You can’t have it all
I have recently been undertaking some fascinating interviews with female breadwinners for my book. One thing that seems to stand out is that you cannot have it all. For some this is a tough pill to swallow, for others it is confirmation of what they have already come to know. However, what does it mean in practice? And is it only relevant to female breadwinners? I think not.
It has become commonplace to assume that this is an issue that mainly affects the 21st century woman; trying to juggle family, a blossoming career and a hectic social life. But what about the 21st century man? Is it right in this day and age to assume he has it all because of his gender? Traditional male and female roles, once very distinct, have reformed and evened up while the rigid 9-5 structure and demanding culture of the workplace has stayed the same. Men play a bigger part at home (but still suffer a stigma if not enough time is spent at work) and women have made a mark in the workplace (but still feel a pull towards the home).
Both sexes have taken on a lot of responsibility over the last century so the struggle for a work-life balance is clearly something we can all relate to. This mystique of ‘having it all’ is a modern phenomenon which can cause many to feel like failures should we not meet the expectations and tick all the right boxes. So achieving this sometimes vague and indistinct goal is a frustrating on-going battle.
What does having it all mean to you? I don’t mean what you think you should have or be doing because of what people you know are boasting about (remember people that seem like they have it all-probably don’t); I mean what do you truly want to achieve with your life? Is it travelling the world? Getting a qualification? Pursuing a career?
Having it all can mean different things to different people at different stages of their lives but one problem directly linked to this concept is not having enough time. There are just not enough hours in the day! Think about it this way; the absolute must dos for a typical adult can take up to 17 hours (sleep, work and the dreaded commute) – that leaves only 7 hours to tackle the things we need to do like cook and clean and the other things we want to do like meet friends, learn a language or keep fit. The figures suggest we can’t have it all but society dictates we should. So how can we manage all these demands with so little time?
One solution is to make choices and sacrifices that will bring you a little closer to a well-rounded life. Accepting things can’t always be perfect is a good start, like when your partner does the cleaning but not quite to the same standard as you- at least it means one job is ticked off the list. Asking for help is not a crime either. If you need a break from the kids and want to go out, ring up a friend or relative to watch them – having it all doesn’t mean you necessarily have to do it all! Of course the best advice is to say ‘no’ once in a while. Occasionally turning down overtime, or going out with friends for the fifth night running means you will have more time to spend on other things that need your attention.
Sadly the laws of time and physics mean you can’t have it all. So instead sort out the musts, the needs and the wants and have a think about what you are willing to sacrifice and delegate to others so you can get on with living life to the full.
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My forthcoming book: Rocking Your Role – the ‘how to’ guide to success for Female Breadwinners, will be out in June 2012