having it all? we need another phrase.

A few weeks ago, I posited the question: “Women: Can you have it all?

It seems I hit some sort of nerve, because my FB wall, inbox, and blog lit up with passionate, thoughtful, provocative comments.  So first of all:  thank you for the engagement and the level at which you engaged.  I really just wanted to know what people thought of the “having it all” notion — and boy, did I get a response.

General Thoughts

The general consensus was (surprise!):  no, women can’t “have it all.”  Neither can men for that matter.  “Having it all” is just plain impossible and just a silly notion.

Everyone makes choices on how to spend their time.  You weigh the costs/benefits of the choices you make and live with it –whether you are male, female, married, single, parent, or childless.  This was the basic gist I was getting from everyone.  But instead of summing up what everyone said so eloquently, I’ll just give you some of your own words:

“Do GUYS get to have it all? I just don’t know. It’s a confusing statement and hurts my brain the more I think about it.”

“Interesting question regarding men… I don’t know why this is such a conversation for women but I don’t hear it for men. Are they getting less than “all” too? What is all anyway?”

“I sincerely believe that the desire to “have it all” is a trap, because marketers keep inventing more “all” for us to feel bad about not having. I feel like it’s a desire that has envy at the root. Every decision comes with an opportunity cost; it’s our responsibility to make sure that the costs we pay to get what we want reflect our values and priorities. I have to make my own decisions about whether I’m willing to sacrifice my money for my time, my time for my health, my health for my leisure, and so on.”

“We each are one person, living one life, and while we can be varied, complex, and many things at once, we cannot be (or have) everything. There isn’t the space. We can only be who we are. And given that who we are is made up of what we do and what we don’t do, what we choose to hold close and what we choose to let go of, it seems to me the key is to not have everything with intention – to know what we are keeping and what we are losing, to recognize when the choice is before us and to choose on purpose, to accept that we must be defined, but realize that the power is ours to draw the lines that define us.”

“I think the whole notion of “having it all” is kind of whacked. No, nobody can have it ALL. You can’t spend all day playing with your family/friends/dog and still spend all day working on your job/company/passions and have a clean house and travel and relax and learn things and sleep. THERE ARE ONLY 24 HOURS IN A DAY.”

Men/Women and Expectations

When I posited the question, I think the main point of contention for me is the difference between men entering the workforce and women entering the workforce — in two regards.  If two parents are working, there still tends to be a biased against the woman working instead of the man.  I rarely hear, “Oh he is CHOOSING to work instead of staying home with the kids,” but I have often heard that in regards to the woman.  There is a 1950s-housewife-stereotype at work here, and that seems unfair.  However, I do believe this is changing — slowly but surely.

The other frustration is the fact that when both people are working, the woman still tends to do the majority of the housework.  This is probably just social upbringing, but there it is.   It bothers me.

I DO think this will change with us Millennials.  With the amount of student debt attached to our lives and the slow rise of the middle class income in relation to the rise of the cost of living, we need two working parents to make ends meet.  This leads to more demand on flexible, non-traditional work schedules and the sharing of household duties.

A First World/Middle Class Problem?

There’s another problem with this whole question though, right?  The idea of choices — of getting the opportunity to “have it all” or choose what we do with our time — is 1) a first world problem, and 2) a middle-class issue.  Now, let’s face it:  my blog is geared towards the first world.  But when I am getting down about life, it’s important to sometimes put the whole thing in perspective.  I have a heck of a lot more opportunities living in America — and, I might add, being white and middle-class.  I have been born into some privileges.  So in that regard, I DO have a lot more of it “all” than it might originally appear.  This is no small point: the fact that I can choose or not choose to work three jobs and have my kids in daycare from 5 AM – 11 PM (seriously, I have seen these daycare hours) is a luxury.  I am very fortunate.

…but it also gives me the responsibility to speak up about these issues and try to find ways both big and small to fix a broken system.  I’m going to try to do my part.  What about you?

  • Any more thoughts to add to this feisty discussion?
  • Ideas on coining a new phrase?
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