Can we have it all? It seems this eternal question is still demanding for a definitive answer. Yet, in life, there are no definitive answers. Having heard the stories of thousands of women I have gained some valuable insights on the topic.
The current system is based on the needs of a single provider. I’m not even going to say the needs of a man, because I believe the patriarchal system doesn’t even serve his needs. Who said men don’t want to have the freedom to enjoy the full responsibility of parenting!
At DrivenWoman we focus on the things we can influence and change. As it’s a big task for a girl to change the patriarchal system (I promise you – I’ll do my best!), it is not what I ask of you here. Whilst the world is not ideal, we all have two choices. We can either wait for the system to change for us (and become more fair) or we start changing what we can to improve our situation. I’m a firm believer of the latter.
Mistakes women make in their quest to having it all
The root of the problem is that we believe in our own false assumptions as prevailing truths. So let’s tackle them one by one!
False assumption 1: You have to choose between a career and a family
…And if you choose both, they will both suffer.
Let’s first say what we mean by a career and a family.
Is having a successful career about reaching the corner office? Is it about a title and a paycheck? Or is it about using your inner drive to create and work on something that you are passionate about?
Does ‘having a family’ mean you are with your family every single moment and there’s nothing they can do without you? Or is it about being fully present with your parenting and become a role model to your children?
Having a career or a family are about the hours you spend. You can be in the office 65 hours, be super busy, look important, get paid, yet be left with an empty feeling inside. How many hours you spend on ‘work’ hardly defines how passionate you are about it or if you are using your inherent talents.
Same goes for the family. Just because you run around like a headless chicken, fulfilling everyone’s needs, attending Christmas bake-fairs and packing organic apples in lunch boxes, doesn’t guarantee you are fully present. Or that you have capacity to love and guide them through life. And just because your house is perfectly tidy at all times doesn’t necessarily make you a great role model. (But it might make you a saint!)
Marisa, a DrivenWoman member in Switzerland, didn’t want to leave her kids behind for anything ordinary. She defined her best outcome for her career and 6 months later got her dream job. She said she only wanted to work 40% and she got the job. She’s a researcher, women’s ambassador in AI and last week she did her TEDx talk.
Just because you don’t work all hours doesn’t mean you can’t have the impact you want. I interviewed Marisa to learn how she managed to having it all, watch the video here.
False assumption 2: You can reach life balance
We tend to think there are women out there who are living in this perfect harmony and balance every day. Perhaps you think I’m one of those miracle women. Let me break it to you, I’m not, and I’m pretty sure there are no such miracle women out there.
There’s no life balance.
What we want changes all the time so by the time we get to the so-called balance, life has moved on. Life is one big river that keeps moving constantly. In one moment we work too much and the second moment we don’t work enough. And in between, for one magical moment there’s that balance and then it’s gone.
If all our energy goes into chasing this elusive state of being we may be missing a trick.
What if balance was about our inner state of accepting what is and actively making an effort to clear our inner view? For me, this means the fewer obstacles I have in my flow of life, the better my inner balance. When I can be authentically ‘me’ I feel balanced, yet my outside world may not always be in tip-top shape.
Balance is not a rigid state but an active one. When we become open to receive more joy and fulfilment we are doing well. Strive to decrease obstacles and increase your feeling of being at ease with yourselves and you are on your way to ‘balance’.
False assumption 3: We should fix everyone
The feminine has had to be on a survival mode for thousands of years. One hundred years ago not agreeing with a man might have meant danger, even death. Even today it is the case in many cultures or even in our own country.
It is no wonder we still carry the need to please everyone. We do everything in our power to avoid conflict and work all hours to manage other people’s feelings and relationships.
If you are as keen as me to having it all you can’t possibly succeed if 99% of your energy goes to taking care of everyone else. Women must learn to let things fall to pieces around them. Dinners will be burned. Children will be hungry (momentarily). Deadlines will be missed. No cupcakes will be served!
No, I’m not suggesting a sloppy approach to life. I’m suggesting you take care of your own having-it-allness first.
False assumption 4: We compare ourselves to others
When I hear women talking about ‘having it all’ it usually involves comparing their situation to someone else’s. How so and so has a nanny and can do this and that. How so and so doesn’t have children and can do this and that.
It almost seems like the concept of ‘having it all’ was created so that we could bitch, complain and compare. Why?
If you really wanted her life you would have found a way to create it, right?
Where we are in life right now happens for a reason. Rather than feeling a constant ‘lack’, why can’t we appreciate our own journeys and feel the richness of lessons we have?
I approach ‘having it all’ from a place of gratitude and abundance. What do I already have I can build on? How can I be realistic about the things I can fit in and fully enjoy them? I’ll happily leave everything ‘she has’ out.
We can never ‘have it all’ from a place of ‘lack’ because there’s always going to be someone who has more success, bigger career, better-behaved children and more beautiful house than you do.
False assumption 5: I can’t change my circumstances.
I’ve had some angry emails from women when I suggest that if you find yourself in an environment that doesn’t appreciate your brilliance you must walk away. “It’s OK for you to say, I can’t leave my job I have bills to pay.”
I hear you. And that’s not what I’m suggesting.
The false assumption is that because we can’t change our circumstances now (or tomorrow morning at 9 am sharp), we can’t change over time.
Read Anna’s story. She started her year returning from a maternity leave to a highly toxic patriarchal workplace, having to take sick leave for work-related stress. She realised she didn’t believe in better outcomes and started shifting her mindset.
Now, less than 12 months later she’s in her dream job where she gets to work in a way that leaves time for her family, doing work that has a deeper meaning.
Key steps you can take now to move towards ‘having it all’:
We can all change our circumstances if we first get clear on our vision, allow enough time for the transition and then start taking small daily steps to our goals. Surround yourself with people who support you and let go of specific outcomes.
~ Miisa Mink is the founder and chief-doer at DrivenWoman