Honestly I am so tired of this debate – “Can women have it all?” The in vogue response has changed from “sure you can” to “no you can’t” to “yes – but not all at the same time.” And successful career women have been applauded and beat up at the same time for their response to this question. My proposal is we stop asking the question. Nobody can have it all. Life – Career – Parenthood is all a series of compromises and choices. Whether you are a working mother, working father or unattached, it is impossible to have it all. To get you’ve got to give. You can’t work 60 plus hours a week without giving something up. You can’t even work 20 hours a week without giving something up. Whether that is time raising your kids, time with your spouse, time to pursue a hobby or outside passion or just plain old down time.
Why as women do we seem to be the only ones who have to deliberate and anguish over this question? This is sexist and insulting to both men and women. Men have choices too and have to make decisions that impact the time dedicated to both career and family. I am not sure about you but I’m thinking most fathers who spend more than 50% of their time on the road don’t have it all. Most working fathers who are not home for dinner or in time to put their kids to bed or cheer their daughter at a soccer game don’t have it all.
Most single men who spend most of their waking hours dedicated to work can’t possibly have it all. We need to give up on the notion that having it all is all its cracked up to be. We can be great parents and great at our careers and still not have it all. We can feel inadequate and guilty some days and still be great parents and great at our jobs. We might miss a birthday or a school play in order to close a big deal or meet an important deadline. Or we might miss a meeting or write just an ok article in order to be home when our support is truly needed there. The secret is give and take and knowing how to juggle priorities.
We need to put this debate to bed and quite frankly totally reframe the question from “can women have it all? ” to “what do I want and what can I have?” Everyone needs to ask himself or herself that question. Whether you are a man, woman, working mother, stay-at-home father or single career-minded individual. Relish in the fact that we have choices and our ability to compromise enables us to craft lives that have meaning. Those tradeoffs are part of life and work and that is ok. We can excel in some parts of our life and fall a little short in others knowing that next week we can always make up for it.
Trade publications and thought leaders dedicated to the advancement of women are not doing any woman any favors with this question. We need to start thinking about women’s careers in the same way we think about men’s careers. We need to start making the working father as much a part of the conversation and the solution as the working mother. Can women have it all? Hell no. But neither can any man I know. And maintaining the facade that men don’t have these same choices is detrimental to the success and happiness of both men and women.