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Can Parents Have It All? What Is "It All," Anyway?

Ann Marie Slaughter’s recent article in the Atlantic is another piece that aims to get people — parents, especially — talking. “Women Still Can’t Have It All,” she claims, but this isn’t your average mommy wars-stoking piece — it’s an honest admission. In the constant balancing act that is work and life, it’s impossible to fit everything you had hoped to do in a mere 24 hours a day.

Check out the piece and read what Babble Voices bloggers had to say on having it all:

Karen Walrond (Bliss Your Heart
As someone who left an incredibly lucrative high-powered job to spend more time with her family:

Women CAN have it all.  Just not necessarily ALL AT ONE TIME.

Tracey Gaughran-Perez (Sweetney & Spice)
Karen, agreed. Or without an extraordinary, almost unheard of amount of help. Or a lot of money to purchase said amount of help (nannies, personal assistants, chefs, housekeepers, etc).

Catherine Connors (Bad Mother Confidential)
My opinion: well, duh. Of COURSE we can’t have it all. We do have to choose and prioritize. No one (certainly not feminism) ever promised otherwise. We asked for, and got, choices. And we make them. And sometimes that’s hard, but it is what it is. We can have what we choose, and ideally the compromises are those that we’re happy with. But we all give up something.

My question is: why do we never ask this of men? They can’t have it all either. CAT’S IN THE CRADLE.

Joanne Bamberger (PunditMom’s Spin Cycle)
Interesting that The Atlantic has this as its cover story and has the online piece last week on stay-at-home moms that I wrote about [in which Elizabeth Wurtzel claims stay-at-home moms are killing feminism]. Is the The Atlantic just figuring out that any “mommy wars”-related piece will sell?

Magda Pecsenye (Moxieville)
I am so tired of this same rehashed conversation in the media. When are we going to stop obsessing about women and how we’re the problem, and start looking at a system that gives affirmative action to men every day of every year and examine how well that’s worked out for society?

Joanne Bamberger
Men can’t have it all (all at once) either — there’s just never been a cultural construct that created that expectation. Feminism didnt either — but we put that on ourselves. I find it interesting that the author is a high-profile woman who left the Obama admin and notes that the slots filled by women, who are now leaving, are being filled by men (according to her).

Alice Bradley (Write Anyway)
I don’t think that’s what the story is about at all. It’s a really thoughtful piece, actually. It also talks about men and how assumptions about being the provider, etc impact them. I recommend reading it.

Roxana Sarmiento (The Frog and Snail Society Page)
I think the article has a lot of good points, but it seems to me that the women of my generation are already in the trenches of making this work. We’re not there yet, but we’re making progress. I think a lot of us have figured out that we need to make our own way — there are sacrifices, sure, but there are sacrifices for everything.

I don’t feel an iota of guilt about going to business school and then opting for a more flexible lifestyle once I started having kids. (Sorry, but your guilt trip isn’t working, media people.) Sure, keeping my toes in the work world takes some juggling, but I certainly don’t feel alone. And I simply don’t feel any guilt about wanting to be there with the kids. The media keeps telling me that I should, that somehow I’m settling for less, but I know what the alternative is, and visiting toothpaste factories and dealing with office politics just doesn’t compete with the life I have now. (Sorry, corporate America.)

BUT I also realize that I have more resources than most people. I have the financial resources to hire help so that I can take on interesting projects. My friends are very well educated as well, and they all have flexible lifestyles, too. Some of them have started working full time again, and they’re the examples I look to.

Oh, and some of those friends that have opted for more flexible lifestyles are men. It’s not just the women.

Alice Bradley
The story makes it clear that men can’t either. And she addresses the assumptions in work culture that are to blame.

Catherine Connors
The actual piece in the Atlantic is an interesting personal reflection — Anne Marie Slaughter was surprised that SHE couldn’t have it all, and builds the discussion out from there.

But my response is similar, when it comes to why this only addresses women. Why is this just about us? When my husband was the work-outside-of-home parent, he would sometimes go days without seeing the kids. He didn’t have it all. Now the situation is reversed, but the ‘having it all’ measure hasn’t changed. He’s with the kids everyday, but doesn’t have his career.

Karen put it best — you can have it all, just not at the same time. But this applies equally to men and women.

Catherine Connors
Does anyone think we CAN have it all? Look at someone like Angelina Jolie, who takes her family with her everywhere, whose career allows for flexibility — I’d say that she’s the exception that (with her wealth and privilege) proves the rule, but does anyone have a contrary take?

Joanne Bamberger
Unless you have those resources, there’s no “having at all.” and even with those resources, does she really?

If part of “having it all” is raising your children in a hands-on way, I’m not sure she does — she presents that picture to the world, but odds are it’s not what it seems.

Roxanna Sarmiento
I don’t, because “all” means different things to different people.

And Angelina Jolie has a pretty sweet life (or so it seems from my little life in Boston) but she has no privacy or normalcy.

Alli Worthington (This is Alli)
The entire discussion is ridiculous. It’s like saying, “Can elephants have it all? One elephant’s story of how he admitted he can’t be a large land mammal and champion synchronized swimmer.” Nope, you can’t do it all. Stop discussing it like it is a possibility.

In all seriousness, I haven’t read the article yet, but I’m sure I will dig it. Especially if it is a thoughtful discussion like Alice said. Knowing you can’t do it all at the same time is often not enough to keep me from occasional bouts of overwhelming guilt.

However, I try to keep perspective about balancing a career while parenting school-aged kids. My kids eat healthy meals, are getting a great education, are (forced) to take personal responsibility for their behavior, are told they are loved unconditionally daily and have no fear for their safety. They are blessed beyond measure compared to conditions for kids globally. Maybe this generation of western women are a bit too hard on ourselves. Myself included.

Elephants can’t be Olympic synchronized swimmers and we can’t have it all at the same time. :)

Kelly Wickham (Mocha Momma Has Something to Say)
I read it yesterday and actually enjoyed it, too. She isn’t rehashing the same old argument, that’s actually left to the reader to pick up and debate. My generation (a little bit older than Roxanna, that young whippersnapper) wanted it all and was force-fed that mantra. When I turned 35 I realized that, no, I didn’t want it all and the only person stopping me from living out what I really wanted was the ex-husband. So I got rid of him and now I have it all, and that means all that *I* want, on my own terms. To have more would mean a lot more resources and time and we all only have those same 24 hours in a day.

Allana Harkin (Eating Over the Sink)
For me it’s about following my life passions. It’s unique to each individual. If you can identify, honestly, how you personally want to live your life and then do it (or work towards that goal) then bravo to you.

And then?  Let go.

Ana Roca Castro (Bableando)
Agree with Karen! I’ll write something about it too. Leaving the UN for me was hard. But travelling 80% of the time and leaving my kids behind was even harder. We must be creative! I think I’m helping my “United Nations” way more now (minus the diplomatic status) and making more money. But I somehow manage my time way better. I work from 6 am to 2 pm as often as I can. Still travel but not across the world and never for more than 2-3 days.

Kristen Howerton (Roadside Assistance)
When people talk about “having it all”, generally I think they mean that you can be successful in your career and still parent and domesticate like a stay-at-home mom (volunteering in the classroom, cooking, cleaning and assorted “homemaking” tasks, being present at all required functions, having extended time with the kids each day, etc).  I think that in order to be a working mom, you have to delegate, which means that you aren’t “having it all” because there is no way possible to do it all. As a working mom, I’m not as domestic or available for their school things. Other people do some of the caretaking of my kids. Sometimes it’s chaotic and things are falling apart. On a daily basis I feel like either my work, marriage, kids, or self-care is on the back burner … because they can’t all take priority all the time.

Doug French (The Turbid Spume)
“Having it all” assumes it’s a destination, and once you get it all, you’re there. Done.

If you get it all, you have to devote your attentions to keeping it all, even though everyone loses some at some point.

I evaluate how much I have daily. Some days are have-it-all days, others are ain’t-got-none days. Most every day, I’ve got some. And the healthiest people I know have figured out that some is enough.

Ana Roca Castro
Agree on that too! My man gave up a huge career at the UN too in order to spend quality time with his kids.  He is now a state employee (9 to 5 guy) and performs the (traditional) mom role way more than I do. Does he miss his Rambo trips to war zones to manage negotiations and emergency preparedness? Hell yeah! And once in a while I can see him (kind of) blaming the kids which pisses me off big time since it was totally his choice.  But guys are part of this, too.

Eden Kennedy (The Popcorn Whisperer)
I think Roxana’s absolutely right, you have to define “all” before you can even begin this discussion, and “all” is different for everyone. I have it all, in my terms: a great part-time job with flexible hours, a husband who works full-time but with equal flexibility, a great kid who still holds my hand in public occasionally (he’ll be 11 in a week, we’ll see what happens then). I am also a privileged white lady who should be feeling guilt for I’m not sure what, exactly. Not running a Fortune 500 company, I guess. Sorry for letting you down, America!

Laura Mayes
I have all the squash and tomatoes. So if you want any, you have to come to Austin. Sorry about that, guys.

John Cave Osborne (JCO Multiplied)
I couldn’t agree any more w/ Doug’s words. “All” is sensationalistic and usually refers directly to the one “bucket” our society seems to value most. The money / career bucket.

And if you happen to fill that one up, then what?

We are materially miswired in this country as so many people are unhappy in their quest to get “there” or once “there” determined to get “there”-er, if that makes any sense.

Ciaran Blumenfeld (Casa de Chaos)
Let’s define “it all.”  What is it? Does it only exist in movies where the heroine is the model-thin chef of a world class restaurant, juggling career and a budding romance and decorating her Apartment Therapy-worthy flat in between school plays, fab dinner parties, soup kitchen volunteering and long walks in the park with her dogs & kids?

My issue is not about the mommy wars or any kind of gender split so much as that we are constantly bombarded with images of this “perfect” life that we can’t have.

To add insult to injury, we’ve got a government system that doesn’t support families with adequate health care and parental leave, because in the fantasy we’re all wealthy and independent and wily enough to “make it work.”

Tsh Oxenreider
This question assumes that life is a destination, not a journey. Right now, my “all” is small kids at home, a bourgeoning business, and living a certain lifestyle so that we can afford to travel as much as possible. In 30 years, my “all” will look completely different. And at the end of my life, I can collect the “alls” of my life and (hopefully) say that yes, I had it all, but never at the same time. My days don’t “have it all,” so my years and decades definitely don’t “have it all” either. And that’s okay, because that’s how physics works.

Karen Walrond
Amen.  My goal is to be lying in my death bed at a ripe old age somewhere in the triple digits, looking back on my life and realizing that in my 100+ years, I absolutely had it all.  Every bit of it.

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