Inspiration, issues & comment

Can we really have it all?

Can we really have our cake and eat it too?
Can we really have our cake and eat it too?

For years we have been told that as women we can have it all.  I can’t quite remember when this started, the eighties is my guess, but I do remember clearly hearing as a young women that yes, you can have it all.  No longer were we restricted to the role of mother and housewife, now we could also go out to work, have a career AND a family.  Wow!  I couldn’t wait!  It seemed like a tall order but if they could do it then I could do it!  I’m not really sure who “they” were.

This “you can have it all” mentality seemed to come about at the same time as the technology revolution.  A-ha, my logic kicked in.  It all made sense.  Technology was about to save us time, cutting our working hours in half, giving us more leisure time that we could spend bringing up a family if that’s what we wanted.  It was the perfect model.  Childcare would be shared between partners as we moved into an era of lower working hours and more free time.  Was I the only one who naively believed the hype?

Obviously it didn’t work out like that, did it?  Yes, technology may have saved time but it didn’t cut working hours and thanks to mobile phones and laptops, it also meant that we couldn’t hide from our jobs.  And yes, women do now have families AND good jobs.  We are in positions of responsibility and are more equal than we have ever been in the world of work, but at what price?

In August this year Time magazine’s cover featured an article titled “The Childfree Life.  When having it all means not having children”.  Is this true?  Does having it all mean not having children?  Or does having it all mean having children, but sacrificing other things like work and money?

It was a relief to read that others thought like I did, that being able to have it all was a myth of the highest order.  “We’ve been sold a lie.  It just can’t work.”  I’ve been banging on about it for years.  I feel like I’ve seen countless women burn out and fall to their knees while believing the hype and trying to prove that they too can have it all.  Who said that anyway?  Who coined that mythical phrase?

Pushed into feeling that they really ought to “have it all”, a generation of women has been beating themselves up when they find it hard to keep down a full-time job, do the chores, and look after the children.  Why would we want to do that?  How can having kids be compatible with working a forty hour week?  I find it almost impossible just to work the forty hour week, never mind throwing a bunch of kids into the equation.

Isn’t it about time we stopped beating ourselves up?  Isn’t it about time we saw this myth for what it is?  Isn’t it about time we celebrated what we have achieved instead of what we haven’t?  And if you are one of those women who does have it all then kudos to you – and can you please let us in on your secret?

What do you think?  Can you really have it all?  What sacrifices have you made for work or family?

If you want to read other opinions on this topic you can find a couple of articles here:

“You can have it all, but you can’t do it all” Myra Evans, The Huffington Post                                “Women can have it all – just not all at the same time” Lisa Quast, Forbes

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