A young woman in her twenties recently asked me and several other women of my generation, Is it possible for a woman to have it all?
I wish I had asked her to clarify what having it all means to her today.
Back in my day, the commercial below epitomized the cultural expectation to have it all. The choices seemed to be: Full time career along with full-time motherhood or just full-time motherhood. (There is no such thing as part-time motherhood.)
This quote from a 2012 blog post suggests that not much has changed, in fact, having it all is perhaps more daunting than ever.
The message screamed at moms from this issue of Time, from television, Facebook, blogs, and Pinterest is: unless you are fit to run marathons, breastfeed into the preschool years, own a spotless and creatively decorated home, tend a flourishing garden, prepare three home-cooked meals per day, work a high-powered job, and give your husband expert, sensual massages before bed, you are not mom enough.
Let’s take a deep breath.
For me and most of my cohorts, the reality has not been a caricature of super-mom but a succession of carefully considered choices.
Many of my friends have built impressive careers while raising well-adjusted children and maintaining, by all appearances, strong marriages. Others found great fulfillment in full-time parenting. And everything in between. I applaud them all.
Personally, I straddled the divergent pathways for a while, working part-time while my children were very young and then transitioning from my job into community/school/church volunteer roles during their school years. My goal was always to use my time and skills productively, with or without a paycheck. I now serve as the volunteer teaching director of a Community Bible Study class. It is skilled and satisfying work.
It all felt like pressure when I was young, but from my vantage point today it looks more like opportunity for creative living.
I appreciate the unique beauty of each life journey, every one a personal expression of passion, skill, perseverance, success, failure and love.
I didn’t understand, when I was younger, that there would be a time to work, a season to raise children, and opportunities to serve. Sometimes they would occur simultaneously; sometimes linearly. I may not have had it all, but I’ve had quite a lot. I am thankful that I still have time to add color, texture and experience to my life’s canvas.
There is a time for everything.
If you are a woman in your twenties or thirties, how would you define having it all? What kinds of pressure do you perceive as you consider your future plans?
If you are a woman in your forties, fifties or beyond, do you feel that you have it all? What would your advice be to young women today?
If you are a man, what is your definition of having it all?
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
I’m a girl in her twenties and in my case, “having it all” means getting married, have kids, have a career and at the same time be happy and peaceful. We’ll see in ten years if this all is too much to ask for 😉
Such a meaningful post that resonated with me. Thank you. Great blog!
Without exception you’ve shared that being “heir and joint heir of the King” or “to live each day reflecting the love of God” or “seizing the moment, helping those in need, and reaching out with love and forgiveness to the people God has put in our lives” or the simple word “contentment” are enough. (Just to quote a few:). What your comments are really raising is the difference between the world’s view of having it all and Christ’s. Thank you!
I also wanted it all for my life and set my goals from my youth to attain it. I failed, but in my failure, I ended up becoming an adopted son of a great King. And because of being His son, I am now an heir and joint heir of the King. So, I guess I ended up having it all after all.
I agree with Bernadette, although I did try to “have it all” and it did not go well, but thankfully I have a wonderful husband who supported to what we always laughingly called my “mid life crises” although i don’t believe in one. He understood what I was going through just finding out after a year that I was cancer free and I went a bit crazy (his words!) No I don’t think we were meant to have it all by the worlds standards, but to live each day reflecting the love of God, His Son and the Holy Spirit. To me that is having it all – a relationship with God. “ll the rest are “extras” and I strive to not focus on what I have and don’t have. However, I DO appreciate having the freedom to be as creative in my life as I choose to be, and to be a blessing to all that the Lord leads me to.” I could not have said it better. Hugs….
This is a great post, Judy — I really appreciate it. This year I turned 50 and it has certainly been a thought-provoking time. I lost a 27-year friendship due to unresolved conflict. I’m also facing the loss of my mom (who is 79) probably within the next half-year. Putting these 2 situations side-by-side has helped me to realize that “having it all” is only meaningful in the context of loving relationships — or rather, those relationships help define what “all” really is. We don’t know what tomorrow holds: one moment, one conversation, one diagnosis can change our lives forever. Seizing the moment, helping those in need, reaching out in love and forgiveness to the people God’s put in our lives — those are far more important than possessions and accomplishments.
My thoughts & input from the pov of a forty-something year old.
Keeping it simple…If you are generally happy – then you have it all. 😉
I really like everyone’s comments . . .so good! So glad that there are many who are not concerned with having it all according to the world or our culture’s standards, but are concerned about having Jesus in their lives? God bless you , Judy, with healing and joy and all He wants for you!
I am not sure that aspiring to have “it all” (however that “all” is defined at any particular life stage) ever breeds much contentment. We’re constantly urged toward more – in our twenties, it’s a good career (or creative endeavor) and the serach for a life-long relationship, for a tribe of Friends-style friends. In our thirties, it’s kids and a home – and a continually improving career. And vacations, and then the long list of requirements for our kids: soccer, ballet, Japanese lessons and art camp. And a new car. And running club and Pilates and, and, and… And so it goes, each era of our lives. I’m in my 50’s, and my friends are heading toward retirement home purchases and traveling and grandchildren and a flurry of activities.
Contentment is the ultimate “having it all” at this stage of my life. And it can be mighty elusive when I look around me! Looking toward Jesus recalibrates some of those desires and questions into new ones like “How am I to seek you first today, Lord? What does doing justice, loving mercy and walking in humility with you look like right this moment?”
Great questions, Judy!
Thanks Michelle. You nailed the ‘having it all’ of our younger years! Contentment as the ‘all’ of these years is a beautiful thought. May we both find it!
I never aspired to have other people’s version of “it all”. My journey has been different from my family’s and friends’–it did not shine with their version of success, or mine, for that matter. BUT, now in the latter season of my life, I know I’m a success in God’s eyes–and my heart feels full to overflowing. So if HE is happy with me, and I’m happy with Him–and myself–that’s my definition of “having it all”. I do have it all–it just doesn’t look like someone else’s, and that’s fine by me. God bless you abundantly today, Judy–hope and pray you’re feeling restoration.
I love this thought, Caddo. I’m curious – did you always have that sense or has it evolved as you’ve grown? And thanks for your prayers! Judy
No, I didn’t have anything, to start!! Essentially, my life started in Mar 2011–I guess I’m the only person who was born 59 yrs old! I felt ashamed for a long time, that I was on disability–because I was young and pretty, and articulate and intelligent; my disability is largely invisible, and that makes things hard. My working years were so difficult–it was all about trying to maintain my employment, so I had no energy for a social life–and frankly, going to church was a chore. I’d been saved since age 13-14, but didn’t catch the revelation till 2011, and then last year I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit–so that helped even more.
But it doesn’t bother me that I’m a late-bloomer, so many “lost years”–I’m grateful for what I have now, as so many people die in darkness, never catching a glimpse of His Light.
(And I made the choice not to be a mom before I married–I knew it was best, with my issues. I don’t regret it at all–and am always finding folks who need a little nurturing, so it works fine for me too.)
My prayers for you will continue, count on it!!
This is such a great topic for everyone to discuss! We do have it all when we really know how much GOD loves us and what Grace is all about!!
Thanks for a thought provoking post.
I am in my fifties, and to tell you the truth, have not ever tried to “have it all.” Not even sure what that means. “Having it all”, to me, is to be grateful for the blessings the Lord has provided me throughout my life. My family that I grew up in, my husband, my two sons and their wives, and all the opportunities the Lord places in my life each day to share His love.
Some of us women are called to professional careers, some to nurturing families, and some to both. All of our definitions of having it all will be different.
My “having it all” is my relationship with Jesus, and my relationship with family and friends. All the rest are “extras” and I strive to not focus on what I have and don’t have. However, I DO appreciate having the freedom to be as creative in my life as I choose to be, and to be a blessing to all that the Lord leads me to.
That is it, isn’t it? “My having it all is my relationship with Jesus.” I find that’s easy to say…a lot harder to do! Thanks for your thoughts!