“This whole continuing question about whether women can ‘have it all’ — I think it’s the wrong question. I think the right question should be, “What makes you happy as a person? Do you want to not ‘have it all’ but to have both in your life in an imperfect way?” Because if the question presupposes that you’re going to do both and be equally happy at every moment, it’s a false question. It’s a compromise; it’s a balance; it’s figuring out what’s the most important thing you have to give at that moment and to what. All of that is a constant work in progress.” –Sonia Sotomayer, United States Supreme Court Justice, first Latina appointed to the SCOTUS
In my twenties I was reassured that as women we indeed can have it all, we just can’t have it all at once. Without one more word being spoken, we both walked away from that conversation with the understanding that “having it all” meant getting married, working a full time job and having children. For some reason, the presumption of the definition of this phrase never sat well with me. And for nearly ten years, I couldn’t pinpoint why.
One woman’s dream come true may indeed be the aforementioned definition, but to another woman, it may be her nightmare, as she would rather follow a dream career path and be surrounded by a strong circle of loving and loyal friends. Some of you may be nodding in agreement upon hearing this, while others of you may be beyond irked that I could state such a revelation. But it is true. The good news is, this world can support the many diverse paths women choose to pursue to achieve their “having it all”. Regardless of where you stand on the continuum of what your definition is, the only way to bury the constant question that undermines in a very subtle, yet demeaning way, every woman’s achievements is to stop judging, critiquing and criticizing fellow women who find happiness in a manner that is different from our own preference.
While the question posed to Justice Sotomayer demonstrates my point, I remember first hearing it on the radio and pausing to see how she would respond. Her response was refreshing, illuminating and what I believe needs to be better understood. And the only way for women and the world in general to progress beyond said stereotypes is to hear the women in the trenches (or highest bench in the United States justice system) speak about their contentment and fulfillment.
Just as there are infinite stars in the sky, there are also a myriad of paths for each of us to find our ‘having it all’. Married young to the love of your life – fantastic! Eschewed long term relationships for a pursuit of a once-in-a-lifetime career – amazing! Adopted two children – bravo! Prefer to have a house that is childfree – brilliant! Divorced and discovering a long lost passion – courageous! Whatever your choice, whatever your desired life, it’s yours. Just make sure that the life you pursue is a life that is not pre-conditioned by society’s expectations, but rather adhering to your own set of principles, values and goals. You won’t make everyone happy, so stop trying and instead choose to find what makes you blissfully happy.
So long as you are respectful of others’ paths and aren’t choosing a contrary path simply to spite the naysayers, your happiness will benefit society and your energy will inspire others who will go forward and see that they too can define life on their own terms.
So much progress has occurred in a rather short amount of time as more and more women are visible pursuing careers and living lives that were unimaginable only forty years ago. But so long as mothers who can’t wait for their next grandbaby, uncles who can’t fathom a woman’s equal aptitude for all things business to that of a man’s and sister-in-laws eagerly waiting to plan your bridal shower when you don’t yet have a significant other tease or undermine your life path and you do not respond tactfully, the stereotype will never die.
Let’s change what ‘Having it All’ means, starting today. In the comments below, I’d like to invite you to share your definition. Next week, be sure to stop by the blog as I will outline step-by-step how to successfully attain the ‘have it all’ that will bring you the most fulfillment and contentment.
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