12/27/2014 05:56 pm ET Updated Feb 26, 2015

Chasing the Ever Elusive All

Chris Tobin via Getty Images

Maybe women had it simpler in the Stone Age -- after all they knew what they had to do -- sweep the webs off the caves, sew some loin cloths, keep the kids from being eaten by wild animals and at the end of the day, roast the deer that the man brought home. There were not too many options out there -- the world was yet to discover these intelligent beings and nobody was there to tell them that they could or could not have it all. Fast forward to the present where women are now torn between having it, not having it, trying to have it or pretending to have it all. After all, nowadays if we are not leaning in and slow cooking at the same time, we definitely don't have it all, do we?

First, we get told that we "can have it all." Great job, ideal home and perfect hair are all for us to take. But then, before long, we get told, hold on, are you crazy -- do not strive to get it all, as that is impossible. After all, do these women that we find in the magazine of our kids pediatrician's offices, do they even exist? The ones who wake their kids up with words of wisdom and encouragement, make a healthy oatmeal breakfast with some soothing music in the background, pack a lunch that's cut in the shape of their favorite character with a cute note, go to work in a structured tailored suit and high heels and make important strategic decisions and policies, or stay at home and work endless hours making the house look perfect, have the kids involved in nurturing activities and cook organic dinner with herbs from their own garden. And of course if you are an Asian and your kid is not a genius with an almost perfect SAT score, you might just go and bury your head in the sand of shame now -- you obviously don't have it all.

The problem, as the way I see it, is not the debate about whether women can have it or not have it all. But rather it is the issue of letting other people, primarily women, define what our all is and then letting us know, if in their opinion, whether we can have it or not, whether we can achieve it or not or whether we should aspire for it or not. Common sense would dictate that women nowadays are happier than our predecessors who were too busy shooing the bats away from the caves. As women, who have the privilege and luxury of getting an education, choosing our own career, making our own choices, we should be happier but by many objective measures the lives of women even in developed nations has not improved. A study in 2009 measuring subjective well-being of women over the past 35 years indicated that indeed, women's happiness has declined - this is across demographic groups and industrialized countries. In another study published by Harvard Business review, it was found that when it comes to having a high-powered career and a family, the painful truth is that women (in the United States) don't "have it all." They have a career but not the "family life". A Working Moms tipping Point survey concluded that one in four working women cry by themselves at least once a week due to household-related stress. A Gallup poll in 2012 showed stay-at-home moms as much more likely to report having ever been diagnosed with depression than employed moms....

So is the desire to have it all, or the disappointment to not be able to have to all, leading to the stress? It seems like just because we can do anything, we now feel as if we have to do everything and even if we don't, well then we are just failures. If we don't, we are just going to disappoint society as well as not take full advantage of the opportunities that feminism and awareness created. For years we have been bombarded with advice - most of it from well-meaning women - but how about, as women we start defining what our own "all" is and then figure out whether it's a possibility or not. It could be going to Princeton to find a husband (as mentioned by the now infamous speech by Susan Patton) or it could be having a high powered career. Our "alls" need to be defined by our choices. As women we are often made guilty by (primarily again) fellow women, on about not having what we don't or not doing what we should. If we are not married, we must be too pushy and choosy and we should have a man in our lives. If we don't have children, something must be wrong with us and our emotional selves, if we have kids and stay at home, we should not as we are wasting our brains. If we have a normal 9-5 job and not running a multi-million dollar company, we must not be doing enough to get ahead, and the list goes on.

Yes, most women still do the bulk of the house-work - whether they are working or not. They can the break the glass ceiling but they are the ones still cleaning the glass at home. Never heard the CEO of Coca-Cola company (unlike the CEO of Pepsi) talk about having to run out to get milk after a hard day's work or about the pangs he has of being a bad father. But this is not a discussion on how men have it different but rather just how as women, we compare ourselves with other women, guilt ourselves by assuming what other women are doing and then judge our lives and of other women according to those standards.

It is almost 2015 and women need to realize that we do not have to be some version of a superwoman 24/7. You can get to have everything - as long as you know, realistically, what your everything is. It is your journey and your stops that need to be made. If you have the luxury of choice, make your choice - build on what you want and shift gears when you want and when you think it's right. Define your own path. Define your own all and work towards it. And while doing so, maybe stop judging others. We women our own worst critics. Just because you can have Angela Merkel's acumen and knowledge, Jennifer Anniston's hair or Angelina's lip or and Kardashsian's hips, but don't have them all doesn't mean you are a failure. Amal Clooney, the intelligent beauty with a high powered career and the perfect hair, who is declared the most fascinating person because she married the hunk George Clooney himself, am sure has her definition of "all". For her, it might be her wish for people to recognize her as her own person or maybe it could be coming home hoping not to find the crumbs and dirty socks that George has strewn across the room. Those are her crumbs and socks. Find your own.