Hot Release Alert: ‘Wonder Women’ by Debora Spar Tells Us to ‘Satisfice’

A powerful voice burst into the world yesterday when Barnard College president Debora Spar released her new book called Wonder Women: Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection.

Full of women’s history and introspection, this book gets everyone up-to-date on cultural gender differences today. Spar shies away from the term feminism, but she writes deeply and heavily in favor of women’s freedom to go to school, get paid well, have children and become married or stay single. But, she writes–and this is a big but–she doesn’t think women can have it all. Perfection isn’t a realistic goal. In fact, at every age and stage, striving for perfection is making us miserable.

One of her solutions struck me as particularly brilliant. She reuses an economic term called ‘satisficing.’ Her use of it means to settle for something that’s second best.

I’m going to type that again because it just feels good: Settle for something that’s second best.

How can you relay that idea into your life? For me, it would go something like this:

1. Do my kids really have to be the best readers in their classes? (As a book author and reviewer, I’ve always thought yes.)
2. Did it matter if my babies only had breast milk? (In retrospect, I wish I had been easier on myself and given more bottles.)
3. Do I have to kill myself and work at all hours to be the best at my job? (Not really, I’ll get paid even if I do pretty good work.)
4. Do I have to keep saying yes to this huge PTA project I do every year? (Ugh. I don’t know how to say no!)
5. Do I need to read that stack of parenting books to become a better mother? (I’m pleading the fifth on this one.)

Make a list of everything you’re striving to do. What can you satisfice? One of the points Spar makes in her book is that we’re spinning and going and never stopping. We parents are supposedly doing all of this stuff for our kids. But what do our children really want? Just a little more special time with us. Do they care if we’re perfect? No! And that’s good, because if anyone sees our flaws, it’s our kids–and they love us anyway.



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