Having it all – you can if you define it right

Do you believe you can have it all?

Do you think that having it all is the same thing as working yourself to the bone, of taking on more, of juggling extra fast and hard, or always being busy?

Maybe you think you do have it all, because you have kids and you work long hours in a position you’ve worked hard to have over many years. Or you have it all because you are doing it all.

This may make you extremely happy. Or it may make you feel exhausted and stressed. Or you might feel resentful. You’ll probably feel guilty (because all mothers do, regardless of what they do or their circumstances).

When it comes to having it all, we mostly assume that means having children and a career. Mixing those two major elements of life – a family life and a work life – and in our minds this means we either have to spin the wheels fast, be busy, cop the stress because it’s worth it to have it all, or we give up on having a life of our own or seeing our kids because we choose one or the other thinking you can’t actually have both at the same time.

The process of having it all though isn’t quite that cut and dry. It depends on your definition of ‘all’ but before you even define it, you have to ask yourself: do I really want it all anyway?

Having it all

When I went back to work after my first child and before the second, the younger girls in the newsroom saw my presence there post-baby as a validation of the story we’d been told as students of the 1980s and early 90s (and even today) that you can, as a woman, do and have whatever you want.

They saw my return to work as confirmation that you could in fact have it all – that the fear of having to give-up a hard-fought career in order to have children was baseless. At the time I told them, yes you can have it all, but not at the same time.

I’ve since learned, via some tough and soul-deep lessons, that actually, I couldn’t have it all when I defined ‘all’ as my old career and position in the newsroom with being a present, hands-on mum.

My idea of it ‘all’ at the time, turned out to be unfulfilling and uninspiring to me. It looked like I thought it should, but it wasn’t making me feel like having it all was supposed to.

It was deeply painful to be told, despite my ability there would be no compromise on hours in my old position. I had to take a demotion if I wanted to work shorter hours. I took the downgrade and suffered.

I was deeply unsatisfied with this version of having it all, because I realised I didn’t have anything at ‘all’. I didn’t have my career, I had a job that no longer satisfied me. And I wasn’t being the mum I wanted to be either, as I wasn’t with my baby girl – she was in childcare and it made me miserable. Having it ‘all’ was making me miserable. So I did what I had to – fell pregnant with bub number two so I had what I thought was a reasonable ‘excuse’ to bow out of my career. (We were always going to have him btw: he was not conceived as a get-out-jail-free card but his timing was impeccable).

Having it all to you may well be keeping your career afloat or forging full steam ahead, and if you feel joy and satisfaction with that, then that’s right for you. Looking after your health and well-being will help you manage that workload all the better. There are plenty of women who THRIVE on this definition and more power to them I say.

Having it all may well mean striking the right balance between a job or business that brings you joy and a sense of your own life but still allows you to be there at school pick up.

Having it all may be for you being at home with your kids and being fully immersed in family life. Outside work may not be part of your definition and that’s OK too.

Having it all might simply be having enough – enough time and space to live in a way that suits you the best.

It comes down to where you feel most at peace with your decisions. What fulfills you, what you need in your life to feel inspired.

Having it all shouldn’t come at the cost of your health and well-being, because then you have nothing at all. Having it all sometimes means having less. It might look different for you than it does for others and from what you have always imagined it looks like.

So you can have it all, but you’ve got to decide what it ‘all’ is for you. What’s your idea of having it all? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments.

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