As reported by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, “Blue is the New Black.”
What she’s referring to, in case you haven’t heard, is the series of studies covering most of the developed world, showing that as a group women are less happy than our counterparts were thirty years ago.
The freedom to choose that our mothers earned for us has not, apparently, gained us the “happiness” it was supposed to. Even with our greater educational opportunities, careers, and husbands who change diapers, too many of us remain dissatisfied and exhausted.
Why and how did this happen? Commenters blame everything from lack of adequate child care to the incessant media messages to look young. Others with a more philosophical bent cite unrealistic expectations: that young women were, in a sense, sold a bill of goods telling us we could “have it all.” The promise has often become a burden and an impossibly high standard.
In addition to Maureen Dowd’s post, I checked in with Arianna Huffington (“The Sad, Shocking Truth about how Women are Feeling”). Readers of both articles are leaving much food for thought in their comments. I was especially taken by what men had to say, namely that men are “happier” than women because they have mostly known they can’t have it all—that life is a series of trade-offs.
Hmm. Really? It has appeared to me—often—that [white] men could in fact have it all if they wanted. On the other hand, I know from men I love that stellar careers with much advancement aren’t often aren’t compatible good marriages and family lives.
Could it be that for decades we women have been telling ourselves a pack of lies about what we can achieve, and struggling against the reality? I myself have bought into the story line that women
could should devote ourselves to significant, sustained professions, while also raising families, while also maintaining households, and remaining happily partnered (oh, and by the way, while also eating right, staying toned, and wearing Manolo Blahniks).
NO WONDER WE’RE UNHAPPY.
When I had my baby twelve years ago, an old friend told me I could have it all in my life, but probably not all at once. Today, finally, I think she’s right.
What do you think?? Could we give ourselves permission to stop this searching and striving? Could we stop apologizing to ourselves and the universe for not measuring up?