I’ve enjoyed the banter and debate of the past few weeks, ignited by Princeton University professor, Anne-Marie Slaughter in a cover story in The Atlantic. Slaughter said “It is time for us to acknowledge the conflict between personal and professional life. It’s time for women to stop blaming themselves when they can’t do it all”.
It’s sparked discussion across the US and now Australia, with the article read by over one million women, fuelling conversations on Twitter, Facebook and across the blogging world. And as if on cue, tech-giant Yahoo! appoints Marissa Mayer as CEO who just happens to be six months pregnant.
Every time I get interviewed by the media, I invariably get asked ‘can women have it all?’ My answer’s always the same. It lies in the definition of ‘all’. If all means having a stellar career, plenty of time with your family, available time to nourish your marriage and close relationships, the time and energy for your social life and exercise, the bandwidth to further explore your interests then I most certainly do not have it all.
Here’s what I have. I have a fast-growing, demanding business and I have a young family, and both consume pretty much all my available time. Do I watch TV? Nope. Have I exercised in three years? Very rarely. Can I curl up with a book for hours? Only on long haul flights when I’ve had enough of clearing out my inbox. And that’s cool. I’ve chosen it to be this way for now. It’s not forever but it’s for now.
I’m also a little tired of the discussion being focused solely on women. Can our partners have it all? I think not. If they choose to spend 80 hours at work a week then it’s unlikely they’re training for marathons, catching up with their mates, doing the shopping and spending quality time with their families.
You can’t have it all but you can have the best of a couple of things that you value highly, and you can do those things well. Let’s stop beating ourselves (and each other) up. Let’s respect the choices we make, and the choices of others, whatever they may be.
What’s your all?