The Real Truth About “Having It All”

When I want to shock people, I have two strategies.

For the first one, I tell them that as a child I ate cooked chicken blood, which was a specialty in our region in Croatia. The second one is that I am a high-positioned working mother with two teenagers and a six-year-old.

I could bet that the second fact is more shocking.

Very soon after that revelation, the question comes: “How do you manage it?”

I see immediately that some of the people admire me, some can’t hide their envy, some of them have the face “poor kids, poor husband,” and some of them feel sorry for me or even think of me as a bad person. But of course, mostly none of them knows anything about me; they just see what they want to see or what they think they see. They think that I am better or worse than they are, and the truth is that there are moments when I am really better and then again moments when I am really worse compared to them.

When I am asked how I manage it, I feel obliged to give a smart and revealing answer, which would help working women around the globe to catch up with their lives. But mostly I feel helpless because my answers are certainly not something what they would expect. Because there is not any recipe, no secret handbook or something like that. It is just this thing called living.

You will easily find thousands of advice all over the media how to be a successful working woman, especially if you have kids or other obligations. They tell you either how to have it all and do it all or if it is even possible in the first place. Just when you think that you have found the perfect advice in one magazine, another one tells you that it is all wrong. You click eagerly on 5 or 10 things how to be a perfect leader, perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect, daughter, cook, maid, how to handle your kids, your partner, your boss, this or that, even what you have to do in the evening in your bed! Are you allowed to sleep in it or do you have to cover it with candles and roses exploring Kama sutra? At the end of the day you are just even more confused than you were before.

It is because none of these advice givers has a slightest clue about you. They write what they think it is right and mostly they don’t have cruel intentions but they just don’t know you.

So first of all, don’t let them tell you if it is possible to have it all or not. How could somebody possible know what is “all” to you? And why we are torturing ourselves with this question anyway? Have you ever seen a male-oriented article with this “having it or not having it all” bullshit (pardon my language)?

Our biggest problem is that from the cradle on, everybody is telling us what is good for us women, what we should do or shouldn’t do. Mostly they teach us how to please men and everybody else around us. We are thought how to be good wives to men who are rarely thought how to be good husbands. And then we feel guilty if we are anything less but Stepford wife.

But haven’t you seen the movie? It is possible only if you are a robot. Do you want to be a robot? What is happening to you is normal and it’s happening to women all around the world no matter if they are CEOs or bank clerks, saleswomen, or housewives. Not a single one of us has a unique formula how to juggle and manage the work and private life. It is very individual, and it depends on dozens of factors which sometimes you can, and sometimes you can’t, influence. You just adapt the best possible way you can in order to make your life worth living.

So the best advice I can give you is that you have to decide for yourself what does having it “all” mean to you? What makes you happy and satisfied with your life?

Don’t allow shiny magazine covers fool you and tell you that your life is totally worthless. Don’t let your friends and neighbors make you seem small with the stories about the great lives they have. If you are happy with your mass, it is the only thing that is important. Next time you hear somebody claiming women can or can’t have it all, remember that they are just talking about their own lives, possibilities and opportunities.

And then you have to chew on your guilty feelings until they get so soft they stop leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Because you have all the right in the world to be angry; you have right to be sad, to be silent or talkative; you have right to wear high heels, flat heels, to be tired, to have some fun, to stay in bed, to be great or bad cook, to be skinny, or a plus size; you have right to scream sometimes, to eat or to hate cakes, you have right to postpone the project, to say no to your boss, to demand higher salary or to be satisfied on a non-managerial position. You have right to have one, two, or three more kids, or no kids; to be married or single, to clean your house all day long if you want to, or to peacefully coexist with the dust in it; you have right to earn less or more than your partner. You have right not to take all the blame for bad sex in your partnership;  you  have all the right to tell your partner “get your ass out of your cave and help me, because I need your help now and not later when you are ready,” and you have right to call all or any of these things your “all.”

After you finally allow yourself to be sometimes the sun and not the satellite running around it, your life will start to balance more and more and it will make you and people around you happier.

Connect with Gordana on Twitter @gfrgacic, LinkedIn, or follow her book updates on Facebook.