What 'Having it All' Really Means

One of the threads of the heated discussion surrounding Anne-Marie Slaughter?s new Atlantic article, ?Why Women Still Can?t Have It All,? is whether feminists should rid themselves of the phrase ?having it all.?

Rebecca Traister at Salon writes:

Lindy West at Jezebel adds:

While I agree with the larger points Traister and West make in their responses, I would like to defend the use of the term ?having it all? on behalf of the many feminists who, like me, totally got it.

Never once did I think that having it all, meant, literally, ?it all.? I didn?t expect a high-paying, well-respected job that only required me to work 8 hour days. I never foresaw a highly supportive boss who encouraged me to work from home or take the afternoon off when my child needed it. I never expected the same things for my husband, who, would take delight in his flexibility and surprise me at the carpool line on a Friday afternoon, after which we would spend the rest of the day eating ice cream in the park and hearing our child talk about his hopes and dreams.

I never imagined a life free of guilt or stress, but full of easy-to-prepare, ecologically sustainable meals after which my independent but adoring children insist on cleaning up. I never believed that managing daycare, school and summer camp with work would require anything less than the precision of a high-operations military unit on behalf of my husband and me. Lastly, I never thought squeezing in yoga, sunset jogs, or weekends away with friends would be effortless.

Instead, when I heard the phrase ?have it all,? I thought it meant, very simply, ?have all the opportunities.? This is what, as I understand it, feminism has pursued and is still pursuing.

Never, ever, have I been so foolish that I ignored the fact that, at some point or another, ?work? and ?life,? or career and family, is a zero-sum game. All the subsidized daycare, flexible work-schedules and supportive partners in the world can?t undo the fact that we can?t be in two places at once. At some point, all of us, will have to choose. There is no perfect solution, and especially not a one-size-fits-all one.

Still, even though we can?t have it all at once, we can have it all in terms of choices and options that allow us, all of us, men and women, to organize our lives in the best way possible.

Here is my list of ?it all? as I see it when it comes to improving work-life balance.

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What 'Having it All' Really Means

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