Can we Have it All?

Do you read other people's blog and never comment?

I used to be like this.

Until I read Steve Roesler's post, on All Things Workplace.

The title was "Work-Life Balance Isn't."

Walking on a String Balance

It had been a very long and hot summer day at home and the house was busy like a hive.

The post was written in a very personal way, referring to Steve's couple, to a young couple they knew and choices we make at essential times in our lives.

I felt an urge to write about my own experience, and wrote quite impulsively a (much too long) very personal comment, resonating with my own story.

Here it is,in a previous post called Demeter or Artemis, you can skip to the end where I make my point!I know I should be writing shorter texts, especially in a blog, but I'm still learning!

What striked me was the distinction between comments coming from men, taking a BIG perspective, speaking concepts, language and generalities; and comments coming from women, sharing their guts, feelings and very personal stories.
Both were as valuable of course…

I'd love to be able to take a step back, reflect and make a wise and brilliant comment.

Like Wally Bock commented, life is made of plenty of "intelligent choices".

I read Wally Bock 's tweets and I am grateful for his generous insights and often challenging advices.

He was the first to tell me to cut my posts and keep them shorter.

Also advised me to "keep away from the device" Twitter , after I wrote about "Twitter Detox".You can read more on his blog Three Star leadership Blog.


My point is that these choices are tougher still for women and I see them more as challenging dilemnas
.
We find ourselves raised with the belief that we can (and we should) have it all, that we can be independent, collect PhD's and be the perfect wife, mother and still get the time to have a career, write a book and design wonderful healthy meals daily…

Well, it's not that simple… We need to put it into a life's time perspective and , as a young woman, we hate to think of us when we are our mothers' age…

Two personal family stories.

My mother was a brilliant Doctor, she married my father, a Surgeon and a Professor of Anatomy.
She struggled to keep on working while raising my two sisters, eventually resigned and stayed at home to take care of her third daughter (me) and be " a better wife" (influenced greatly by her own mother and her in-laws)
She never recovered from this "quitting", became very depressed, and always repeated to us, girls, that we had first to make a life of our owns.

My aunt never had children and became an Internationally recognised Professor of French literature and writer at Cambridge. She kept on travelling and lecturing and I envied her professional life very much.

So here are the decisions I took, as a child,from these stories:                                                
                    

Never give up  on your dreams                  

Never live to please others.

Follow your own instinct, search and look for what you want, deep inside your heart.


Only conscious choices made with a clear vision of what we want, of our internal and external limitations, according to our believes and personal values, can build this integrated life.

In a next post, I shall address more specifically the issue of young women, in a post called "Can Generation Y have it all?".


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11 thoughts

  1. Hi Marion – excellent points and one I have struggled with personally over the years especially conflict over career and family issues when my kids were small. But I have come to realise over time that perhaps these pressures are not restricted to women. I feel that both men and women both make unrealistic demands on each other and themselves in our attempts for everyone “to have it all”!
    Potentially a great debate here!

  2. I think the two personal stories to share mirror those of many women around the world who feel they still need to choose between personal dreams and giving to family and others. These desires are both so strong in us that having it all is a balancing act. But, more and more, if you look deeply enough, you will find this is not only a woman’s issue. Being true to yourself is a lifelong journey. Instead of resisting a stay-at-home role, moms can embrace it and will then find more energy to do other things in creative ways. Male execs also leave their dreams behind to follow what is expected of them in the workplace. Many are left feeling depleted in their energy by so many demands on their time and presence. The balancing act is for them, too, between social expectation and personal growth. Embracing what they do and leaving a bit of themselves to what they want is a personal struggle for many.

  3. OK…right up front let me admit…I’m a guy!
    You’re probably saying, what is a guy doing commenting on this “girl” post? Well, it’s simple. I think I have something to say on the subject.
    When I grew up, moms stayed home. Homemaker was a coveted title. It was nice to always have my mom around whenever I thought I needed her.
    The trade off was, I might as well have not had a dad. Our generation is envied for our two parent families, but we had two parents only by the legal definition. The truth was dads life was about work and moms life was about family. There were rare moments when they merged but mostly they were parallel tracks through life.
    So I for one like seeing work become life. I like seeing fathers take as much joy in parenting as mothers. I like the fact that my employees float in and out to take care of family issues and yet always get their jobs done. I like the fact that today people are realizing that its not a question of “Can we have it all” its understanding that – “this is all of it” and however we choose to blend it life is work and work is life.
    Paul

  4. Hi Marion…
    Chill baby chill! That’s what I want to say to the whole of humanity with reference to the so called gender divide and
    ‘having it all’!
    We make it tough for ourselves with our hallucinations about what’s right and what’s wrong… neither of which are real.
    Great blog and debate…
    Sharon

  5. Thank you Dorothy.
    You are right saying that” both men and women make unrealistic demands on each other and themselves”.
    I would be very interested to see you develop this idea in your blog, nurtured by all the experiences you ‘ve collected from your work.
    A great debate indeed, that I continue in my next post “Gen Y”!

  6. That’s why we need speakers and trainers like you, Monica.
    You express so clearly and compassionately your genuine interest for others personal and professional struggle.
    Thank you!

  7. I loved the way you commented, Paul!
    The merging of work into life is essential.
    Just the fact hat we need to make this distinction between WORK and LIFE
    implies that there is no life in work.
    Great comment and a crucial question to address: how to breath Life into Work.
    …and it wasn’t a “girl post”…Welcome humans! :))

  8. Hi, Sharon!
    So please you joined the debate and bring your humor and cool attitude.
    It’s true I handle this subject rather passionately, and can get carried away…
    Still, there’s a gender difference reality, witnessed everyday at the workplace.
    The debate is open…

  9. Hi Marion,
    Your post brings to mind the phrase that asks the question of whether we “work to live or live to work”. We expend so much effort to separate these two aspects of our life that seeking a balance between them becomes a natural off-shoot. Perhaps what’s needed instead is a shift in perspective, to view them not as separate entities, but different facets of who we are. As such, seeking a balance is less of an issue as it is understanding that the needs of these different sides of ourselves will swell and lessen like waves on the sea. And as is the case with navigating a boat on such waters, the trick is simply knowing how to ride the waves instead of bucking against them.
    As for how much you write in a post, I would suggest that the length of the post is not as critical as focusing on making sure you impart the message you want to deliver to your readers. Sometimes, the message can be delivered with a small piece; other times, the concept requires more elaboration and discussion. From that vantage point, the key question becomes “Does this sentence, this phrase add to the understanding of my message or is it simply extraneous?” instead of worrying about the word count.
    As with anything, with practice, you’ll find your own unique voice and tell your tales in the manner that best suits you.
    Thanks for the engaging read. Looking forward to reading more.

  10. Not only have I enjoyed reading the Blog but also the thought-provoking comments here. As a single Mum I seemed to spend a lot of my son’s first 10yrs (he’s 12now) fretting about ‘getting it right’ and always seeming not to be doing any of it as well as I felt I ought to.
    But that has changed recently as I realised that I would never ‘get it right’ couldn’t possibly have it all and was never very good at balancing anyway!
    I love what you wrote at the end Marion about not giving up on your dreams and following your heart. My Mum encouraged us to that in a similar way to yours esp as she didn’t have much of a great time. The danger can be when we believe we can have it all; we can’t and I don’t think we ought to.
    It is maybe in life’s very nature that it is a permanent balancing act, but it keeps us on our toes – and if we fall off now and again, well, we learn more that way…
    I am delighted to be able to comment cos when I read your Twitter #FF article I couldn’t find the Comment button last time!
    Mercie Marion x

  11. Marion,
    Thank you for mentioning the post; and clearly, this is a topic that holds meaning for many, many people.
    Each person’s comment is, indeed, a reflection of deeply felt values and the result of personal experience. I will check in regularly to see how the discussion continues!

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