What Generation Y Women Can Learn from Tina Fey
“‘How do you juggle it all?’ people constantly ask me, with an accusatory look in their eyes.
‘You’re screwing it up, aren’t you?’ their eyes say.”
One of my favorite comediennes, Tina Fey, takes up this question so often asked of working mothers in The New Yorker with a piece entitled “Confessions of Juggler”. She points out that often we operate with the implicit assumption that it is impossible to be both a woman with an accomplished career as well as a good mother.
Fey explores this debate with her characteristic wit as she discusses the additional pressure she receives from just about everyone, from a background actor on “30 Rock” to the ear-nose-and-throat doctor treating her for stress-induced canker sores.
Her piece reminded me of many conversations that I have had with my girl friends. Many young American women today feel pressured to be perfect in every way. We are very thankful of the gains women are making and have made in the United States to reach gender parity, but sometimes it feels as if these opportunities have become expectations. For example, now that we have federally-mandated equal access to athletics in schools, we have to be star athletes. Now that there are now more female undergraduates than males at American universities, we have to be at the top of the class. Now that we have a greater chance of having a successful career, we have to be the go-getters who will occupy the corner office in a shiny glass-encased skyscraper. Oh, and we need to do that all in stilettos without chipping our manicures. And be “nice” (i.e., not too assertive) while doing it. And once we have the perfect career, a sharp and well-rounded intelligence, a fit body, and a sleek blowout, hopefully we wont be too old to have kids because the ideal American woman today has them too. Preferably a boy and a girl – both athletic, attractive, and smart. And bonus points for the mother who produces the one kid in pre-school who manages to go a whole year without biting a classmate or eating crayons.
OK, so now that you have that image in your head, think of how many women you know who fit that mold. Of them (if they actually exist and do not live an asocial existence because after work they too busy trying to fit in appointments with their manicurist and personal trainer), how many are happy?
Are they happy because they fit the mold? Are they happy despite fulfilling these multiple demands?
For those of us who are not superwomen, each generation Y woman will have to choose a balance between these social expectations and settle for imperfection. The word “imperfection” sounds… unacceptable. But what do I hope this “imperfection” get us? Balance.