Various pieces and conversations on women “having it all”, not having it all, leaning in, stepping back, keep cropping up all over the place since past year. It did start off as an interesting debate with Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in the Atlantic. And Sheryl Sandberg’s leaning in philosophy was definitely inspiring. But the countless critiques and counter-critiques that followed frankly got a bit boring.
Because look, women cannot have it all. And neither can men. No human being can “have it all”. It’s pretty basic that most decisions and actions have certain trade-offs. And life is all about choosing what’s most important to you because no one can possibly have everything.
So it was very ironic when today I realized I may just be living the “having it all” moment. And it’s not too pretty. Because having it all essentially may mean having a finger in every pie and not really getting to enjoy any of the pies too much.
The irony hit me when today I found myself in the kitchen juggling two lasagne sauces on the stove while at the same time speaking to my manager on the phone and trying to connect to my office VPN so that I could send off an email to a client.
And all of it absolutely had to be done at the same time. My husband had been asking me to make lasagna for a month and was waiting for lunch on a day he happened to be home early from work. So the sauces had to be hurried up. And because I currently work from home for a large part of the month since my office is in another city, I absolutely have to be available on the phone to speak to my team during work hours. And of course client emails must be sent off immediately, because well, a large part of my job involves coordinating with them on projects.
And so there I was, my very own “having it all” moment, right from my very kitchen.
The lasagne did not turn out perfect because I missed adding a couple of things while speaking on the phone. I forgot a few important things I had to discuss with my manager, against the background of a blaring Dominos ad on TV. I wasn’t able to log on to the office VPN to send the email either because just in those few minutes, my internet connection decided to be annoying.
So yeah, the irony of having it all is that in reality it’s actually quite the opposite. Managing my home, putting food on the table, getting all the chores done, while also managing a job I really enjoy which just so happens to be in a different city. And being the perfectionist I am, I’m constantly missing achieving perfection at either end.
But so what? I’m quite happy not having it all in reality. So what if some days my home is messy, the dinner I cook not quite that great? And sometimes I may have to make work-related calls with a lot of home-y background noise. And like today, I may risk appearing unprofessional by having to send work emails from my personal email.
But at the end of the day, I’ve got a husband who’s incredibly supportive and employers who are very understanding and helpful. So even if I mess up on certain days, I am actually still maintaining a decent balance between my career and home. Making do with the hiccups. And maybe this is exactly what “having it all” is all about?