A Peek Into the Life of a Working Mom: Having it All

I don’t want to have it all—I want to have what men have.” Miriam Gonzalez Durantez

At USC law school reunion with my kids
Often when the topic of “having it all” comes up it can seem to be a classist discussion where entitled women are advocating to fulfill their own selfish desires. Indeed, “having it all” sounds a lot like “having your cake and eating it too”. For generations, we have been taught that “having your cake and eating it too” is not only wrong, but impractical and selfish. 

       We scoff at those who suggest it is possible and practical people don’t even attempt to pursue such a pointless goal. 

Having it all and other lofty goals

That said, I am generally a proponent of the concept of having it all because I understand the connotation. It reflects the desire to have a fulfilling life that includes professional satisfaction and personal fulfillment. It’s in response to the many women, including Erin Callan, former finance executive, who have written about how they sacrificed having children in favor of focusing on their careers and they regret it.

Still, I do find it interesting that the notion of “having it all” only became a discussion point when more middle class, white women began working. When those types of women worked, the presumption was working outside of the home was a choice and not a requirement. Accordingly, something other than survival was motivating them.

Prior to that and men (and poor women often members of underrepresented ethnic groups) who worked and had children were simply doing what was necessary or expected. They were providing for their families. And somebody in the household had to work to make ends meet. Nobody noted their sacrifice or accomplishments and nobody thought it was special.  Moreover, nobody questioned that working and having children was somehow in conflict. It was universally accepted and not questioned.

Once you believe that working is a choice certain ideas seem normal instead of insulting. People feel comfortable expressing ideas like,  "Don't be greedy. Nobody can have it all." or "You may be able to have it all, but you can't have it at the same time." Some women are beginning to question that logic.

           Wouldn’t it be nice if working mothers received the same matter of fact acceptance?

         Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, the wife of the Nick Glegg, the United Kingdom’s deputy prime minister thinks so.  She’s a law partner at a large firm and recently said, “she doesn't want to 'have it all'; she just wants what men have.” I admire the way that she reframed the issue and applaud her for her candor. By reframing the issue she took us one step closer to equality. So the next time someone asks you whether you are trying to have it all, point to your male colleague and say, “I just want to have what he’s having.” 

(Having exactly what he has might hard given the research done about how little work most men do at home. However, we can discuss that later! See Male Executives Don’t Feel Guilt, See Work-Life Balance as a Women's Problem