I was recently having a conversation with a friend about holidays and the countries we wanted to visit in our lifetimes. The list was pretty endless but still potentially realistic. ‘But I also want a bigger house,’ I interjected. And with that, I began to think of everything else I also wanted. The high-flying career. The nice house. Marriage and children. A social life. As society would deem it, I want to have it all.
I’m aware I write this from a place of privilege. I have a long-term relationship, a mortgage, a great job and the funds to travel occasionally. I have no experience of motherhood (does a furbaby count?) and can only imagine the act of juggling a tiny human (or more). Is it laughable to think that I could handle children on top of everything else I have going on? That I could still enjoy travelling to far-flung countries as well as a social life? Apparently so.
Society splits us firmly into two camps, those who do not think it is possible for a woman to have it all and those who insist it is. I bristle when people say that you cannot be good as both a mother and a working woman. Again, not because I have personal experience of this but because I believe women can be vastly underrated by others in their capabilities. And if I know anything it is that you cannot underestimate a woman.
I suppose it also comes down to what you define as ‘having it all’, too.
For woman A, this could amount to raising a reasonably happy family, doing a good job at work and maintaining some form of social life. Woman B may just want to get through Uni without straying too far in her overdraft. To get that 2.1 but to still enjoy going out with her new friends and the odd tinder date. For woman C, she may want to be on her A game consistently. To not just have a happy family but one who eats only organically, with miniature athletes for children, set for Oxbridge. To not just be surviving at work but at the top of their game. The boss. Head of the Parent-Teacher Association. A friend of all. You get the drift.
And hey, maybe that is possible. If I’m honest, I think it entirely depends on both the type of person you are and what makes you happy. But at the end of the day, what is key is what you personally define as having it all.
Woman C’s version of having it all sounds utterly exhausting but unfortunately, is the most stereotypical definition of having it all. And if that’s what we’re trying to measure ourselves up against then, of course, a lot of us are going to feel it’s simply not possible. Whatever it is you want from life, however much it does not match up to this idealised version of having it all, it does not mean you what you are striving for is any less valid.
Having it all does not have to mean having every god damn thing. It can mean whatever you want it to. But if it does? That’s okay too. Who is anyone to tell you that isn’t possible? We are lucky to finally live in a time where women have choices. Choices that mean that we can craft a life constructed however we want.
And me personally? Right now I am still of the frame of mind that I would like the career, the family, the house and holidays and whatever else that brings me pleasure, providing that it does not impact my mental health. There are some who will think I can’t possibly be sure of what I want yet. That over the years, things will change. I do not have children and I am not exactly where I want to be career-wise. Yet. Might I decide when I’m actually a mother, that I do not want a career and am satisfied with raising my family? Or visa versa? Perhaps. But right now, I should be allowed to consider that it is entirely plausible (note, I am not saying easy) to have my cake and eat it too. However big than cake is and whatever it encompasses.
Because I’ll be damned if I’m not going to at least try.
If you liked this post, why not read: In defence of doing nothing