I'm a married, childless 28-year career-minded feminist and I already know I can't have it all... nor do I want it.
I attended a women's dinner in LA at the end of last year. The point of the dinner was not only women-to-women networking but to hear from powerful women in entertainment who managed to ascend the corporate ladder in an industry run dominated by men. After a brief dialogue the speaker was asked point blank, "Do you think you would have been as successful had you had a family?"
"No... probably not."
While silence draped the room and the speaker quickly buried the comment amongst notions of personal choices and "feminism as being the right to choose"... I held on to that nugget, because you know what -- it's true.
There's a triangle diagram that is often used in film production -- at each point on the triangle you have Fast, Cheap or Good. The maxim goes you can only have two at a time. If it's fast and cheap -- it won't be good. Good and fast -- it won't be cheap. Cheap and fast -- won't be good.
Womanhood is the same.
However, imagine the three points on the triangle are instead Motherhood, Career and Marriage/Relationship. You can have two, but invariably the other point will be compromised. The sooner women can accept this fact, the happier we will invariably be.
In 2012 Anne-Marie Slaughter penned an article for the Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All," where she affirmed the grim reality that it is in fact difficult, nay impossible, to "have it all."
Along with examples of working women facing varying degrees of adversity and criticism, Slaughter presents opportunities for change. She suggests employers look at being more flexible (most likely not going to happen), finding supportive partners (well, that can be difficult) or even change our career ambitions (DEFINITELY not happening).
I love my job. I love the work I do (even when that means late nights), and more importantly the work I am growing into. Does it make me a bad person (or a bad future mother, a bad wife) that I am entering into this career knowing full well that I at some point am going to have to compromise my marriage or children for the advancement of my career?
Then there are the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world who say you can attain balance with the help of a supportive spouse, family and the investment of a nanny -- but as many other women have since commented, that's not necessarily true.
I had a nanny since I was as young as I can remember. My mother was and is still very much a working mother. And in her eyes -- even with the nanny, with the help, and a supportive partner, she will unabashedly share that she rarely -- if ever -- found that happy balance.
As much as I admire the likes of Slaughter, Sandberg and other female "mentors" vocal in this topic, I think they are doing us -- the next generation of working women -- an incredible disservice.
Instead of purporting "having it all" as an attainable, albeit lofty possibility, our female predecessors should promote the struggle and the impossibility of finding true balance. Our expectations shouldn't be imbued with false hope, but laden with reality so that when we do finally get there we are not ultimately disappointed in our failed efforts to have everything, but proud of that which we have accomplished.
To great criticism, last year, Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi shared her views on balancing life as a working woman. Her comments weren't sugarcoated or filled with light platitudes of inspiration; they were real, they were honest. And the world's response? Disdain, criticism, judgment.
Here is a career-driven women being honest about her efforts -- efforts that she clearly poured her heart into -- and instead of praising her and lauding her accomplishments, we slam her for telling the truth.
We need to not admonish women when they fill archetypal male roles -- for missing a soccer game because of business trip, for skipping date night because of a deadline, for missing bedtime. Like we do for men, society needs to accept these sacrifices not as sacrifices, but as just a part of being a working partner/parent.
I will be a working mother one day and no matter how present I am, I know I will feel pangs of regret for missing something -- whether that be precious moments with my child, a significant meeting at work, or forsaking an anniversary dinner for a sick child at home. And that's okay.
Until all of society catches up, we as women owe it to each other to be fierce truth-tellers. We need to lower our standards, change the narrative, and make women believe having it all doesn't mean finding a perfect balance, it just means being the best employee/boss/mother/wife we can be and really that is an achievement in and of itself.