i’ve noticed that all my female protagonists are career women (mostly concerned with ruling a kingdom, fighting for it, or both) – probably because i’m not married, have no children, and, well – write what you know.  so all the recent online debate about whether women can “have it all” caught my attention (how could it not? it’s absolutely everywhere).

i found this neverending argument about women “having it all” to be – weird.  can women “have it all”?  what a bizarre question to ask.  my answer is:  of course not!!  but nobody, man or woman, can “have it all”.  what does “having it all” even mean?  no one, since the dawn of the human species (and maybe even before), has had it all.  it’s impossible to sustain a perfect level of satisfaction in all areas of life (wealth, health, family, friends, career, etc.) throughout the whole of one’s existence.  so of course no one can “have it all”.

but i suppose the question means to ask whether women can have both a family and a career.  of course they can!  proof: most women have both nowadays.  the real question is:  do we want to have both?  if you love your career and your family equally, then obviously the choice is harder.  but the reality is that most people hate their jobs; it’s just something that pays the bills.  surely, a parent who quits a despised day job to stay home with the kids “has it all”.  conversely, if someone’s lucky enough to pay the bills with an enjoyable career and has no desire to have kids, then that person also “has it all”.  so why this imperative that we must have both a career and a family in order to “have it all”?  what an odd assumption.  “having it all” is subjective, different for different people.

i also found it strange that this question of “having it all” is constantly framed as a woman’s problem.  yes, i know that women have only entered the workforce very recently in terms of human history.  but we’re not talking about the past here; we’re talking about the present and the future.  both men and women work and have families nowadays, so why is this only a women’s issue?  don’t men also want to spend time with their kids?  don’t men also want to be a part of their families’ lives?  “can women have it all” seems to imply that it’s important for women to be with their kids, but it’s okay for the men to be absent; it’s okay if the men slave their lives away in a day job and miss their kids’ lives.  how absurd.  nobody asks whether men can “have it all” because it’s implied that they can, when the reality is that time is a finite quantity for both men and women; whether you are a man or a woman, if you’re spending time at work, then that’s time that you’re not spending with your family.

rather than asking the hackneyed (and pointless) question of whether women can “have it all”, it’ll be more productive to address the issue of work-life balance in general, and discussing how individuals can “have it all” on their own terms.

. rese

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