The Notion of Having It All…Have we all been fooled?

July 1, 2012

I was recently reading an article entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”. The opening lines go something like this:

“It’s time to stop fooling ourselves, says a woman who left a position of power: the women who have managed to be both mothers and top professionals are superhuman, rich, or self-employed.”

I read these lines and stop to reflect. It’s like someone else was voicing what I was thinking but haven’t had the courage to say. Ever since having Baby T almost 9 months ago I have been questioning my decision to return to work. Now, let’s reframe a bit, we were in a situation where I more or less had to go back to work. Being an entrepreneur’s wife meant one of us had to have the stable 9-5 including medical insurance and benefits. Fun!

Aside from the bills to be paid and the attractive insurance, I actually enjoyed my job and was really committed to building my career. I always told myself that who I am as a professional is independent of whether or not I have a child one day. I convinced myself that I would still be me and I would still have the same zest for my job and career. However somewhere down the hormone-riddled path that reality started to shift. Yes, it is a cliché but your life does change once you have a child. You are no longer the same ‘you’. Your life and existence revolves around someone else’s needs and working long hours on someone else’s schedule doesn’t bode well for any mother.

The article goes on to explain why in essence both women and men can have it all (one day) but not today in the way we currently structure our organizations and our policies. The reality (in my mind at least) is that fast-track careers are exclusive clubs for either men whose wives are stay-at-home moms raising the kids or for women who’ve decided to either forgo the whole mothering concept or have an army of support raising their kids while they etch out their steep climb to the top. So by default the act of having a child automatically determines whether or not we are even included in future career prospects.

I’ve always wanted to maintain my career and continue to develop professionally. I’ve had goal lists written up and have been happily crossing accomplishments off. Until Baby T arrived. Suddenly the world stopped. Time froze on my career and professional development journey. It took a second or third seat. Now some would argue that had I been truly career focused I would have continued my development, climb, etc. regardless. True. I take responsibility for where I am today. If the climb to the top meant constant travel, endless time away from home, and consistent crazy hours then no, thank you. I’ll pass. However I would echo that our organizations are not setting women up for a successful return to work once they do have a child. We look at those that have to leave a bit early to pick up their kids from day care with disdain. We are still, to the most part, a culture of clock-watchers that we are skeptical of anyone who “works from home”. We sit there and judge. Women make up over half of our workforce and yet we still have a one size fits all approach to our policies. It is shocking how we are in the 21st century and still our workplaces are structured and run as industrial era institutions. We have graduated beyond the factory lines and our workplace policies need to get with the program.

What do you think? Can women really have it all?

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