Oh, yeah. You heard me.
In 2007, one of my wonderful professors, Mark, said to me “You can’t have it all.” It pissed me off that a man was telling me I couldn’t be a mom, professor, artist, wife, healthy, and overall awesome women at once. And Mark always had a way of hitting a nerve (to my benefit it turned out – I never forget what he said, and it shaped me in ways I won’t soon forget). Hotly, (okay, arrogantly,) I remarked, “Maybe you can’t. But I will.”
Five years later… I’m not so sure. And now I wonder – do I really want it “all?” What parts of “all” do I really desire to place into my future? I feel fortunate to be able to ask this question. Not all people can.
The last six years I so desperately was working toward one career goal that I neglected numerous parts of my life and health. After all, I had gone “all in.” I was playing the biggest game of my life in a win or lose outcome that had to go my way. It didn’t go the way planned, but what if what came to be was better? I didn’t win or lose – the game got longer and the rules changed. Now, with jobs that are good, solid and worth sticking to, my husband and I can think of something else other than getting a better job (THE job).
Naturally, being in my thirties now, I wonder next: do I want kids? Well, God knows our student debt may make that impossible (please spare me the “you can make it work” speech. I’ve heard it). But I like the idea of getting to a place financially where I could consider that choice from a heartfelt place, instead of how it feels now: like the choice has been made for me by a number of factors.
So comes the realization that, no – given my personal, economic, and professional circumstances – I most likely will never have it all. And I am wondering – is that so bad? Was the idea of having it all ever “real?” Or was it simply a dream I clung to in order to motivate me to a higher goal? Good questions. I don’t have answers.
What I do have is a really amazing, thorough, thought-provoking (and LONG) article by Anne-Marie Slaughter in the Atlantic called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” I urge you to take the time and read this essay. I am glad I did. I may not have gotten done what I had planned for my evening, but I wouldn’t give back the time it took to read Slaughter’s story. It is relevant to all genders, all ages. And I have to agree with Slaughter – improving the lives of parent-workers and non-parent workers alike will only happen with a massive paradigm shift in and out of the work place. (I would love for all employers to have “family” leave like Princeton! Or paternity/maternity leave come standard for six months? What a dream!) I think it is about time this change happened – for real. What do you think?