The Lie of Having It All

It’s morning. The entire day is ahead of me. Already I know there won’t be enough time to accomplish all I want. I bet many of you can relate.

Ladies and gentlemen, we can’t have it all.

power mom sign

power mom, as seen at Brookstone

This idea that we can excel at work, be happily married, parent effectively, exercise strenuously, volunteer wholeheartedly, entertain, invest, maintain an orderly house, grow our own food, cook gourmet meals, train as concert pianists, and blog on the side is unrealistic, wouldn’t you agree?

Work-life balance is a human condition, not a women’s issue. 

Men struggle with this, too. I don’t mean to leave them out of this discussion, nor do I mean to ignore single people or those who aren’t parents. However, the debate over work-life balance for moms gathered new steam with Anne-Marie Slaughter’s recent article in the Atlantic Magazine.

Slaughter’s post, combined with the July 16th announcement naming the pregnant Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo!, sparked a flurry of commentaries in The Huffington PostHarvard Business Review, Christianity TodayThe Christian Science MonitorForbes, and the like.

Our time, strength, and resources are limited. We have to pick and choose. There are opportunity costs.

Years ago when Rosie O’Donnell was adopting another child to add to her brood, I was struck by the honesty of what she told her audience one day on her show. She said although we may see her as having it all—as a celebrity, businesswoman, author, activist, philanthropist, fundraiser, and parent—what we see belies what happens behind the scenes.

Rosie said she has help. Lots of help. And money. Lots of money. Her situation is different from that of her viewers.

First Lady Michelle Obama Official Portrait

First Lady Michelle Obama official portrait

Today the same could be said of Marissa, Angelina, Gisele, Giada, First Lady Michelle Obama, and other high-profile moms. That’s not to criticize or suggest they don’t work hard. It’s simply to state a fact; their situations are vastly different than most women’s.

What are you called to do? Pick and choose that. Pursue it with passion. Kick the rest to the curb without guilt. Resist judging when others do the same in their lives.

Comparing ourselves to the unrealistic and untrue standard of having it all is unfair and self-destructive. It kills our motivation and contentment.

In the end, all any of us really have is what God gives us today. Will we trust it’s enough?

Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8 NIV

Today by Newworldson. Sweet song. So God, what You wanna do today?

What do you think about work-life balance?
Can we have it all?

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Filed under faith, life, women's studies

11 Responses to The Lie of Having It All

  1. There is no way one can just have it all… which is why I made the sad decision of dropping my blog for the summer session in school. I was taking two five-days-a-week classes with so much homework I could barely cling on to my sanity. With a husband working overnights, most of my “relax time” involved messing with my cats. I almost felt I’ll turn temporarily into a crazy cat lady :)
    I have been meaning to start running again, and possibly start training for a half marathon, but Fresno weather hasn’t been productive on this idea… no way I’m running in 90+ weather!!!

    • Aimee @

      Funny you should use dropping your blog as an example. I wrote this post yesterday after I read a farewell post from another blogger friend. She’s dropping her blog indefinitely to devote more time to her kids. Her story reminded of what you said: there is no way one can have it all. I wanted to encourage people not to feel guilty or defeated when they make a choice to give up something. Everyone has to make choices and give up things, even if we don’t see it on the outside.

      As always, thanks for reading and commenting, Nusy :)

  2. Ben

    As always, a well-written post. I don’t think there is a way for anyone to have it all. Like you said, everyone’s situation is different, and what presents to us as glamourous is often vastly different behind the scenes. Thank you for sharing.

    • Aimee @

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Ben. This is a personal struggle for me. In my 20s I read Helen Gurley Brown’s book Having It All; fell for it hook, line, and sinker. The years and real life have changed my perspective. Just for kicks, here’s the link to the book:

      PS: So glad you are still reading after the migration to!

  3. Pingback: Having it All (Inspired) | Benny 的小世界…

  4. I definitely identify with this struggle and the classic mom work-life dilemma. I’m not even a mom yet, but I worry about how I’m going to be able to do freelancing, raise my kids, possibly homeschool, and now (because my husband has decided to switch careers) support us while he’s in school. I know I can’t do it all, which is why right now we’re waiting for kids. But what if life happens and we get pregnant? There’s no way to know. It’s good for me to remind myself that when I do have kids, I still won’t be able to do it all and, like you said, “Pick and choose that. Pursue it with passion. Kick the rest to the curb without guilt.” Thanks for the wise words.

    • Aimee @

      Thanks, Ariel. Life does happen in ways we never expect and sometimes don’t want. God always has a way to provide through it, but I’ve found my plans usually have to yield to change. Reminds me of a line in the Shaker song Simple Gifts: “When true simplicity is gained/to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed/To turn, turn will be our delight/till by turning, turning we come round right.”

      Easier said (or sung) than done, I know!

  5. Thanks for your timely post, Aimee. I overslept this morning. Something I NEVER do. And I’m all out-of-sorts. My son missed the camp bus because of my error, and I discombobulated his day as well. Then I read your post and realized I need to cut myself a break. I told the kids we’ll go out to enjoy a nice, relaxing lunch and then get back to our routine later today.

    I overslept because of my worries. I have to remember to trust in God, and let go of things out of my control. I cannot be everything to everyone all of the time (or even close to it). And I will kick the nonsense to the curb without guilt.

    Thanks again for being an angel in my time of need. :)

    • Aimee @

      Jolyse, you are the sweetest person. And it sounds like you made a wonderful recovery. Glad the post helped encourage you. Your reading and commenting encouraged me today, too!

      PS: I’m no angel, but I appreciate the compliment! ;)

  6. Hi Aimee. I’m following you from your Chick-Fil-A post on Blogher. You did receive a lot of support there, but the “hate” you received in some responses, while not surprising, still makes me sad.

    Anyway… I am equally glad to see your post here on the lie of “having it all”. I completely agree. We (women) have been sold a ‘bill of goods’ that we can be all things to all people all the time. We’re killing ourselves (sometimes literally) trying to be something nobody can ever be. I am an educated, professional woman, with a husband, sons, and grandsons. I haven’t been sitting home “baking cookies” (or whatever Hillary Clinton said) my whole life, but I got wise a few years ago and realized that this whole ‘having it all’ thing is a crock.

    If you ever get a chance to read my blog you will see that I tend to use humor to address pretty much everything. My quip on this topic has always been “I had ‘it all’, and I returned it”. Take care and keep writing. Allie

    • Aimee @

      Allie, thank you so much for coming by! Love your quip and that you had it all and returned it! Wonderful. I look forward to visiting your blog :)