Part 3: What Does Having It All Mean to You?

September 26, 2014On Tuesday, we heard from our very own Krista Brookman, Vice President, Inclusive Leadership Initiative, Catalyst, about what “having it all” means to her.

Yesterday, in part 2 of this series on “having it all,” we heard from some of Krista’s colleagues, friends, and relatives.

Today, we bring you our last installment in this deeply personal series. Read on for more insights on this timely topic, and be sure to share your own story in the comments section below!


Having it all means being comfortable with trade-offs

“I tell other working moms about the silver lining. I believe having a working mom made my two daughters much more independent. Because I couldn’t always do for them, they had to figure out how to get what they wanted on their own. Because I was juggling and plans would change, they had to be flexible and go at a moment’s notice with the new plan. Because I couldn’t always be there, they learned to appreciate the time I was even more.

I am amazed when I look at my oldest daughter, a senior at Caltech studying aeronautical engineering and a licensed pilot. Would she have thought to do all of this if I hadn’t been out in front of her with my career? We’ll never know. But she tells me I taught her to be a strong, independent woman who makes dreams happen instead of waiting for them to materialize on their own. And for that, I can live with the trade-offs that I had to and still have to make.”

Ellen, Chief Marketing Officer, Accounting Firm

Having it all means having perspective

“The wonderful thing about this conversation is that our country offers educational and professional choices for us as women. For those of us fortunate enough to invoke the choice of staying at home, working full-time, or straddling the middle, the outcome may be the same. It is our perspective that determines our work-life balance. And while my 25-year-old self admittedly judged those who stayed home, my 35-year-old ego judged those who chose to leave their children each morning for the corporate world. Now, ten years later, there is no judgment at all for either choice. Each woman must decide what brings her joy, satisfaction, and personal fulfillment. The answer is too personal for a one-size-fits-all question. I am just grateful that for me, for now, I truly feel like I have it all.”
Stacy, SAHM and part-time litigator

Having it all means finding focus

“I, like many other women I know, am guilty of trying to define ‘all’ too broadlyto include too many roles, too many opportunities, too many time commitments, too many ways in which I inevitably spread myself too thin. I know that I am most successful at enjoying life and the various roles I play, and being the best version of myself, when I am laser-focused on what is most important to me in terms of my short-term and long-term goals, and then focus on the most meaningful opportunities that I hope will help me to accomplish those goals.”
Jessie, Partner, Law Firm

Having it all means finding coping mechanisms

“I have found that these mechanisms worked best for me when my kids were young. When I couldn't drive my kids to summer activities during the work day, I carpooled with a mom who is a teacher and home for the summer. She drove them there every day and I did the late pick-up, when she wanted to be home preparing dinner. It was a win-win!”
Laura, Director of Quality, Manufacturing

Having it all means defining your priorities

“You don't have to be a stay-at-home mother to be a good mother, but unless you have a back-up team, i.e., a family member to be there when you can't be, or enough money to pay for outstanding help, your home life will be left wanting if your professional  life isn't. Then too, ‘having it all’ depends on your personal priorities. It also depends on the job and the family life you have. It certainly isn't an easy thing to achieve.” 
Ellen, SAHM (and my mother-in-law!)

Having it all means creating more awareness

“Instead of focusing on why working women can't have it all, it would be refreshing to have the media ask male CEOs about work-life balance, or how we can make changes in our companies to improve the lives of ALL working families and their children.”
Name withheld

Having it all means maximizing “it”

“I’m old enough to remember when the ‘having it all’ mantra started. The context at the time was ‘having it all’ as the guys do—meaning the guys who became husbands and fathers. The ‘it’ we all wanted were the great career; the great stay-at-home spouse who took care of every need, and thus a great marriage; and, finally, the great, well-cared-for kids. The challenge of ‘having it’ over the years has become more like ‘maximizing it,’—very similar to running a linear program to maximize the outcome of the problem solution given variable constraints. For the bulk of us ‘career’ women, we’ve had to work around many constraints, and so the target ‘it’ that we try to have is different from men’s.

In the end, some of us can have ‘it’ all. Some of us can’t. In my case, the most important thing to me is that I love my children, and they love me. They are not perfect, and neither am I.”

Karen, Senior Executive, Technology

Having it all means accepting life for what it is

“Women are not alone in their struggles to have it all. When I was a single parent, it was nearly impossible to balance work, recreation, relationships, and childcare. I wanted to be at every school function and every extracurricular activity while working hard, advancing in my career, having a relationship, and still having time to learn how to play golf like Tiger Woods. Now married with four kids, it’s still nearly impossible to balance those things. I’ve given up on the idea of learning to golf like Tiger and decided that trying to be at the top of my profession is not worth the cost—being good at my job  is enough. What really matters is my family and spending as much time as I can with them. In the end, for me, it comes down to recognizing what’s important and accepting that if I can take the time to appreciate the important stuff, I do ‘have it all’—and the rest doesn’t really matter.”
Adam, Partner, Law Firm (and my husband!)

What do you think? What does having it all mean to you?




The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.