Having it All. Or not.

A Woman's Paradox

Source: Great Business Schools

There’s a lot of talk about how women should be able to “Have it All!” I have issues with this concept. But first, let me say that I think wage inequality sucks, that the mommy-trap sucks, that the fact that it’s just harder to make equitable decisions about who does the bread-winning and who does the childcare even in an equitable relationship because of the continuing inequities in the workplace sucks. That women continue to be discriminated against for various antiquated reasons suck. These things suck. But if everything were equal, we still couldn’t have it all. Not women, not men, not dogs (well maybe dogs).

Do I feel some unnameable pressure to be a supermom, a star scholar, make lots of money, exercise, meditate, and cook from scratch daily, all with a big, serene smile on my face? Uh, yeah. I do. But I also recognize that this is an unrealistic set of expectations for ANYONE.

My husband would like to spend most of his day with me and our daughter, make $200k a year at a job he loves, go diving and fishing several times a year, read science fiction every day, exercise, do all the yard work, and have time to sleep. This is also unrealistic. We are grownups, and grownups can’t have it all. We make choices. So when a woman chooses to stay home with her baby for a couple of years, she shouldn’t have to feel guilty that she’s not making money – she made a choice. If she chooses to go back to work and put her baby in day care, she’s making a choice. If I spend my extra cash on a spree at Sephora and can’t afford to see my chiropractor for a month, I made a choice. I feel like the “having it all” myth is a lot like the “American Dream” – you know, the one that morphed into owning a nice car and a big house even when you didn’t make enough money to pay for both.

Adulthood is not easy. We have to make hard, sometimes very unpleasant decisions. That doesn’t mean that we can’t have the things we really want, we just can’t have ALL of them. Neither can men. So graphics like this one make me feel as if there’s something wrong with me that I’m willing to recognize life is full of hard choices, and accept at least some of them. I don’t accept discrimination, but I do accept that being a grown up means you don’t get what you want all the time.

For an in-depth discussion of this topic, read Anne Marie Slaughter’s article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” and the controversy it sparked.

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