There are always tons of articles on women having it all, not having it all, working, having a family, being a CEO, leaning in… Honestly, whatever you want to do is fine with me. Be happy. We need more happiness in the world.
What I noticed though is that women aren’t the only ones who struggle with “having it all”. And no one in our society really talks about it.
The other day Paul and I were watching The Captains Close Up. It’s this random show on BBC America produced by, starring, and directed by William Shatner. It’s about every captain of the Star Trek universe. While they were talking to each of the captains, Shatner mentioned how grueling the shooting schedule is for whatever show they were on whether it was as Captain of the Enterprise or some other network show.
Here’s what struck me: Scott Bakula was talking about how long his days would be while shooting Quantum Leap. It would keep him away from his family. He missed out on time with them. It was so bad, his marriage ended. Shatner agreed that the same thing happened to him while shooting his TV shows. That’s when I realized…
Men can’t have it all either. They can either be workaholics or they can be involved with their families. They can kill it at the office by working long nights, travel a shit ton, and network like crazy. OR. They can be the best dad in the world by going to ball games and recitals, tending to a sick child, and having family dinners.
Of course, the guys on the show didn’t make a big deal of this fact…the fact that Bakula’s marriage was a casualty of his career. They kind of laughed it off as though it was just another thing that happens.
However, when Kate Mulgrew was being interviewed, they seemed to make the shooting schedule and the time away from family into this huge deal. She was a single mother. She had to do it all. Her kids hate the show she was on because it took her away from them.
Clearly, Scott Bakula’s wife wasn’t a Quantum Leap fan, but no one seemed to point that out in such a dramatic way.
First of all, you can’t tell me Kate Mulgrew didn’t employ a nanny or two to assist her. She’s not a poor mom. She’s not even a middle class mom. Plus, I’m certain the father of her kids had at least a monetary hand in raising them. Let’s not cast her in the role of struggling single mother just yet. Yes, it probably was tough for her to be away from her kids, but it’s not the same as Jane Doe who has to work three jobs in retail to make ends meet because her dead beat ex doesn’t do squat to raise the kids. That was the vibe I got from her portion of the interview and likely it was edited to convey just that feeling.
Back to my original point, the problem with raising families isn’t just a woman thing. It’s a person thing. The TV show I watched made me realize that parallel.
We as a society need to realize that it’s about two people (maybe more) who are trying to raise kids, not just one. Men want to be involved in their children’s lives, but society doesn’t make it easy for them and sort of shuns it when they make an attempt.
What if a guy wanted to be a stay at home dad? Did you just scoff at that question? Maybe just a little?
What needs to happen is more flexibility for people to have families. Freezing eggs at 23 is not the answer. You will still need time at 43 to have the kid and raise it. This doesn’t mean abandoning your career. Wouldn’t it be better if you could work from home most of the time and not feel as though it was a detriment to your career? Wouldn’t it be better to shift work hours so you could pick up your kids at school and still get those TPS reports done? What about aging family members? Don’t both men and women need flexibility to care for them?
Here’s what I do know. Big corporate employers will not make any changes unless governed to do so. How do you think you are able to have the weekends off in a white collar job? You can thank the government and FDR for that. At one point, a five day work week was a radical idea. If we want things to change in the workplace, we need to get our government to push it along. We need them to give us better family leave. Men need time off to help with a new family member or sick family member too.