Professional women want it all.

The perfect family. The successful career. Perfect children. Respect from their peers. Adoration and appreciation from their family. Eternal youth.

We ALL want it ALL, right?

Well, yes, but we men tend to do a better job of compartmentalizing the different aspects of life and resigning ourselves to the barriers of reality. Job is job… family is family… marriage is marriage… age is inevitable. We put these parts of our life in their own little sections of the plate. We really don’t like when the peas touch the carrots, so to speak.

With our temperament, we men will often stay in one little section of the plate for an inordinate amount of time. It’s the one that gives us the most obvious and quick “reward” for our efforts. It’s the one that fulfills our desire to “provide”.

We all know the stereotype of the man who stays in his “work” box and doesn’t come out enough to spend time with his wife and kids or focus on his health. Like every other stereotype, this idea didn’t just fall from the sky. Men can often get hyper-focused on the the goal of completing work or just on the actual act of the work itself and put blinders on to the rest of the world. Next thing he knows, he looks up from his desk and it’s 6:30pm. He missed his son’s teeball game. Again.

As a consequence, we now have a generation of men that sit around nursing a bottle of beer saying to his buddies, “My dad wasn’t around all that much.”

Their dad was a Super Provider Dad.

Super Provider Dad doesn’t say, “Dammit… if I could just work 30 hours a week, I would be around my family more and give them the time they deserve.” He resigns himself to the work. The work is his mission. It gives him a sense of purpose. His job title and paycheck are his scorecard. He gets hostile if the wife bugs him about working too much. “How do you think we pay all the bills, Sally?! Money doesn’t grow on trees!”

I’m reminded of the story by Pat Croce, former entrepreneur and owner of the Seventy Sixers. He had so much energy and would get so enthralled in his business that his wife and kids used to write him letters about how they missed him.

Super Provider Dad knows he can’t have it all.  Duh. Why would anyone think they could maintain this level of work achievement AND be some kind of super dad and husband? It’s impossible.

It sucks, but he often chooses work over family and health, and that’s that.

In my generation of dads, we do a much better job of setting aside work and concentrating on kids. We’re a loving, hugging, soccer-coaching, homeworking-helping bunch of guys. Yes, our career suffers and so does the marriage and our health (dead bedrooms and dad bods galore)… but we learned lessons from dear old dad and recognize the dangers of ignoring junior when he needs us most. We closed up the work box, opened the kid box and dove right in.

That mindset doesn’t seem to exist in the professional woman’s world.

She WILL be the perfect mom, she WILL be the most awesome employee at work, she WILL be a fantastic wife, and she WILL be super sexy and pretty until the day she dies.

The result? Failure.  A lot of guilt, anxiety, depression… and botox.

Somewhere along the line, somebody told women that they can and SHOULD have it all… and if not, they are an abject failure. For a woman to hear, “I don’t know how you do it all” is a badge of honor, not an indication of taking on too much in life.

The female propensity for Neuroticism (one of the five personality traits) doesn’t jive well with her very human inability to juggle so many things at once AND utlimately succeed at every last one of them.

They want it all -> They inevitably fail -> They experience great negative emotion.

People want what they can’t have.

In the world of pyschology, we know that if want to increase someone’s desire for something, you present the thing, pique their interest, and then quickly take it away. Dangle it juuuuuust out of reach.

“Playing hard to get” is a common ploy for both sexes during the mating game. Why? Because it works.

Men know not to answer a woman’s text message or call right away. Keep her waiting just a bit. Give her the impression that you’re too busy. You’re an important person. Keep her new relationship anxiety going, and then answer and watch her excitement boil over.

Women don’t cave in immediately to a man’s desire for physical intimacy because they don’t want to come across as sleazy or desperate. He has to jump through some hoops to win a chance with her. She’s a prize.

“I know you want this… but you can’t have it. Well, maybe you can. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Drives us crazy.

For many women, there is no greater carrot dangling in front of them the “The One That Got Away” (TOTGA).

TOTGA is the guy that really REALLY pushed her buttons. He may have been the one that had that combination of all those qualities that make up the all-around dream guy. Maybe he was just a fun-loving sexy type of guy that was full of adventure. Maybe he was the sexy loser that she would sneak off with and not tell her friends or family about.

The important thing is that TOTGA was presented with the option of entering into a longterm monogamous relationship with her, and he said, in no uncertain terms, “I don’t think so. Sorry. No.”

She wanted him. Couldn’t have him. Not because of something he did, necessarily… but, instead because she failed at being the quality of woman necessary to land a man of that caliber.

She had him in her grasp… and she just couldn’t hold on. This is like being denied that promotion she worked hard for. Like finding out her kid is having behaviorial problems at school. Like finding out her husband is looking at porn non-stop.

It’s failure.

TOTGA, in her mind,  is the living embodiment of “There’s something very wrong with me as a woman.”

For many women, if it weren’t for their biological and social pressure to “settle down” and start a family, she would absolutely still try to be with TOTGA.

I have known several women that openly admit the existence of TOTGA. One in particular sticks out as a textbook example.

Amy had a boyfriend. He was fun. She had an exciting life with him. She was very much in love. He said no to an extended long-term relationship/marriage. She was getting up there in years… a career woman. She quickly found another Provider man (a doctor), and within one year they were engaged. They married and soon after she was pregnant. Mid 30’s… so just under the fertility wire. Smart gal.

They are the most un-loving couple I have ever seen. You would think they are brother and sister.

In the very short time that my wife and I have known Amy, she has mentioned the ex-boyfriend to us both. It’s obvious the guy is her TOTGA.

My wife and I went with her and her husband to go skiing. It was my first time ever on the slopes. I was busy doing the “pizza” maneuver with my skis and trying to keep from breaking my arms and legs. Meanwhile, Amy was zooming around like a pro. I was impressed. I complimented her on her skills.  “I used to go skiing all the time with my ex. He was really good.”  Alright, was it really necessary to bring up the ex at that point? That made me take notice a bit. She could’ve simply said “Oh, Thanks. I’ve been skiing for years.”

She would later admit to my wife that she still is still in contact with her TOTGA, husband knows about it and he doesn’t like it. She chats with him anyway.

Every time she reaches out to him, it’s her way of saying “I’m really not ALL that bad, right?! I mean… there’s still some slight chance that, if the situation were right…”

She has to keep in touch with TOTGA. Why? Well, why the hell not? She wants it all, right? She has the dutiful provider husband, the baby, the career… but she doesn’t have TOTGA.

Hubby says, “I love and adore you forever”.

Baby says, “I love you more than anything on the planet.”

TOTGA says “Nah… I think I can do better.”

This is in part why, by my estimation, women have such a hard time enforcing boundaries. With boundaries, much of the concept is you saying to yourself, “Even though I can have it and I may badly want it, it’s not good for me and my current situation…so I’m going to have to say no.” That goes wildly against the “I want and deserve it all. Anything else is failure.” doctrine.

  • She wants to be VP of Sales for her company. Reality: That means working 70 hour work weeks and not seeing her husband and kids very often.
  • She wants to be super homemaker mom who bakes pies and attends all of the school functions. Reality:  No VP of Sales position for her. The guy who works 80 hours a week and never sees his kids gets the job instead.
  • She wants to be super sexy woman for the next 30 years. Reality: No more indulging in wine and desserts. You have to go to the gym 4 days a week and yoga on the weekends. Cosmetic surgery is a strong possibility. This will put you at the top 10% of women your age.
  • She wants to be the best wife possible. Reality: TOTGA is dead. He never existed. Focus on the now.

Learn to compartmentalize, in other words. Enforce boundaries.

It’s tough. It’s tough for all of us, but it’s especially tough for the ladies who like to not only mix their peas and carrots on the plate, but to also throw a big pile of cake on top of the whole thing and chase it down with three bottles of Dom Perignon. Then they complain that they have a belly ache.

This is why people say that women “multi-task” so much better than men. They find it very difficult to compartmentalize.

This goes back to my theory of about sometimes enforcing boundaries for your wife. It’s a delicate balance. You don’t want to be a controlling/abusive asshole that tells your wife NO all the time, but you also want to make sure she does what is best for you and your family. For many men, they can’t fathom having to enforce a boundary for their wife. She SHOULD KNOW not to talk to that guy, go out for drinks, send messages to an ex, etc. Yeah, well… what if she doesn’t? Are you willing to walk away? Are you willing to do things to keep her from crossing the line? Is your relationship worth the effort?

In the world of infidelity, there is no stronger candidate for an affair partner than TOTGA. None. He’s the dangling golden carrot. He’s the guy she let slip away. He’s a reminder of her failure.

He’s living proof that “having it all” is impossible… FOR HER. For a lot of women, that is a crippling realization.

If she suddenly grabs the TOTGA carrot, she ain’t letting go. He’s the trophy she holds over her head as she screams “See?! I CAN HAVE IT ALL!!”

You’ve been warned.

In another life, I would be your girl
We keep all our promises, be us against the world
In another life, I would make you stay
So I don’t have to say you were the one that got away
The one that got away
The one, the one, the one
The one that got away
All this money can’t buy me a time machine, no
Can’t replace you with a million rings, no
I should’a told you what you meant to me, whoa
Cause now I pay the price
The One That Got Away – Katy Perry

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