While each new female CEO weighs in on whether women can or can’t have it all, we find ourselves torn. An important topic about women and glass ceilings seems to have become a media buzzword and corporate publishing moneymaker. But what does it really mean, and is it as important as they make it out to be? Furthermore, why doesn’t anyone ask men if they can “have it all?” Is the “all” of the older generation even relevant to millennials?
As a group of young women gearing up to climb our own career ladders, we thought we’d throw in our own two cents. We’re not all of the same mind and often disagree with each other about it, but it’s time to start talking about it outside of another C-level interview.
Whenever someone mentions “having it all,” that seems to mean having a job you love, spouse, kids and preferably money. This term has somehow become stupidly prevalent throughout media as a life-threatening issue for women only, because obviously, men don’t need a work-life balance. But what the phrase seems to really be getting at is not having something — problems. Guess what: everyone has problems. There is no perfect way to live your life, and therefore it is impossible to have it all (and plus, where would you put it?). There will always be something you strive for, and I think, to a certain extent, that’s a good thing. Personally, I think having it all means vanilla ice cream with chocolate, waffle cone AND caramel.
I actually don’t want to “have it all.” At least, the phrase “having it all,” as I understand it, which means having a successful career, a spouse/life partner, kids, friends and hobbies. Eesh. That sounds exhausting. But you know what? Whenever I tell people that “No thank you, I’m not looking for a life partner/spouse/significant other/anything with more responsibilities than a pet goldfish,” I’m also criticized. If I tell people I don’t want children, I’m criticized, just as much as those successful CEOs who stand up and say, “Yes, I have a husband/wife and a kid and a job and a life,” and then are immediately accused of neglecting some area of their life or simply working themselves to the bone.
If you’re one of those people, guy or gal, who wants to “have it all,” don’t let anyone stop you. But alternately, if you don’t want a life partner, or don’t want kids, or choose to be a stay-at-home parent rather than having a successful career, don’t let those haters get you down either. No one in society is going to be happy no matter what you do, so why not just do what makes you happy?
For me, “having it all” means something completely different than it does for others. Having children is not one of my priorities in life. Neither is getting married. I am really serious about my career and if these things happen, wonderful! If not, oh well.
For me, having it all means having a good relationship with my friends, having a job that fulfills me and doing things that make me happy. For some people this may be a failure, but I think it really just comes down to what “all” is for you.
Maybe I’d like to “have it all,” but right now I’m just trying do one thing at a time. And, unlike many of my peers, I’m concentrating on my relationship first, because moving to America to be with my fiancée is a priority for me. Is that so wrong? Is it wrong that I’ve prioritized an area of my life that has the most long-term promise? Is it wrong that I work hard at a job that is most certainly not part of my career goal, just to earn the money to keep my head above water? Is it wrong that I haven’t discovered what, exactly, I want to do with my career yet? And ultimately — is it wrong that I’m happy? Maybe it’s a relatively new phenomenon, but these days it seems that focussing wholeheartedly on anything that isn’t a career — whether you’re male or female — is frowned upon. I understand and appreciate that, but it hasn’t worked that way for me. I say, let’s just let each other get on with what we have to do.
I specifically remember the first time I wished that I was older and “had it all.” I was a self-conscious fourth grader standing in front of my bedroom mirror, wishing I was a skinny high schooler who had a boyfriend. In that moment, that was what “having it all” meant to me. When I got to high school, nothing had changed that much. Sure, I had gotten my braces off and learned how to use a hair straightener, but I was still self-conscious and unsure of myself. I anxiously awaited the day when I would “have it all,” and be 100 percent confident with myself.
As a college senior, I have, thankfully, gained confidence since that day in front of my mirror. Unfortunately, I have yet to find that confidence level that I so desperately wanted, and expected I would have in high school. But I’m not worried. Right now, I’m focusing on graduating, finding a job or graduate program, and making the most of my time left in college. I have no idea when I will “have it all,” but honestly, who does?
The reality of being a woman — by the numbers.
A woman having it all means nothing. It’s just another nonsensical pairing of emotional words that serves to keep us all busy chasing a feeling rather than anything tangible. Just like “Death Tax,” “Nuclear Family” or “Gotcha Journalism,” any sort of meaning is replaced with ignorant fear at no fault of our own because no one will just sit down and have an honest conversation about it. They are the people who know there is no such thing as having it all. They are the ones who write incendiary articles for the sake of ratings and ad sales. Most importantly, they are nothing like you or me. The people who perpetuate this imaginary standard of self-evaluation do so because they know that we are less powerful when we’re divided into the haves and the have-nots. While we’re all concerned about having the proverbial “all,” we simply will never have the time to stop, take a breath and ask, “Who are they to say that I don’t have it all already?” I believe that if more women spent their lives trying to be better people instead of the best people the world might be a simpler place. There is no set of data based in reality that suggests we’re only happy when we can look around ourselves and see X, Y and Z. The worst part is that this conversation about having it all suggests there are only two sides to be argued when, in fact, this cannot be the case. Some women will have lots of things, while some do not. It’s the same idea behind capitalism, Darwinism or even the simple act of sharing the change in your wallet with some needy soul on the street. I don’t know how each individual may get their own special version of “it all,” but I do know that it has nothing to do with being a woman.
You know that scene in 30 Rock when Liz Lemon is running through the airport, and she gets to security and instead of throwing away her sandwich, she shoves in in her mouth yelling “I can have it all!” That’s me. I can have it all. I can volunteer for every project and task force at work, I can make it home by 6:30 p.m. and have dinner on the table by 7:15 p.m., and of course I still have time for the gym, to serve at church, and to catch up with my girlfriends! Ha. This mentality often leaves me feeling less than stellar at the end of the day. How come I can’t keep up with the rest of my peers and colleagues? Why can’t I put on as good of a show? I’ve decided that maybe having it all really means finding satisfaction in what I choose to do, and not feeling guilty about whatever my peers or society say I should be doing. My job is not glamorous and my kitchen is not clean and there are a million phone calls I have been meaning to return for weeks, but that is OK. Having it all is not a synonym for perfection, whatever “perfect” may be.
As a junior in college, it’s safe to say that my future is as clear my outfit choice for the day — ever-changing and impossible to predict or commit to. So, in regards to “having it all,” I know in my heart that I will have it all if I want that. It just may not necessarily line up with what society considers as “having it all.” To me, “all” is all I want it to be. And if I see myself in the mirror one day and realize I attained all I wanted, whatever “all” may be, what more could I possibly ask for?
I’m a senior in college and my definition of “having it all” changes every year — every month, even. I think it’s more important to recognize that we don’t need to have it all in order to be happy.
When I was younger, having it all meant an acne-free face and a high SAT Score. Now it means that I’ll be able to travel more, find a job and maybe meet someone who openly likes to cuddle and binge-watch Netflix.
My point is, despite what Pokemon may have drilled into our brains, we don’t have to “catch ‘em all.” Everyone’s “all” is so different and not one of them is better than the other. Some women want to pour themselves into their careers, some into their families, some into themselves. At each stage, some things become more important than the other. Sometimes we change our minds about what it even means to have it all. All of those things are OK.
“All” is made up of whatever you want it to be made up of. My “all” is a group of great friends, a better body, and a job on “SNL.” My friends’ “all” could be starting a bar, having a big family, and jet skiing off a waterfall. I don’t want her “all” and she probably doesn’t want mine. Or maybe one day she will. Who knows?
But that’s the point, if my “all” right now is a nice slice of pumpkin pie then I probably will “have it all”... even if it is my second one.