"You can have it all but, you can't do it all." As I reminisce about my life, I wish someone had given me this advice when I was in my 20's. When I heard Gloria Steinem make this statement on the documentary, Makers: Women Who Make America, I was moved, and her words truly resonated with me. I was a woman who tried to have it all and do it all, at the same time, and realized that it was not possible.
I began my career in the 1980s just as the "Super Woman" myth was resounding. I remember many dining hall conversations as a Yale undergraduate with women who believed that we could achieve the dream of equality without sacrificing our personal lives. We were determined to work harder and break any glass ceiling that got in our way. Channeling Clair Huxtable of The Cosby Show, I would marry, have an amazing career as well as a wonderful family.
In my real world, I married a surgeon, had two beautiful children and continued to push for professional milestones. In 1993, I was promoted to Director of Public Pension Funds. My clients included the State of New York, the City of Atlanta, L.A. Police and Fire, the State of Missouri and the DC Retirement Pension Funds. I traveled three days every week and racked up 200,000 miles in one year.
During the calendar year of 1993, however, I hired and fired 11 nannies. One nanny had a drug problem that became obvious when she was unable to sit with my girls for more than five minutes before she had to go outside for a cigarette. Who was watching my 5-year-old and infant during those smoking breaks? Another nanny had a heart attack while holding my then 6-month old daughter. The nanny fell down the steps and luckily landed on her back with my daughter on her chest.
Also during that year, my husband was in the early stages of his private practice and on-call every other week. His patients always came first, so I could never rely on him to pick up a child from school, let alone do the grocery shopping or prepare a meal. Where was my Dr. Huxtable? Instead of resting on the weekends after working at least 80 hours, I was at the grocery store and preparing meals that could be frozen and reheated later in the week.
Was this my dream or a nightmare?
It was January of 1994. I had taken my daughter to an American Girl Fashion Show, but I still needed to finish a presentation for the State of Missouri. After the show, I went to work. The heat was not on in the building, and it was freezing outside. When I left the office, it was 1 a.m. The next morning I could not get out of bed. When I tried to talk, nothing came out of my mouth. When I finally got up, I passed out from exhaustion. I thought I was dying. My mother called 911, and I was rushed to the hospital. Two weeks later, I came home. My daughter told her kindergarten teacher that at least she knew where her mommy was. She proudly announced that, "My mommy is in the hospital, and I get to see her everyday!" Wow! When I heard that story, I knew that my days of being "Super Woman" were over.
Women can't do it all. They can try to have it all, but they need a lot of help. Why did women in the 8'0s and '90s believe that we could do it all? I think that both women and men undervalue the job of raising children, maintaining a home and working a full-time job outside the home. Can we change the work hours of consultants who travel five days a week? Probably, not. Can't we understand that our bodies will not allow us to keep up this ridiculous pace forever? I learned long ago that I can be a good mom, but I also need sleep. I can be a great consultant but not when I have to travel every week with young children at home.
We can have it all but maybe not all at the same time. Certainly, we can't do it all!