I read Ann-Marie Slaughter’s article Why Women Still Can’t Have It All a while ago. I was stunned. Why does anyone think they can have it all, at the same time?
I still strongly believe that women can “have it all” (and that men can too). I believe that we can “have it all at the same time.” But not today, not with the way America’s economy and society are currently structured. My experiences over the past three years have forced me to confront a number of uncomfortable facts that need to be widely acknowledged—and quickly changed.
I have never believed that. I don’t believe in nonsense such as “work/life balance” either. I say this in Manage Your Job Search:
There is no such thing as work life balance. There is only life. Live it.
You need to decide for yourself what “having it all” means to you. You have to have your own personal definition of success.
When we decide on success, when we know what “having it all” means, then we can make our choices. Each of us has to decide on our personal project portfolios. We have to decide when to say yes and when to say no. Many of those decisions are difficult.
What you need to decide for yourself is what you want for your career, your family, and your legacy. These are not easy questions.
What do you think is your legacy?
I work hard enough that my books and articles will be my legacy, in addition to my family. However, it was clear to me, that my family was my primary legacy. I am ambitious. My achievements matter to me. I want to do the best job I know how. And yet, what matters the most to me? My family.
When it came time to make decisions about what to do for my jobs, I made decisions that would allow me to be able to give my babies their baths. I helped with homework. I only volunteered once in the classroom, because I don’t have the patience. (You’re not surprised, right?) I volunteered to be on the after school program board. I walked/drove the girls to the camp bus and picked them up.
In the 22 years that both of us traveled and the girls lived at home, we had three times that we had to get someone to stay with them, because the work was too important for one of us to say, “No” to the travel. Just three times. Those were our choices. They are not yours. These choices were difficult, at times.
My choices are mine, and not yours.
Could I have been a different consultant? I’m sure. What if Mark had made different choices? My goodness.
We chose to live our lives so that we maximized our family life, and still had great careers while we raised our children. It wasn’t fashionable to do it that way in the last 20-25 years. It won’t be fashionable in the next 20, either. But here’s one thing I have learned:
You cannot have it all, not at the same time.
I have leaned in, as Sheryl Sandberg says, my entire life. I’m still leaning. (Yes, that’s a vertigo joke :-)
If we want to have great careers and great families, we all need to adapt—businesses, families, marriages. And, we definitely need to adapt our expectations of ourselves and what is reasonable.
Over your career, you will want different things at different times. You can think of your career as a problem to solve, a little at a time. Don’t think you will want the same thing over the course of your life.
In my 20’s, I learned about software engineering, software development, bicycling, and kissed many frogs. I found Mark, and married him just before I turned 30. In my 30’s, I learned more about the dynamics of software project management, software program management, software management, how to raise children, how to be a partner and spouse. In my 40’s, I learned how to balance my needs as a person with my family’s needs (which was not easy!) when I started my business. In this decade, I am learning how to balance my condition’s needs with my desire to work.
Life is a balancing act.
So, think about what you want. Only you can define success for yourself. Do you know what “it all” is? Do you know why you want it? Once you do, you can make your choice, for now, and re-evaluate later. Doesn’t this sound like project portfolio management?
Gentlewomen, gentlemen, you fine adaptable problem solvers, there are two parts to the question for this week: What is “it all?” Do you think you can arrange your life so you can have it? That is the meaning behind “What does “have it all” mean?
- Where Is the Manual?
- Have You Updated Your Mental Map?