WOMEN
08/15/2013 11:07 am ET

Why The Woman Who "Has It All" Doesn't Really Exist

ABC

I'm pretty sure I remember the moment I knew I was having it all. On a December day several years ago, I was in the women's bathroom at New York's LaGuardia Airport. I had an hour between flights, so I rushed for the stalls. Cramming my bags against the door and pulling off my blouse, I perched on the seat, took out my little Medela pump, and began feverishly expressing my breast milk. After several minutes of whirring and fumbling, I pulled myself together and stuffed my five- weeks-postpartum belly back into my business suit.

And that's when I realized—wryly, ironically, totally deprived of sleep—that I was experiencing the superwoman dream.

It wasn't supposed to be this hard. Like many women, I grew up believing we were equal to men, that we could have sex whenever we wanted, children whenever we chose, and work wherever we desired. For years, as a professor at Harvard Business School, I was the only woman in a room of alpha men and still I always felt equal. And I was. Then five years ago I was offered the chance to become president of Barnard College. There was barely a man in sight, and the change gave me a front-row view of what women are thinking and feeling now. We have opportunities today—to choose our educations, careers, spouses—that would've stunned our grandmothers. But now we're dazed and confused by all the choices. Feminism was meant to remove a fixed set of expectations; instead, we now interpret it as a route to personal perfection. Because we can do anything, we feel as if we have to do everything.

Read more on Glamour

CONVERSATIONS