07.19.12 Truth & Wisdom
BY Yatu Hunt
I think I have been duped. I grew up in a family and community that told me I had all the freedom in the world. And to be fair, in a way, I did. I grew up in a comfortable home, in a middle class suburb in a first world country, so you would probably think I would be more grateful for the opportunities and freedoms I can experience.
But something has been bugging me. Maybe it’s because I am about to turn 30 and am thinking about whether and when to start a family, but when I think about the kind of life I want going into the next decade of my existence, I am not sure I feel that I have the freedom to live it the way I want to.
It is a wonderful thing to grow up in a society where women can have a family and a career and nourishing relationships. We hear it all the time. There is the dream of having it all, balanced with the reality of juggling it all. Women can be independent, successful, powerful, feminine and maternal, all at the same time.
Although I am fiercely proud of my financial independence and of my professional career, I don’t know that I want it to be the marker of my success. What I also don’t know, is whether what it takes to ‘succeed’ at work, to sustain a home and a family in our modern society, also gives me the freedom to enjoy my family and let’s be honest, enjoy my life.
Because in order to sustain a life where you can build a home and care for a child, you need to earn good money. I like to work hard for my money, but I don’t like it to compromise my freedom to parent, or to be a good friend or a good partner (or to nourish myself at some point!)
Right now, I don’t think my friends and family get the best of me. They get the ‘me’ that comes home grumpy and tired from the office with takeaway in hand because I didn’t have time to cook. They get the ‘me’ that wants to whinge about mortgage prices and why the cost of living is so high. When I am at my most alert and most giving, I am usually in the boardroom.
So here’s what I do want. If I have a child, I want to be a present parent but I don’t want to compromise my financial independence or security. I want to ensure that I am nourishing my marriage and relationships with the people closest to me, but I also want to maintain my professional identity.
I can’t help but wonder, for all the rights and freedoms we are given, why do the basic things in life, the things we were designed to do; to care for each other, nurture each other and love each other, get overtaken by the need to pay the bills, so that we can live another week, where more hours are spent at the office than at home.
So many of my friends are complacent and resigned to this life and maybe I am arrogant to think I could do differently. People say I am a hippie, or have old-fashioned values or should go and live on a subsistence farm or something, but I don’t think that what I am saying is radical at all. What’s radical is that we are eating food from boxes and sitting at desks all day and waking up in the middle of the night worrying about a brief at work, rather than worrying about whether we are a good friend or mother.
Just to be clear, I don’t advocate opting out either (or going to that subsistence farm!). I want to work and I want to participate in society. As women in particular, we have a lot to contribute to business, government and public life. What I really want is to balance our freedoms and to encourage a community that respects and supports that balance.
Because the sad truth is, right now, I don’t feel like I have the freedom to earn good money, reach my professional potential, sustain meaningful relationships, raise a child who sees me as their primary caregiver and gets me at my best. This isn’t about having it all, it’s about having what we all fundamentally need and I can tell you, it’s not money. It’s family. It’s community. It’s identity.
So who knows, things may change or they may not. The best thing I can do is change to doing what suits me. Maybe I haven’t been duped, perhaps I just have to find my own balance, but it would be nice to think that our community could support our right to do so. Freedom doesn’t mean having it all, especially if you are doing it ‘all’ half-heartedly and in a way that isn’t fulfilling.
For me, real freedom is having all the things that nourish me and having the opportunity to enjoy them in a real and meaningful way. That’s my freedom. What’s yours?
Featured image by Ieva Klevina, via fotocommunity.com