I Want it All


By Write(H)ers participant Colleen O'Connor, T'14


Lace, silk, floral, I love it all. I am a radical feminist in love with weddings. I know that this may sound like the ultimate oxymoron, but it’s true. I grew up playing dress-up with my best friend, strutting around the house in her mom’s wedding gown. We played ‘wedding’ to the nines—with fake flowers, roll-on glitter, and a menu of chicken fingers and chocolate milk. Just like my 10-year-old self, I still have marriage on the mind. This Sunday, as I greedily ripped open the Styles section of the New York Times, I scanned in search of the Commitments section. I attentively gazed at the black-and-white wedding photos of the happy couple, thoroughly enjoying the tales of love, romance, and happily ever after’s. A love story of college sweethearts caught my eye—an opera singer and a musician, the perfect storm of youth, passion, and music.The more I reflect though, the more I come to realize that I am more in love with the idea of marriage and motherhood, but not the reality. I am ambitious in my academic pursuits and have a mile-long list of career goals, including working as an attorney in New York City at a top firm. Should I have to compromise my career goals in the pursuit of motherhood? Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, discusses in her new book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead that the phrase ‘having it all’ is one of the greatest traps ever set for women. Having it all is a myth that disregards the idea of trade-offs and juggling work and home on a daily basis.The fact remains that women earn 80 cents to the male-earned dollar for doing the exact same job. Even if I do have a supportive husband, the potential inflexibility of my job combined with a lower salary might tempt me to work part-time or leave the workforce altogether. How will I navigate a career and motherhood?The personal is political. I hope that if I do decide to get married and have children, I won’t slide into roles of the 1950s, with the husband as breadwinner and the wife as housewife. Although it may seem premature to consider marriage and flexibility in my career, I have been brought up thinking about these things. My neighbor encouraged me to be a professor so that I would have flexibility in my hours, my mom constantly warned me to choose a path that I could switch to part-time when I have kids, all this talk of planning for marriage and kids looming over me. But for now, I want to keep my foot on the gas pedal, in hopes that one day I can “have it all.” Top attorney job, husband, kids, the whole shebang.