Today is part one of October’s Flash Friday – when 40:20 Vision tackles an issue from both the 40-something and 20-something perspective. Joining me on this mission is Molly Ford of Smart Pretty and Awkward. This month we are exploring the question of “having it all”. What is your “having it all”? How do you define having it all for yourself? Do you currently have your “having it all”?
This friday I’m sharing the 40-something perspective. We’ll share the 20-something side next Friday…so tune in then to get the other half of the story.
The 40-Something Perspective
By Christina Vuleta
“Having it all” has come rushing back into our vernacular thanks to the Anne Marie Slaughter article on “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and the discussion of Marissa Mayer taking on the role of Yahoo CEO and motherhood at the same time. Interestingly, as I interviewed over 150 women across the country in the past 2 years about “what they know now”, the subject of “having it all” never came up spontaneously. The issue of managing work and family and relationships came up – vis-a-vis the desire for flexibility, shared expectations, less judgment and more time. In the business of everyday 40-something life, I found “having it all” to be a non-conversation unless someone brings it up. “We don’t have time to talk about it”, one woman decreed. What I did hear is that society’s image of “having it all” – a career, kids, and a husband — is really, really hard to pull off.
Encouragingly, a group of “expert” moms I recently interviewed for a consulting job have definitely noticed a change in how women are reacting to the “having it all” discussion. These moms were done with letting the media stir the mommy wars and saw more moms in their circles feeling the same way. They were just getting down with helping each other and getting it done.
The judgment, the should-dos and the timelines – that’s often what it’s about. In a country built on independence …that values individuality above all else, why do we all feel we should follow the same path? How can having a kid, a husband and a killer job be ‘having it all” when over 47% of U.S. women are not mothers by age 45 and nearly 50% of the country is single. Doesn’t it have to be what you define it to be?
My having it all is living my life to it’s fullest with the things that fulfill me; doing work that I love to do to the best of my ability (which means never letting myself down); surrounding myself with people who accept my decisions even if they are not their own and are open to new perspectives. That’s my personal all …for today at lease! Now…here’s what my amazing panel of 40-something women had to say to the question…what is your all and do you have it right now?
For this 40-something single woman who has risen through two careers, stayed close to family and friends and navigated numerous relationships, it’s not looking back and being happy with who she is but always open to betterment:
“My definition of having it all has changed over the years. What I thought I wanted from life in my 20s and where I ended up in my 40s would suggest I didn’t get it all. Yet, I don’t think I could of have planned where I am today any better.
Reality is, the fantasy of what I wanted never aligned with the reality of what it meant and what it would cost to have it. Life throws you curve balls. Assumptions are tested, expectations change and the definition of happiness and having it all evolves. I could not have imagined my current circumstances but I also can’t imagine and wouldn’t want a different life from what I have today. With that said, the desire and motivation to keep moving forward and to aspire for better circumstances has been the common thread throughout. Don’t stop dreaming and wanting. Always believe in yourself and want what you want — not what others impose on you.
To me, having it all today means control over my own destiny, a healthy mind and body that can enjoy and partake in life, peace of mind, living with no regrets, being surrounded by quality supportive loving people, financial stability and enough FU money”. – 40-something, single, executive in financial industry
For this 40-something woman, married in her late 30s, mom to two, fashion designer turned business owner, having it all is increasingly about less.
“For most women, ‘having it all” is balancing love, work, family and friends. It is never at an even keel and frequently one or more things suffer. As I have gotten older, more things to balance are added into the mix and I find myself wanting to simplify “my all”. It all comes down to time and money. There are only 24 hours in a day and at least 6 of them need to be spent sleeping! Most women are in need of regular income and must maintain a career which can take up to 9+ hours of a day which leaves only 9 hours to fit in love, friends, kids, meals etc. It is certainly not easy and many women I know over 40 have looked at shifting their careers or their partner’s career to accommodate for family. Many times this is a downshift on incoming money, which can add a whole new stress. Flexibility and patience are key …along with seeing your long term goals.”
For this 40-something woman — married to her college sweetheart and on a strong business career path in her twenties, now remarried to her soul-mate and in a career that fits her values — it’s not about the best it’s about being able grasp the “best for me”.
“Having it all means being happy. For me, that’s having a work from home career where I get to be creative and having a terrific home life with a loving partner. I don’t need to be the best or the top or the most successful or the wealthiest by traditional measures. I’d rather have time for friends and loved ones. I think we get too caught up in our culture with “having it all” = ultra rich, ultra successful, perfect family. The question is: What does having it all mean to YOU? Then go get it.”
This 40-something, marred mom and C-level executive has shifted from believing that having it all was about sequencing to realizing it is about defining what your all is at any given time.
“I believe it was Kathleen Brown, when she was the California state treasurer who said “you can have it all, just not all at the same time”. I’m not sure I agree. Perhaps an even better way to think about this is “what is ‘all’ for you”?
To me, ‘having it all’ means doing something (or things) that makes you feel good, while ensuring you are developing and maintaining strong personal relationships along the way. To break it down further, ‘makes you feel good’ for me means feeling like I’m using my skills to make a difference in the world; it means working on tough problems that require new solutions; it means carving out time for yoga and hiking and an occasional pedicure.
‘Strong personal relationships’ means making time for my kids, from attending their soccer games, dance recitals and school events to watching Project Runway; making time for me and my husband, whenever we can grab it; making time for my extended family – parents, sister, brother; and making time for my girlfriends – through my book club or a movie or just a morning coffee.
I don’t know if one can ever “have it all”, as if that’s an end goal. I do think that if the ‘all’ gets out of whack – it becomes only about personal fulfillment or conversely, only about relationships at the expense of doing something you care about – then it will be hard to be happy. But at least for me, if I can spend time in both areas – sometimes 70/30 sometimes 40/60, and knowing it will never a constant 50/50, then I tend to be happy and feel pretty good about the choices I’m making.”
This divorced mom, in a fulfilling relationship, at the top of her field, has realized that all is not balancing “work and life” it’s balancing appreciation for the here and now with the desire for the better.
“I think one unfortunate part of American culture is that we are always striving, always trying to do better and the downside is never being content with the here and now. I always thought when I was happily married I’d be happy, then once I was married I wanted be successful at work, then I wanted to own my own house… And so it goes. I always try to remind myself to enjoy the here and now but I do find this difficult to balance with the idea to be better.”
Thank you all. It seems to me that “happiness” is more about the fulfillment you get from your achievements than the achievement of the supposed “triple crown of womanhood”. Weigh in with your “having it all”.