First off, let’s define what “having it all” means. For me, and a lot of other women, having it all means having a good education, a successful career, a happy marriage, home ownership, well rounded children, volunteer activities, hobbies, a social life, a clean house, a healthy life… I could list more, but career-life balance seems to be the theme, so I’ll stop there. These are the list of things that were passed on to us millennial women by the baby boomer generation. The feminist movement of the 1960’s led many of us to believe that all women should pursue this pre-packaged list of things that define success, with career being at the top of the list. The problem with that pre-packaged list is that success means different things to different people, so understandably, my version of “having it all” may look different from another woman’s version, and that’s okay, but we’ll get more into that later.
I have women friends from all different walks of life and I realize that what connects us is that we all want more, in the pursuit of having it all. We want it all, but having it all comes with a few struggles. We struggle with things like having a successful careers but also finding time to pursue the things we enjoy, being able to raise well rounded children or deciding when the right time is to even have children. We struggle with whether or not we should get married or just continue to stay single and make our careers our top priority. And the ones that seemingly have it all struggle with balancing it all. So why are we all struggling? Is it because we want too much? Do we put too much pressure on ourselves to have it all? I don’t think we’ll ever stop struggling with the idea of wanting more than what we currently have, but I do believe that we put too much pressure on ourselves to live up to the standards that society put in place for us. So the question remains, can the modern woman really have it all or is it just a myth?
The answer to that question is YES, women CAN have it all. Maybe not ALL at the same time, but we can have it all. I know this to be true because I’ve had it all at some point or another. I’m not saying that to be braggadocios, I’m saying it to be insightful and to let women know that they can have it all too. Does having it all mean you never have to struggle? NO! Does having it all mean everything you pursue is going to happen for you? NO! Does having it all mean that you never have to work on trying to make things better? NO!. Does having it all mean that you get everything you’ve ever wanted in life whenever you wanted it? ABSOLUTELY NOT! So if the answer to all those questions are no, how can you possibly have it all? Let me tell you my story and how I found the secret to having it all.
I live, what some would consider, the American dream. I’m married, with two kids, a fenced yard, a healthy lifestyle, and a solid career. I didn’t always think that I had it all, but now I do. I’ve had moments where I felt like I was failing at life. I’ve had moments where I wanted a bigger house or a better car. I’ve had moments where I put so much time and energy into my career that I noticed my kids began to struggle in school and that my husband felt neglected. There’s also been times where I made my husband and children top priority, but felt at odds because my career suffered. Then, there have been times when work was going good, the marriage was happy, and the kids were doing well at school, we had regular extra-curricular activities, and made time to volunteer, but after doing that for a few years, I started to feel burned out, and my health started to suffer both mentally and physically. I did that all in the pursuit of trying to have it all and I still ended up feeling like I was missing something, which was balance. At that point I began to question whether or not women could really have it all or if it was simply a myth. And if so, who were these women? I was spreading myself too thin and I wondered if other women were doing the same thing in their pursuit of having it all. Instead of ignoring the question, I decided to go on a quest to find the answer. How can I have it all? I think I found the secret.
If you want to know the secret to having it all continue reading:
- Redefine what having it all means to you. The first step to having it all is to redefine what having it all means to you. We place limitations on ourselves when we succumb to other people’s perceptions of what “all” is. Millennial woman should no longer reduce ourselves to some pre-defined list of what “having it all” means. To some, it may be having a big family, to others it may be having a successful career, some of us may want both, while others may want neither. We have to realize that no one woman is the same. Success means different things to different people, so my list will undoubtable look different than other women’s list.
- Respect other women’s list and respect their struggle. So you’re single, successful, and happy, and your equally successful best friend decides to quit her job, get married, and have lots of children. Do you criticize her for leaving her 6 figure salary, or do you respect the fact that her ideal of success may be to have a big family instead of a demanding career? I think we’ve concluded that there’s no one size fits all when it comes to “having it all”. Now, we should learn to respect other women’s definition of “all”. We have to stop comparing our list to other women’s list. We may not agree with their list or we may think our list is better, but “better” is subjective. Let’s not think of our list as better or worse than someone else’s, just different. Respect those differences and respect the fact that everyone’s struggles will not be the same.
- Find Balance. Obviously, the longer your list is, the harder it will be to balance everything. That doesn’t mean you should shorten your list, it just means that you should seek out ways to make life easier in order to balance it all. As millennial women, I’d like to see us do a better job at asking for help and offering help to other women in their pursuit of “having it all”. Once we accept the fact that it’s impossible to do everything on our own and have everything we ever wanted all at once, the easier it will be to keep striving and to seek out help or advice from others when we need it.
- Continue to pursue the things that will make you happy. If having a happy marriage and being a stay at home mom is on your “having it all” list, then continue to pursue that goal. If your list of “having it all” means owning your own business, pursue that goal until it becomes a reality. You thought that you would buy a house by the age of 35, but life’s circumstances makes it impossible for you to own right now, that’s okay. Your day may not be today, but it may be one day. You shouldn’t stop pursuing your goal, you should continue to work towards them until they become a reality for you. The only time you really fail is when you give up. Let me repeat that, THE ONLY TIME YOU REALLY FAIL IS WHEN YOU GIVE UP.
- Accept the things you have no control over. Like the saying goes, “accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can’t accept”. So you made a plan to have your first child before your 30th birthday, but you found out the year before that you are unable to conceive. As hard as it may be to accept, you have to, at some point, come to terms with reality. Seek out other ways to have a child, like surrogacy or adoption. No matter what the circumstances is, if it’s out of your control, don’t let it control you.
- Change is okay. You have the right to change your list at any given time. Maybe the things that were important for you to accomplish in your 20’s is not the same things you want to accomplish in your 30’s or 40’s. Or maybe you realize that the thing you used to want is just not going to happen due to life’s circumstances. It doesn’t mean that you gave up or failed, it just means, you changed your mind. As we get older and go through different experiences, our ideas of what “having it all” will undoubtable change too.
Share some of your wisdom. Do you believe that you’re a woman who has it all, or do you believe you’re still struggling with pursuing it all? What does having it all mean to you, and how do you suggest that women find balance with their version of “all”?by