If you’re a woman then the chances are you will be familiar with the expression ‘Having it all.’ It’s rather an overused phrase used to describe the push and pull of family life and the pursuit of “balance”. Editors know that by putting “Can women really have it all?” in a headline, the magazine will sell itself.
It is a question that incites a lot of debate. Can women really have it all—balance a professional career and family – and do a great job at both? Recently I was asked what the term ‘having it all’ means to me. Instead of being interviewer, I became interviewee and I shared my feelings in an article that you can read here. I was one of five different people from very different walks of life to share my definition of having it all.
Having it all is a concept that will mean different things to different people. As I contemplated what it meant to me, I discovered that I have rather a philosophical view about it. For me, it’s not about achieving the balance between career and family life. It’s about how you feel within yourself rather than the boxes you tick. It’s less about what you do and more about how you are doing it. For me, a sense of happiness and personal fulfillment are the drivers in my life.
So many women find themselves in a daily struggle with the thought of ‘having it all’ – a fabulous career, a happy healthy life and perhaps even some semblance of life balance. Perhaps there is too much emphasis placed on having all these desired elements concurrently. Balance is difficult to achieve, and I think there will always be an area of your life that needs more attention.
I don’t know anyone who feels they have struck the perfect balance in life. And I think that’s OK. The important thing is to be aware of what needs more attention and find time to create the space for that. Be mindful of what makes you happy, and consciously go out there and embrace it. Remove all “should’s” from your inner dialogue like: I should be using my degree, I should be staying at home with the kids; I should be married with 2.5 kids. These are not useful.
Rather than asking myself if I have the perfect balance, which remains elusive to most people, I ask myself these questions:
Am I happy with my current life and the choices I have made?
Am I living a life that accords with my values and priorities?
Do I feel happy with what I am doing at this time in my life?
Is my life meaningful and am I living with purpose?
Am I living free of inner conflict?
Are my energies being directed in the right places?
Am I looking after my inner and external self?
I don’t think about whether I have it all. But I do check in with myself and assess if an area of my life needs a little more nourishing. I have enjoyed a great career in marketing and events; I have travelled extensively; I have partied extensively. These things are not high on my priority list now, but that list is continuously changing. That’s the beauty of life. You don’t have to subscribe to just one way of living for your entire life. Everything changes, and you can create that change. For the majority of time I am happy raising my three little ones at home, whilst slowly building my writing career. I am sure will be reunited with some of the above activities when the time is right.
Australia’s Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, for whom I have great respect, believes that women can have it all, but not all at the same time. I tend to agree.
Right now I am where I need to be, and more importantly – where I want to be. I am happy with my choices and grateful for the privilege of having such choices.
What does the concept of ‘having it all’ mean to you? Do you feel like you have the right balance in your life? If you do, please share how you manage it?