When it comes to the balancing act, women are failing.
That’s the message of this week’s edition of 60 Minutes Australia, a segment about the life of the 21st century wife and mother, who’s realizing what I’ve been preaching for two decades: Yes, women can ‘have it all.’ But not all at once.
The subject of the interview is Ashley Lathrop, a happy wife and mother. But “there’s more calculation than cupid behind Ashley’s happiness,” notes interviewer Tara Brown.
When Ashley, a former advertising executive, and her husband Josh were dating, she told him she planned to be a mother, first and foremost, when the time came, Josh got the message loud and clear—You’re going to be the breadwinner if you want to hitch your train to mine—and he agreed.
When Ms. Brown asked Ashley what would have happened if Josh hadn’t want to take on the role of breadwinner when she told him her goals, Ashley said, “We probably wouldn’t be together.” And then adds,
“We plan everything else out in our in our lives—you know, our careers—our spouses shouldn’t be any different.”
Women who are as ambitious about love as they are about career win at love and in life, and you can, too. Here are four things you can do to get started:
- Choose a flexible career path that works well with motherhood.
- Don’t waste your time with unmarriageable (read: unemployed or “lost”) men.
- Tell the man you’re dating straight up, as Ashley (and as I) did what your plans for the future entail.
- Don’t waste your prime fertile years shacking up with a man in the hopes that it will someday work out. Paint or get off the ladder.
Susan Shapiro Barash, professor and author of The New Wife, says women today don’t want what they’ve been told they should want. They especially don’t want their mothers’ lives.
“What [women] don’t want to do is work hard so that they’re exhausted, have the second shift at home after a long day at a career, have husbands they have no time for, children they barely can take care of, and in many cases a divorce as a result of having to balance so much.”
I can personally vouch for this. As a marriage and relationship coach, every week I see the women who believed the lie that they can have everything they want all at the same time, without skipping a beat. In reality, these women are exhausted, they don’t have time for anything, they do have children they can barely take care of, and they are on the verge of divorce.
The way to avoid this is to live mindfully in your twenties. Be intentional. Don’t live in the moment pretending as though none of this will happen to you. Think ten years out and make purposeful decisions that will get you where you want to go.
If you make mistakes—and you will—don’t sweat it. Redirect. Get back on the plan with a new direction. But always think ahead, and don’t hitch your train to anyone who isn’t headed in the same direction.
No, this isn’t easier said than done. It’s perfectly doable.
Ashley did it, and so can you.
Suzanne Venker is an author, a certified relationship and life coach, and host of The Suzanne Venker Show. Her new book, How to Get Hitched (and Stay Hitched): A 12-Step Program for Marriage-Minded Women, is now available. Suzanne lives in the Midwest with her husband of 23 years. They are empty nesters.