You Can’t Have It All

Women today pride themselves on “having it all”. That means they can have a career, children, a husband, a house . . . all the things they can envision in their lives, they can have.

You can’t blame them for believing this, for it has been fed to them as their right and privilege since the 1970’s. When I was in college, the Feminism Movement was going strong. I remember being in a Speech Class and giving a speech against the movement. It was not met with much agreement.

I remember hearing young women talk about getting their degrees, getting a job, having a husband, a house, a career, children . . . everything! When they would speak with the enthusiasm of youth, I would remember my mother who had to work because she was divorced with two children and no husband still around to help. I’d remember how tired she’d be each day when she’d come in from work. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I was in college to get a degree and then to use that degree for a career until I married and began having children. The degree would be there to fall back on, if I found myself divorced or widowed with children. I never wanted to work all day, help children with homework, shop, clean the house and cook meals every week day of my life! I’d see that in action. It was no life to wish on anyone.

Yet, I’d fall on deaf ears when I’d mention the downside to “having it all” as women back then would chant. “Gonna have it all!” They compared themselves to men and a man’s right and expectation to work every day. They were as good as men and they could do that too. The only problem was no one expected a man to drop everything to take care of children. Many women found that they added to their work and burdened themselves with too much to do daily to be able to enjoy any of it.

Over the years I’ve worked with many women who regret “having it all”. I’ve heard many women state that they wish they could stay home with their children. I’ve seen new mothers come into work crying because they had to leave their babies in the care of others so they could come to work. It breaks my heart for them. They are not the ones who insisted, “I can have it all! and I WILL!” as young college students during the 1970’s movement. That was their mothers, or maybe their grandmothers who jumped on that band wagon. I feel sorrow for them just as I felt it for my poor mother who worked all day and was exhausted all night.

You can’t have it all. You can choose which you want and then stick to it. Men never had it all. Men never got to sit around someone’s kitchen table drinking coffee  with a neighbor while on a break from housework . To me, that was “having it all”. Women were there when the children came home from school. They were there during the day to wash the clothes and clean the house. Women today have to fit those activities into times when they are not at work. I’ve heard of mothers saying they washed clothes during the night . . . I’ve heard them talk about “stumbling to the washer/dryer” at three in the morning.

No one should expect to have it all. That’s what choices are for. The women’s movement did make it more acceptable for women to work alongside men in the workforce. It opened up some career opportunities to women. However, I do not believe it made most women’s lives better. I’ve worked with them. I’ve seen what their lives are filled with today and it is not happiness at “having it all”.

I wish young women and older ones who encouraged their naive belief in having it all in the 1970’s, had listened to people like me and speeches like Sam Ervin’s. The lives of women today might be easier, if the excited women from the 1970’s had asked themselves what having it all was going to really look like. I knew. I’d seen it . . . day after day after day in a working mother. Having it all is not something to aspire to. Choosing what you want to have is.


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