Can women have it all? It seems to be the $64,000 question all over the media these days.
My immediate (and somewhat snarky) answer:
Why do people care? “Oooooooh my…does she have it all? Can she do it all? How does she do it all?” It all sounds rather superficial and speculative if you ask me. The peanut gallery commenting on the priorities someone else places on their own life.
My second (and slightly more snarky) answer:
Why don’t people ask men this question? I’ve yet to hear people comment on my husband’s ability or inability to have it all. However, I think it’s for good reason. I think the conversation doesn’t take off with men because they don’t fuel the fire. They don’t contemplate the question and stew on it like women do. (Why would you ask me a question like that, what are you trying to say — that I don’t have it all? I might have it all. What do you know about my life? I mean, I’m working really hard. Gosh.)
Case in point — the conversation I just had with my husband.
Me: You know how people talk about whether women can or cannot “have it all”?
Me: You know…the job, the house, the family, the good life.
Richard: Oh. I guess I know what you mean.
Me: Do you think you have it all?
Richard: I mean probably…yes.
Lord, I love men.
Simple question, simple answer. Yes, he has a job. Yes he has a wife and kids and a home. So, yes he’s living the good life. End of story. Now off to work.
My more thorough (and hopefully more helpful) answer:
In my life, I’ve learned (through some trial and a whole lot of error) that in order to have it all, you first have to figure out what your own“all” actually is.
I think it’s a shame when women chase the standard (and outdated) definition of having it all — a big career with a big title, several perfectly coifed children, a handsome husband and a house with a white picket fence around it. Keeping up with the Jones’ as a competitive sport. Awesome.
I know the chasing scenario all too well because it’s the way I lived my life for over a decade. Chasing the titles, chasing the accomplishments, chasing the image and chasing my children around the house yelling at them to clean up.
And at the height of my chasing, if you asked anyone they would have told you that I did, indeed, have it all. Well, if you asked anyone…except me. The world would have said I had it all. And I would have said that I had it all and hated it. The pressure. The stress. The anxiety of keeping up with it all — of keeping up the façade. Makes me tired just thinking about it.
Thankfully since that time I’ve watched enough Oprah episodes and read enough self-help books to know that the reason I wasn’t happy with the “all” (that I had at the time) was simple. It wasn’t my “all”. It was everyone else’s. And at some point in my life, I had looked at society’s definition of “all,” laced up my running shoes and started chasing it.
I’m so glad those days are over. Thanks to Oprah and Devin, I identified my own definition of all and started working towards that.
And I’m very clear about it. My all is not everyone else’s all. Period.
- My definition of all isn’t working for a large company, it’s being an entrepreneur of a small one.
- My definition of all isn’t spending every ounce of free time with my husband and children. It often includes tennis and girls nights. With lots of red wine.
Most people say that me leaving the spotlight of a big, national company and starting a small “mommy-focused” company (yes, they really say that) was a big step back for a career woman to take. “Ohhhhhhh, what a shame. You had it all!”
But that’s only because my new life and new career isn’t other people’s all. It’s mine.
And — for the first time in my life — I’m not concerned about other people’s all. All lives are not the same and all moms are not this same. For example…
- Sue Mizera, a former boss of mine, is a hugely successful businesswoman, who works around the clock and doesn’t have children. Good for her. That’s her all.
- Kat Brotherton, my dear friend, who was a high-powered lawyer who decided to leave her firm and stay at home with her three children. Good for her. That’s her all.
Two successful women with wildly different “all’s.” Both incredibly content with their choices.
So when it comes to this $64,000 question popping up in the media all the time, the simple way to handle it is like a man. Think about it rationally and answer it quickly. If your answer (like Richard’s) is yes — then skip to the next question and get on with your day.
And if your answer is no (like mine was)…then contemplate what your all actually is…and go out and get it. Women can have it all. As long as it’s their all.
It’s that simple. And that hard.