4.03.2013

Why Women Can't "Have It All"


Generations of women (and men) fought for our rights; rights to vote, to own property, and to hold public office. And many are still fighting today for other women’s rights like equal pay, or the right to choose what we do with our own bodies. You might be thinking, “Marissa, you really don't think women can have it all?” Correct. I don’t think women can have it all. But more specifically, I don’t think ANYONE can have it all. 

Even Oprah, with her solid gold toilets doesn’t “have it all.” I’m sure Oprah gets stressed, frustrated, and sad sometimes too, maybe she even has regrets. Who knows? 

This pressure that women feel to be the perfect mother and spouse, and simultaneously climb the career ladder and become a high-powered executive is unattainable. It leads to disappointment, guilt, and stress. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can’t have a family and a career, because you absolutely can, but in order to be fulfilled and happy in both of those arenas, there are sacrifices that will have to be made. In other words, you can’t be two places at once, so focusing on work means you might miss your child’s soccer game, and quality time with family means that you won’t be at work. That’s just the hard facts. 

Because of a project at work right now, I’m heavily immersed in all things related to women in the workforce. Also, with the release of a book by Facebook’s COO and the recent news of Yahoo’s CEO having a baby and returning to work full-time just two weeks later and eliminating telecommuting for employees, there seems to be a lot circulating about this topic in the media as well. And it has me thinking. A lot.  

Back when I was in college, I took a women’s studies (a.k.a. feminism) course. During one class, I casually mentioned to the professor that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom some day and she went off!  As if wanting to stay home with my future spawn was an insult to her and women everywhere. At that point in my life, I thought, heck, if I’m fortunate enough to have a husband with a great job that allows me to stay home and not work, fantastic! 

But I was young and na├»ve then. And I’m much wiser now. I know that it’s not very likely that I’ll be a stay-at-home mom. Not because my husband doesn’t have a great job, because he does. But because as the reality sets in that we’ll likely start thinking about having children in a few years, I just can’t see myself wanting to leave my professional career behind. 

I think we women just need to stop being so judgmental. What’s right for you may not be right for someone else, what works for them might not work for you. AND it’s okay to change your mind along the way. Basically, I think my teacher was kind of an ass for making staying at home a less attractive option than working. There’s no right or wrong way to have a marriage, raise children, or succeed in your career. The key is to find the balance that works for you. 

I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, and I think she has some excellent suggestions for women trying to attain leadership roles in their careers while balancing family priorities. She suggests that women find a true partner that will share half of the responsibility, pick a job that makes the “juggle” worth it, and adapt the attitude that done is better than perfect. I think this is excellent advice and women just need to a. stop being so hard on themselves and b. stop being so hard on each other. 

Growing up, I had two working parents that still managed to spend an adequate amount of time with me. I certainly never felt like they weren't around or that they loved their jobs more than they loved me. So, I have an excellent example of how to make this work if I choose to continue my career while raising children.  

What do you think, can women can “have it all?” Is that an unrealistic and unattainable phrase?

2 comments:

  1. I think if you stop focusing on being great at what (and what level) everyone else thinks is important and just work on being great at what makes you happy, then having it "ALL" is just a bit easier. (delusions of winning the lottery not included)

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    Replies
    1. Great point Gina. I think that's why I said women couldn't "have it all" because that terminology is someone else's standards of what you should achieve. Focus on what makes you happy is key :)

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