Can you have it all?



Super short executive summary:

No.  You cannot.  Deal with it.

For the rest of us:

If you who need the definition clearly spelled out a la Bill Clinton in the hot seat Merriam-Webster defines “all” as “the whole, entire, total amount, quantity, or extent of.”  I was listening to a podcast the other day about the myth of having it all.  It seems that many of my sisters are thinking that having it all is actually possible.  And while I feel there is nothing wrong with bashing glass ceilings and taking on (over) the world, there is a an element of realism that desperately needs to be injected into this equation before women spin themselves, well, to death.

First, let me define what I mean by having it all.  To most women, I think having it all means having a successful career and a happy family. On the surface it doesn’t sound too difficult. In fact on the surface, it’s entirely possible to get paid and take care of kids.  But when you break it down life can be infinitely more complicated. For example, I have a job. I’m essentially middle management. In time, it is possible that I will promote.  It might mean going to meetings on my off days and taking on special projects.  Am I willing to do this? In theory, yes. In reality, no. A family? Sure, in fact there is a new member on the way right now. Everyone tells me my life with a child will change, but until he’s here I really have no idea what exactly that means.  (This is not for lack of trying mind you. I’m reading anything I can get my hands on and cornering my family and friends into impromptu interviews.)  I still don’t get it…yet.  For those with higher career ambitions or that own their own businesses your success will look very different from mine. If your family is full of picky eaters that refuse to make dinnertime less of a challenge than intergalactic negotiations your family life could be considerably more complicated. And if your partner isn’t able to or doesn’t want to help, then all bets are off! All is really difficult in these situations.

So why this myth? Women are good.We are. It’s true.  For many years we’ve taken care of it: the child care, the laundry, the cleaning, the dinner (as well as breakfast and packing lunch), the shopping, the list making,and even the delegation of other tasks (thus the honey do list). Now that many women work outside of the home, and do yard work, and the fact that many of us know how to use those pesky power tools and therefore, we add the work that would have normally been added to the dreaded list is also completed in our lack of free time.  

Rest assured I am not keeping score and I’m not finger pointing at my husband.  He does a lot work. I do a lot of work. Most importantly we work well together. And this is how this marriage business is supposed to go. You’re not supposed to do it all.  That’s why you choose a partner and if you don’t have a partner I bet you have a friend or family member who is working hard right by your side to help you get things done.

Hopefully the myth of doing it all will head south the same way our modern myths of multitasking are quickly falling to the wayside. Because really, have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who is texting? They are not multitasking. Just like them, you are not doing anyone a favor by doing it all or even trying to do it all.

So here is my current recipe for (not) having it all without killing yourself:

  1. Set reasonable expectations and follow them.
  2. Take turns.
  3. Share responsibility.



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