the hand off from the sitter, Mika has a terrible fall while holding her four month old daughter. She has to to rush her unresponsive baby to the hospital. She says she fell because she was overworked, exhausted and scattered. She writes in her book that the experience was a huge priority shake up and rocked her to her core about how better to balance her life.  Strangely, it seems her resolution is, in essence, to hire a tremendous amount of help and delegate parenting tasks so that she can continue to work her more-than-full-time job.  Her identity is so completely tied up in working that a short stint at home is unbearable.

There is no question that women have a raw deal when it comes to choices about work. Men are not expected to put off, cut down hours or pause careers for their children. It isn’t fair, but who said life was fair? Kids need us. Not all day every day by any means.  Women can have meaningful, challenging careers and be totally connected to their children. It is the more than full time job, the sixty hour work week, the weekends in the office, the constant intrusion of work into home by email that get in the way of the primacy of the relationship with children. When you are trying to make decisions about your own balance, think about whether you want to model that ambition and money are more important than relationships. Think about how it would feel to hear your ten year old say that you love your Blackberry more than you love them–and mean it.

Overall, though I think the purpose of Mika’s Brzezinski’s book, All Things At Once, is to advise women to slow down, think carefully about choices, not put off marriage and having children and recognize that everything cannot be done at one time. It is really the description of her mother’s life as a parent, wife, and artist that is a healthy model of being all things but not doing all things at once.  Different areas of her life in ascendancy at different times. Even with her role model right there, Mika’s ability to prioritize seems compromised. Maybe the actual point of the book is how hard it is to do this in our culture, where workaholism, fame and money reign supreme.

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