The ‘Good Enough’ Life

Enjoyed this piece by Elsa Walsh of the Washington Post on women being truly happy with the “good enough” life because balance is more important than raw achievement.

“Why women should embrace a ‘good enough’ life”

Walsh discusses her personal journey in American feminism from a loyalty to breaking barriers at all costs to a different definition of success.

“In my lifetime, very little has changed to improve the lives of working parents and their children. In fact, almost all of it has become worse since I was a young woman of 22, then a new mother of 38. And this is the most depressing measure of the women’s movement. Women like myself thought we had won feminism’s big prize — equal opportunity. But in our excitement and individual victories, we failed to demand the structural and cultural changes needed to make it work. In that, we have failed our daughters.”

And

“For a woman to say she is searching for a “good enough” life is not failure — it is maturity and self-knowledge.”

Any life lived solely for its own success will ultimately be a failure, regardless of the gender of the human involved, because it will be an empty life.

Great thoughts on how our priorities change as we grow into full adulthood.

PS. Walsh also makes this great point: “There is no real safety net for working mothers.” Or any single parent really. Our modern work culture demands our full worship–all our time, all our energy, all our attention. And for anyone in the median class or below, working moms won’t have the money to afford adequate child care. It’s a vicious cycle, an area for the Gospel to redeem.

7 thoughts on “The ‘Good Enough’ Life”

    1. I appreciated her suggestion that a woman take long enough to establish a career, if she wants one, before starting a family so she can feel like she can step back. For some women, that’s a really important impulse, and it sets them up to be productive once the new-baby phase calms down.

      For others, raising an awesome family IS what they want to do, and that’s awesome. They deserve a good education and plenty of enriching moments, just like someone heading into corporate America. I’m not really sure why feminism has so often marginalized motherhood. Seems counter-productive, you know?

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      1. I think that (why feminism has marginalized motherhood) was part of what Walsh was trying to tease out. The feminism that she was part of seemed to focus most on women being equal with men. The parody of “anything you can do, I can do better.” Well, men can’t have babies, so we’re not going to compete with them in that arena. We’re going to compete in the job force, and in academia, and over who does the household chores. If we’re busy trying to be like men, then we’re not going to fully embrace the parts of us that make us uniquely women. Or something like that. *shrugs*

        I have lots of thoughts going ’round. May actually put pixels on my blog. 😉

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  1. I have friends who have devoted their lives to supporting families and being mothers but neglected the poems they needed to write. Some friends, former musicians, married and had families and left New York to take teaching jobs in the Midwest. One of those friends said to me recently, “You’re living the dream,” referring to the fact that I’ve had a long run as a musical artist and now my book has been published. I know that I’ve been lucky. It was, and still is, my dream to have an artist’s life. I’ll always wonder what it might have been like to have a child, but I know that no one gets to live out all their dreams. It’s tempting to wonder “what if,” to imagine a different life, but I think the choices we make are probably built into who we are. If by some magic or science I could go back, I suspect I’d choose the same things again.

    (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/lori-carson-my-career-meant-giving-up-having-children/2013/06/05/22eb83b2-c968-11e2-9245-773c0123c027_story.html)

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  2. “Women like myself thought we had won feminism’s big prize — equal opportunity. But in our excitement and individual victories, we failed to demand the structural and cultural changes needed to make it work. In that, we have failed our daughters.”

    This reminded me about Coart’s comment re: women being the voting majority for the last 90 years, but yet, well . . . these things are still issues. We shoot ourselves in the foot, we shoot at each other . . .

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    1. Yeah, I think Coart’s statement is primarily provocative for that conversation; it’s not really “helpful” per se in figuring out why we still operate with such destructive flavors of patriarchy and feminism in our politics, social conversations, and theology.

      But he DOES grind away at an important point: united, we would have the numbers necessary to effect real change. But we don’t. So something is way amiss.

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  3. “In short, the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be—at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office—at least not for very long.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/)

    ^^Reminded me of your P.S. re: the lack of safety net for working mothers. You’re right, it IS an area the Gospel can redeem. There’s a lot of baggage (personal and societal) that’s going to have to be worked through to get us there.

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