Can Women Really Have it All?

You may have seen Anne-Marie’s recent Article in the Atlantic which has already caused a lot of controversy and many people have blogged about it and commented in varying polarised ways.

Here is my take: This was written in response to a blog from a leading corporation

‘It was easier when the children were younger as I could hire au pairs who were able to  take care of the house and the children (I have been a single parent over the past 10 years so had no other support)

However, the past few years have been what I call the ‘dark period’ ..the dreaded teenage years. You can’t delegate this to anybody and nobody is qualified to ‘parent’ this phase except the Mother or Father. I have dealt with 3 lots of GCSE’s 3 lots of A levels and 3 lots of University (the latter still in progress) I have also had to deal with them passing out at 3am in the morning in the streets, feinting in Boots, bouts of self doubt about body image from living in the Surrey Stock Broker belt. In other words 2 life threatening hospital visits, 2 drops outs from College and Uni and weekly emotional ‘teenage girl’ metaphorical car crashes! Oh yes and one real car crash where the car was written off at 3am in the ice and snow.

It sounds awful and sometimes it is. It tests my  juggle not struggle philosophy to the limit but the rewards are immense. I have three accomplished, beautiful adult daughters and we are a close-knit family and I have an outstanding and fulfilling career.

I wouldn’t give up either aspects of my life. It is the whole that makes my life complete.  I am passionate about leadership development for women at mid to senior levels because I can relate to them! It is about life, not leadership theory! They must make choices with the end in mind. Not make ‘non-choices’ and drift to an unsatisfactory end.

All of this is why I love what I do and one of the  reasons that I suggest organisations make sure that women’s development is lead by somebody who a) has children and b) has a high pressure career as well.

Two of my daughters tweeted this week how proud they are of me and the third introduced me to her organisation a few weeks ago where her colleagues now say ‘you must be so proud of your Mum’

Don’t give up. Fall down seven times and get up eight!

As Stephen Covey taught me many years ago ‘begin with the end in mind’


  1. Instead of knowing the answer to ‘can women have it all?’ I would like to know the answer to ‘what is it?’

    Is it having a successful career? If so, how do you measure success? Earnings, power, promotion, fame or could it just be doing something that you enjoy and is fulfilling?
    Is it having a wonderful family? Again, how do you measure that? Staying married, being happily married, children with good grades or the top sporting achievements.
    Is it having a big house with a nice car?
    Is it having an active social life with lots of friends?

    Or is the measure of success about ‘happiness’?

    I’m sure I’d be very happy if I had an amazing career that took me to the 4 corners of the globe or I was heralded as being the ‘best thing since Facebook’ as Marissa Mayer is – or would I be. She had less than 4 weeks with her new baby before having to go back to work and spend long hours away from him – I wonder if she is truly happy about that?

    My happiness comes from seeing my children (I have 2 sons aged 8 and 4) develop and grow and being there every step of the way. I am a full time working Mum and yes, I’d love to be a successful boardroom businesswoman or a business owner but I am also a realist and I have prioritised the things that make me the most happy. My career, at the moment isn’t one of them. The kids are in childcare after school and for the most part I am ‘juggling and struggling (not sure how these 2 things can be independant of one another) but I am there every evening and every weekend. If one of them is ill or they need me for any reason then I am there and my employer understands that. I can’t be in a different country or in a meeting ‘not to be disturbed’ and this by its very nature limits my career. I have been with the same employer for 12 years purely because I know they will be flexible. As much as I would love to, I can’t move to a new employer whilst the children are young. Calling in to say you are working from home because one of the boys is sick is not the done thing in a new job.
    My husband works in the City and doesn’t have the same constraints so can travel or be unobtainable at times but I know he isn’t happy – he has the career but doesn’t have the time with the children that he’d like. Nannys; Au Pairs, Boarding Schools – all useful but they will never replace the role of the parent.

    There are 24 hours in every day. No one can change that. What we have to do is work out how we can be the most happy with what we’ve got and what we do given the contraints we have.

    I wish the media would stop the ‘having it all’ focus on women in business and instead start talking about constitutes personal success. There are plenty of careers – teachers, nurses, doctors, where success is measured in more than just money, power or fame – maybe they are the ones who ‘have it all’

  2. Hello Michelle

    I agree with you wholeheartedly!

    I come adrift from all of the ‘Gurus’ in my profession as most of them are men and they have no clue about the self sacrifices that women sometimes choose to make in order to satisfy higher priorities.

    I advocate making decisions with the end in mind. There are many women of my age who have no children left at home and no career either. They are statistically the most depressed group.

    Also make sensible decisions. Don’t do what I did and have 10 years at home and then find yourself a single parent! That’s a risky strategy!

    We cover all of this in my seminars. The only real choices we can make are based on our values and then we truly are having it all.

    I have developed numerous family time saving strategies over the years and you will be given these at the seminar if you come

  3. In the end its all about BALANCE.

    As women we deserve to choose the path we feel is most aligned with out heart!

    As single parents the challenges are huge! as career women the challenges seem somehow insurmountable!

    The answer lies within us and within the corporate culture and the environmental culture.

    As women we have huge passion, huge talents and the ability to multi task, bringing to our homes, our families and our workplace incredible strengths.

    For me to have access to tools and techniques to enable me to juggle conflicting priorities is essential

    I now have these ( thank you Tracey) the part we dont have yet is the acceptance from the corporate world

    My children have now grown up and I have the wonderful part responsibility for grandchildren!

    I have realised that my path is in empowering women into home business opportunities which will allow them financial freedom and time freedom – ultimately they can spend time in their parenting and also have a successful business role.

    It has taken me many years to come to this path- after being in a corporate environment and having to make too many sacrifices.

    Until such time that Business embraces the fact that women have so much more to offer their organisations than time, this will continue to be my path.

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