Monday Motivation: You Can't "Have It All" But You Can Have "That"

Monday, July 2, 2012

There are three reasons why I wasn’t going to write anything about Anne-Marie Slaughter’s wildly popular cover story for The Atlantic “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”

1. Even though I’m a woman, I don’t feel like the “Can Women Have It All?” conversation is addressing me. This discussion is about women being both mothers and top professionals and since I don’t have kids I guess I’m a loser that's not even attempting to have it all.

2. Slaughter’s article was so loooong after I read it I wanted to tap a nap, not write a blog post.

3. Anything I could have written about Slaughter’s article was better stated by Lindy West in her insightful and hilarious piece for, No One ‘Has It All,’ Because ‘Having It All’ Doesn’t Exist.

So why did I finally decide to write about Slaughter's essay? Well, I didn't. Actually, I've decided to write about a segment from Saturday morning's episode of Melissa Harris-Perry Show, a segment that made me realize that perhaps women can't "have it all" but we can have "that."

What's "that"? Well, that's up to you. 

On Saturday’s show actress and social commentator Nancy Giles made a statement that you may not have even paid much attention to as it was squeezed in just before a commercial break. She said that when she began her acting career she heard an actress she admired say: “I can play anything from a man to a speck of dust.” Initially she thought that this was what she wanted too, then she realized she’d be much better off  by focusing on what she does best and perhaps everyone should follow suit instead trying to have it all. “Find something that you do and you love and it’s OK to focus on one thing and not be all over the place with your life out of balance,” she said. 

Now, I’m not saying women need to just pick one: parent or professional. And I don't think that's what Giles meant either. 

What I’m talking about is purpose and personal calling. Whether you have children or not, chances are your life hasn’t turned out exactly the way you wanted. I know mine hasn’t. And maybe you didn’t accomplish many of the things on your 30 before 30 list. But take a close look at that list and ask yourself exactly why you set these goals.

For example, one of my goals in life was to move to New York and start a women’s magazine. I wanted to do this because I wanted to connect with and inspire other women. But this is something I can do whether I'm a magazine editor in New York or an English teacher in Alabama. I can find small ways to empower women every single day of my life even if that magazine dream never comes true.

So you may be struggling to balance motherhood and your career. (I mean, has anyone, male or female figured out how to perfectly balance their personal and professional lives?) You may not be able to achieve everything on your bucket list and be mom of the year. But go back to your purpose, go back to the reason you set those goals in the first place and consider how you fulfill this calling anyway. 

At this point in life I can't quit my job, leave my husband and head to the Big Apple. Well, I guess I could but   the Mister probably wouldn't like that very much. So, no, I probably can’t have it all, but when it comes to my dream of inspiring women – I can certainly have that. 

What is your purpose? How can you live it out right here, right now?


  1. LOL at that 1981 commercial!

    Anyway, good questions. I'm still answering them. I learned in a goal-setting session recently that our goals or vision for what we want for our lives change, but our values don't, and as long as we're pursuing goals that reflect our values, we'll feel fulfilled.

    I value, among other qualities, peace, creative expression, personal freedom, friendship and physical health (mental and emotional are wrapped up in peace for me). Working in such a way that paid time off and high wages don't exist has made it very difficult to maintain my values, but oddly enough, most people looking at my life envy it somewhat. I don't think "all" is what anyone, male or female, is after. Fulfillment on one's own terms is.

    1. "I don't think "all" is what anyone, male or female, is after. Fulfillment on one's own terms is." -- Yes!

      And I'm one of those people who envy your life, or perhaps admire may be a better word. But I understand that it is tough.

      What you learned in that goal-setting class is exactly what I'm talking about. What values led you to set the certain goals you set? How can you live out those values even if you aren't necessarily living out those specific goals? These are the things we need to answer for ourselves.

      And, yes, that commercial is freaking hilarious!

  2. Should you choose to live the dream just for a weekend Jai, there a place in Brooklyn waiting for you as long as I'm here!

  3. Traci, I will take you up on that offer one day!

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