As women can we have it ALL? My answer NO!

I was recently invited to a screening followed by a discussion with the cast of Sarah Jessica Parker’s film ” I don’t know how she does it” and after watching the film, I can tell you how the character does it; i.e., holds down a high powered job in finance while attempting to mother her kids– she relies heavily on the help of a babysitter and her husband who has a really flexible work schedule. But watching the character throughout the entire film she appears, stressed, unhappy, barely gets any down time with her kids- to just sit and be, she and her husband go without physical intimacy for weeks, and the only part of her life that seems to be moving in the right direction is her career.

This is not a post about bashing women who work full time– I work full time too- albeit, most of the time I do it from my couch, sitting in pajamas at one am, because it’s the only time I have been able to carve out for this career of mine. But there is one thing I know  for sure-my belief is that unless you are a woman who is wiling to make the conscious decision to forgo having children so that you can devote your energies to your career and professional advancement- having children (whose childhoods you want to be fully present for and entrenched in) will certainly put the brakes on your ability to truly rise to the pinnacle of your profession.

How do I dare make such a statement- and in doing so am I pushing back the feminism movement- and devaluing the work so many of us do by trying to have it all? No I don’t think I do- I think I’m a just being realistic- about the ability of a woman who also chooses to be a mother, can really achieve.

Case in point- three women who have surged to the top of their fields- Oprah Winfrey,Diane Sawyer and Condoleeza Rice– what do these three women have in common? They all have made conscious choices not to bear children, or adopt them into their lives. And let’s be honest here- in their chosen fields and professions- had they also been mothers- would it have been possible to achieve that high level of success- without missing out on much of their children’s childhoods- which would be relegated to nannies and housekeepers? I’m going to have to say yes.

While it’s true there are many women who are trying to have it all- like the character in SJP’s film- but like her character the ability to juggle and be successful at everything is nearly impossible. Something had to give– if as a mother you want to spend time with your kids- more so than man who also has kids at your respective job- but has his wife and the mother of his kid’s holding down the fort so perhaps doesn’t feel that same pull to be there at his child’s first day of school, play, field trip or hold their hand while the dentists drills their tooth–as a mother who works full time these are all things you might have to sacrifice.

I think when you choose to be a mother–it is really hard to delegate those firsts, those experiences, to a nanny, or baby sitter and not feel a twinge of guilt and remorse that you will never have an opportunity to revel in those experiences with your kids once again.

Sure there are many of us women, who are the primary breadwinners in our homes, and in that sense if we’ve got a good man at home watching our kids, if we have a parent experiencing those first and milestone  moments with our children- the big and small stuff- it is not as gut wrenching to be at a job we presumably love- or at the very least to keep a roof over our family’s head.

But in a home where both parents are working full-time, and full speed ahead at professions that relegate most of their kids experiences to be had with a paid professional/ babysitter nanny, I think that’s where the having it all for a mom gets fuzzy. Do men feel the same way- are they asked how they do it all, how they balance it all? NO- because perhaps it’s  not a part of their DNA to feel this guilt; this need to be present at the big and small moments of their kids’ childhoods.

But for so many of us moms- this thing they call balance is just not attainable. At least for me- I know if I want to get to a certain level of achievement- in my career I would not be able to spend as much time with my kids as I wanted to. It would be impossible. And  I know when I look back on my life and what will be most important to me as near the end of my days are the relationships I’ve made and knowing that I played an integral role in my kids development.

This is my truth, this is my goal in life- and so I know unless I am willing to sacrifice having these experiences with my kids- I cannot have a career on par with that of a woman who doesn’t have kids and has the mental capacity to invest her whole heart and soul into her professional endeavors.

Am I totally off the mark, can you have it all without sacrificing time with your kids?


  1. says

    I don’t agree. I think the problem is that we have an outdated view of what motherhood – and fatherhood – mean. Motherhood doesn’t mean that you’re the sole person your kids go to when they need something, the only one who knows their bedtime routine, and the only one who can cook dinner Just Right. I have a lot of friends who complain about their husband’s lack of skills, but are then completely unable to let go of the reins for an evening. If you have a true partnership with your husband in terms of parenting, the balance is within your grasp. Is it difficult, yes, but it’s possible.

    The other problem? Our view on mothering and children as something of a dirty secret in the business world. I look at Nancy Traversy, co-founder and CEO of Barefoot Books. A brilliant business woman with enough strength and determination to tackle the publishing industry her own way, I’ve been in a meeting with her in her living room and had her son come and curl up next to her in her chair. Do they have help with the kids and around the house? Yes. Her husband spends half his time in London (and he is, by the way, capable of cooking a divine meal – he’s cooked for us as well)l so it’s a necessity. But this is a family that is making it work by integrating family and work in a way that creates a whole, rather than competing halves.

    So, while I agree that you can’t be the mom who is home for bake sales and field trips and such, and the be in a high-placed power position at work, I do think you can be a great mom AND a great CEO.

  2. Kailynn Bowling says

    Can you have it all? NO. Does anyone have it all? NO

    As moms we do have that guilt factor and we do have the instincts to take care of the children. We don’t have to have it all or do it all. Moms have to let go of the pressure and just do their best. Also the biggest pressure I see most often is from other women like in the movie with the stay at home moms making snide comments. I’ve always wondered why women have so much competition with each other.. we should help when needed and be excited for others successes in and out of the household.

    As a CEO, I think it’s important to instill in my kids that you can do what ever you dream is possible….just don’t think you can have it all. Something will lack at sometime and some place and for someone in your life…BUT that is life.

    No one is perfect and there is not a perfect plan to raise children. Personally, I’ve always loved the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. We have dance classes, sports classes, acting, modeling, my kids do it all… no I’m not always the taxi driver to all their events but I do make it a point to be at all their games and special events.
    Sure I can’t stay home and bake… but do I really want to? No. Some people have talents being a stay at home mom and others do not. My talents are in other places and I want my children to know I built several companies from the ground up on my own from sheer will power.
    Yep I’m exhausted but I have amazing rewards in all parts of my life… I feel lucky to be a mom.

  3. says

    Melissa, I love reading your work! You are so honest and heartfelt in every word you write!! I applaud you for your candid view about life and the differences between what society expects of us as women, verses what we define for ourselves. I agree with you in the sense that having it all and doing it all has its price, it has to, no matter what “it” is that you choose. I see the balance that you describe to be the less glamorous version and yet, the more realistic choice. In order for you & I to accomplish what we do in a day, yes, some of it will get done in PJ’s! It’s all about priorities; we can have it all, yet, we have to define what “all” is for ourselves. We have to choose our values, define our priorities and then align our lives accordingly. Once we do that, then we have created “our” balance and our “all” and not what society deems as balance or having it all! If your life serves you, your Husband and your children well and everyone is happy with the way you live, than I would say you have it all my friend! ~ As always, wishing you the best of an extraordinary life! eâ„“â„“e ƸӜƷ

  4. says

    Hi Ladies, I think as women we need to redefine our roles based on who we are as a person and not on traditional roles based on what a woman or mom should be. We are all capable of redefining who we are and having our own vision based on being an individual and not just a woman. Men certainly do not seem to have a problem having it all so why should it be any different for us…unless we make it different. If you believe that you can have it all, then you can and if you believe you can’t then you won’t. Why should we limit ourselves in what can be achieved just because we want to be a mom, wife etc. There are limitless possibilities of how balancing can be experienced. Thinking outside of the box and expanding our comfort zones is a great place to start. Looking for new ways to experience motherhood, being a wife and our careers is another great place to start. So yes we can have it all if we believe we can.

  5. says

    I definitely don’t think that women can have it all and I agree with you 100%. I quit my full time job because the kids needed me when they were young. I hated being home. I’ve been working part-time and trying to rediscover ever since I left the job I loved. When things pick up and start to work out for me, I have to find child care, pay for it, juggle my life and the whole family’s life and it’s HARD. It would only be easier if I worked full time and had full time childcare right now, to be honest. Juggling work and family without kinda sucks.

  6. Mary Hernandez says

    I believe that this point is one that can be a resolved depending on how you approach the situation. I have a 2 year old at home. Yes, I quit my full time job to stay home with him. Yes, it was worth it to be there to see him stand, walk, run, eat, and now we’re working on talking. Now, I’m working full time…but I’m doing it on my terms. I think this is the KEY to having what you want out of life. I wanted to earn more income for our family so that we could enjoy more of life. That means that I had to make a decision about what kind, and how often I was willing to put my son in daycare to free my schedule up so that I could work for additional income. I decided how many hours I want to work and when I’m going to make those hours. Because I made the decisions, I do feel like I have the best of both worlds. Working in traditional corporate america is a challenge as far as achieving the time you want with your kids and full time employment. However, I believe there is a solution to this delimma if we just look long and hard enough inside ourselves to determine what is best for each of us. We all have a different answer, and for each of us that answer is the perfect one. May YOU find your perfect answer.


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