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All Things At Once

March 12, 2010

A few weeks ago I used the gift card that I got for Christmas (Thanks Mom!) to indulge my political and my book junkie cravings for some new volumes. I really haven’t been purchasing books for the last couple of years. I actually got rid of a lot, thinking that I wouldn’t read them again, etc. But the fact that I now want my books back, and I want to buy more, more, more of them… is another story!

Anyway, one of the books I bought is All Things At Once by Mika Brzezinski. I love Morning Joe, Mika, and even Joe Scarborough. That’s right, he’s a Republican, and I like him and a fair amount of what he has to say.

I read this book during one of our snowstorms, starting at breakfast and finishing it at about midnight. There were a lot of great things about this book and the premise… can women have “all things at once?” How do we have the careers we want, even need, while raising our children and enjoying what we learn and gain from our families?

In addition to this theme, there are a couple of things in this book that had me laughing out loud, especially in the beginning. The description of Mika’s family moving from New Jersey to the “wilds” of McLean, VA was hilarious. In the 70’s, it was certainly wilder than we all know it to be now and it reminded me a bit of a romantic image I have in my mind of my parents leaving Washington DC and moving to nearby and much more rural Loudoun County VA (now one of the fastest growing and THE wealthiest county in the country). The Brzezinski family built their own fencing and horse stable on their five acres. My favorite quote from this section of the book is:

“My mother the demon woodcutter had us out there like a team of sweathy, filthy, Slavic hillbillies, clearing our own land.”

After seeing her own mother give up her ambitions and moving to VA for her father’s career, then insisting on diving headfirst right back into those ambitions, Mika struggled with taking care of babies and trying to get ahead in her career. When she, exhausted and distracted, falls down a flight of stairs holding her infant daughter, she feels like it’s a “wake up call.” I guess I wanted the solution here to be quitting her overnight news job and recuperating with her daughter. But it involved (once the daughter recovered from her injuries) hiring more help and pushing through. Different things work for different people, but it was not the outcome I expected.

I think the book is further proof that we can’t have it all, at least in the stereotypical Bring Home the Bacon And Fry It Up In A Pan mode. But the author seems to have accepted this and the fact that having “all things at once” means being the best you can be, for yourself and everyone else. It doesn’t mean you have to be perfect at everything, just be 100% worker when you’re working, and 100% mom when you’re at home. I guess if you’re happy where you are, when you’re there, it can feel like you “have it all.”

While All Things At Once didn’t offer me the full proof solution to a work-life balance, it did bring one point home to me. One thing that might make the strive for balance a little easier is a real passion for what you’re doing. Both at home and at work. Mika Brzezinski knew that she wanted to be in broadcast journalism when she was in high school, and she never stopped working toward her goals. At 35, pathetically, I have no idea what I want to do, so always feel at loose ends at work and often do at home too. I work in a field that I fell into 15 years ago, and while I don’t particularly like it, I can’t seem to get out of it and I don’t know what I want to do next.

Maybe if we can figure out what we want, we can have All Things At Once, indeed.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2010 3:35 am

    I, too, like Joe Scarborough. When he’s been on Smerconish (who I LOVE) I’ve generally liked what he has to say.

    And I especially like what YOU have to say in your last three sentences of this review. The thing is, although you may not particularly *like* what you do, you’re very good at it. Which ironically, makes that disengagement and potential change even harder.

  2. March 12, 2010 3:27 pm

    Thanks, Melissa. You know, I often don’t feel like I’m very good at what I do. I don’t know what comes first, not liking it or not feeling effective… chicken or the egg?

  3. March 12, 2010 11:26 pm

    That sounds like a book I should read…particulary since I work from home and keep my kids with me, I never feel 100% engaged in work or 100% engaged in family life. I’m monitoring email while reading a story or listening for “mommy” while on a conference call. I tell myself I’m doing the right things but admittedly am always questioning whether they really are. Want to loan me the book? I’ll give it back for your collection, I promise!

  4. March 13, 2010 3:48 am

    I’ll send it to you, Kim. One warning (which I didn’t really want to get side tracked on in my post) – the whole scene of her falling down the steps, going to the hospital, etc. is unbelievably hard to read. At least it was for me, as that kind of stuff always is. Kids + emergency rooms = me bawling.

  5. jec permalink
    March 13, 2010 6:57 pm

    You’re welcome. Yeah, that move to Loudoun County was nothing if not romantic. LOL. I didn’t have the faintest idea what a septic tank was. Now I’m one of the working poor in Loudoun! Sometimes doing what you love fights with doing what you like okay and making a decent living. If we’re lucky, we can do both. And Mika B. is probably luckier than most. Work and family life will be different at different ages. You’re doing great, and you have plenty of time to find your “bliss.” You’re enjoying some of it now, believe it or not, with your wonderful husband and girls.

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