Rich In Meaning and Love

by Victoria Podesta '78

Intelligent and educated Scripps grads shouldn’t be susceptible to the silly suggestion that they can’t have both children and success, particularly when every volume of the Bulletin is filled with examples of Scripps alums who have both and more.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s study, on which the Time article was based, is just the latest version of a familiar theme: Ambitious women end up miserable and alone. This ridiculous notion never fails to tweak women’s fears, and sell a lot of books and magazines. (If a particular ambitious woman does end up miserable and alone, it is probably because she has intractable personality problems, not because she dared to strive for career success.)

The even greater silliness of Hewlett’s study was its suggestion that anyone can “have it all,” and its comparisons to executive men as proof that men do. I’ve worked for many years as a speechwriter for these men. They have the life they want, but they do not “have it all.” They may have children, but they don’t raise those children and in many cases they barely know them. How can they when they are working 15-hour days and often spending weeks at a time traveling? They don’t make it to weekend soccer games, let alone weekday school events. If they are older, as most of them are, they will tell you that, although they loved their children and were dedicated to building magazine, winter 2003 a secure life for them, they essentially “missed” their childhoods, and only when their children reached adulthood were they able to begin building what most of us would consider true relationships.

If women want success on this executive male model, they’ll have to do what men do: forget about marrying someone who is a peer in education and professional status, and find a younger and less ambitious mate for whom the executive salary they can provide represents a leap into a lifestyle their mate couldn’t hope to achieve on his own. (I suggest checking out the immigrant busboys the next time you go to dinner. They’re young, cute, they made it to this country, which suggests good genes for survival and success, and they already know how to clear the table. If they’re not fancy enough, date the fry cook. He can make dinner.) Then, either support your mate to stay home, or hire a team of full-time nannies to raise the children you may have to pay someone else to gestate and deliver. (After all, those executive men didn’t birth those babies.) This isn’t “having it all,” it’s having a particular slice of all there is to have. May anyone it suits achieve it.

I’m happy with my own very different slice. I have a daughter and a husband I love and actually talk to every day. I love my work, but I keep it to much less than full-time because I want to be the one waiting at the curb every day when my daughter gets out of school. I can do this and still pay my mortgage because I’ve concentrated on the most lucrative writing I am capable of, and because I’ve accepted that I will never take the vacations or own the vacation homes that some of my peers enjoy. Of course, my name is not attached to my writing, so I’ll also never become famous or even particularly well known. I write for others graduation speeches my own college would never invite me to give and lectures on women and success no professional organization will ever pay me to deliver.

Oh, well…so what? I still get to say what I want I’ve put my views on globalization and sustainability into the mouth of an oil industry executive. I’ve gotten the graying leader of a worldwide investment firm to suggest that perhaps saving for retirement isn’t the only way to “invest in the future”; maybe there is also contributing to the tuition of a bright underprivileged child. And, eventually, I get all of my executives to say that- ultimately-we’re all here to serve and help and care for one another. (Some of us just do this by selling socks and lipsticks- yes, lipsticks. E-mail me if you want my theory on that one.)

It’s a weird life, but it suits me fine, because it is rich in personal meaning and most of all love, the things which matter to me.