Let’s Find a New Term to Replace “Having It All”

Several years ago I wrote a post in response Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic that went viral. According to the article, Ms. Slaughter is basically defining “having it all” in terms of having a high-powered career and being a mother. For her, if you are able to do both very well, then you’re either “superhuman, rich, or self-employed.”

Ms. Slaughter had left her position as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, the first woman ever to hold this position at the time. The reason she left was because her teenage son “who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him.”

Now, I have yet to be a mother (it’s been a 10-year, unsuccessful journey, but I know my day is coming!), so I cannot imagine what it must be like to juggle a career and be a mother, especially having a teenage boy. On the other hand, what her son was displaying is typical adolescent behavior, which is nothing to be alarmed about. As she continued to write, she mentioned that her husband has done everything to support her and her career, attend to and raise their two sons, and possibly it just came time for Ms. Slaughter to spend more time with her family. Does this mean she failed at “having it all?”

Before we continue, I think it's important to understand what it means to “have it all.”

For me, the term “having it all” is another way of saying that women need to be perfect. And by being perfect, we need to be wives, mothers, career professionals, model slim, dress impeccably well, always wear makeup and the list goes on. We all know there is no such thing as perfection. Unfortunately, both women themselves and the media put so much undue pressure on us to make us feel that if we are not able to attain all these things, hence “having it all”, then we have failed. Furthermore, what Ms. Slaughter speaks about in her piece, is about the way our society has been set up works completely against our aspirations and makes for achieving even the basics (having a decent job and being a mom) virtually impossible.

Now, this is where I say we need to do away with this term “having it all.” What I want for my life, is not going to be the same for what my girlfriends want for their lives or other women I have met or worked with. For a couple of my girlfriends, to be a wife and a stay-at-home mom is “having it all” for them. For others, it’s about having their career and being married. And even for others, just having their career is enough. I personally want to (hopefully one day very soon!) be a mom, have a wonderful career, continue to be happily married, enjoy working out three to four times a week, and be able to travel and see the world. For me, that would be a fulfilling life, but that’s not for every woman, nor should it be. To each their own.

So instead of continuing to talk about how women are going to try and achieve “having it all” or making us feel as though we have failed if we do not attain this “having it all” notion, why don’t we just try and attain a fulfilling life, whatever that means for you.

(Images and quotations courtesy of The Atlantic, Theatlanticwire.com)

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