The “can you have it all question?” is in the news again. It seems to ebb and flow depending on what book or column has recently been published. And the pendulum swings both ways. Ah the “Mommy Wars.” (Side note: This is one of my favorite columns that disputes the Mommy Wars.) But I think this question expands to all, not just moms.
So here is my take, for what it’s worth.
“Having it all,” as defined by those who write about the struggles of grown ups to balance work, life, family, health, etc., is a super lofty goal. Don’t get me wrong, goals are great. As a Type A person, I thrive on challenges and goals. But here is something I learned from my friend and former colleague, Mary. Those lofty aspirations will never be enough because there will always be something more or something better meaning one is never satisfied and can never enjoy “success” (however it may be defined). And in the pursuit of “excellence” one will surely miss all the learning and life experiences along the way. In other words, the things that truly matter.
This comes from many conversations with Mary around the idea in schools of “academic excellence.” Every school tosses this term around (a lot) to define itself. But Mary did not want this used to describe our school. She did not want lost in the thriving for “excellence” that there are many unmeasurable (and measurable) ways to demonstrate we were doing something greater in our school- creating life long learners who are citizens of the world and pursue what drives and inspires them. Working at a preschool will teach you what is important. (so will reading about the work of Maria Montessori)
So back to the question at hand. Can you have it all? Yes. Sometimes not all at the same time, but yes, I believe you can. But each person needs to define what “all” means from them. And every day “all” may be different. Life is a series of lessons and we continue to learn and grow with experiences.
For me “all” means at least two meals, most nights of the week, with my family.
To me “all” means doing my best at work- which includes the work/life balance and turning work off when I am not there. (always a work in progress)
To me “all” means showing our boys, not just in words, but actions, what is important to our family- what core value we are trying to instill in them. I may have missed dinner last Thursday night, but the reason I did was because I was testifying for the Boston Public Schools School Committee about how Aidan school could be improved for all the children (expansion to 8th grade for continuity of learning and consistency of school culture). The very nature of the schools we have chosen speaks to our core values.
To me “all” means watching our kids make their own choices, solve their own problems and be kind, independent, creative, imaginative thinkers.
I have joyful kids who are on their way to being citizens of the world, who will hopefully be life long learners, who will pursue what drives and inspires them.
I have an amazing husband who believes in and supports everything I do.
I have a village of the most wonderful friends and family who are able to remind me on days I need it that I do, truly, have it all.
I may not succeed every day, but everyday I count my blessings. And at some point, every day, I realize I have it all.
To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.