Yes, a woman cannot have it all

Yes, a woman cannot have it all. Photo | Photosearch

What you need to know:

Whatever gender and sex you ascribe to, you don’t have to be a one-man conquering army, because no man is an island, right?

I was watching that famous Shonda Rhimes speech. You know the one – I think she’s talking at a college graduation ceremony, and she talks about how people are consistently asking her how she does it all. How does the woman behind Shondaland – between a million exhausting seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, the dramatic storylines and lip acting of Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder, and now the hyperbolic romance of Bridgerton – do it all, while also being a present mother? Is it even possible?

In the video, she says she is about to answer truthfully, and she says, truthfully, she can’t. And she doesn’t. She says if there is one aspect of her life that is flourishing, if her TV shows are getting awards, then she’s missing her kids’ recitals. If she’s putting in great family time, then her company and her shows are struggling. The wolf you feed eats the starving one you don’t.

What a relief! I feel like we’re also consistently told, as women, that having it all is not only possible and doable but admirable. We, as women, set the bar for ‘being a woman’ – whatever that means – even higher than the dizzying heights that vague standard already operates at. What a burden off my shoulders to realise that even superstars in my profession are simply human. I mean, can you imagine somehow finding the energy to play with your three children after a full day of a long, annoying table read where absolutely no one agrees with the thought that Edwina Sharma should actually not be in love with Anthony Bridgerton, as she wasn’t in the books, and then you have to explain – nay, pitch, your experienced genius, to them?

Not to say that there are some women, miraculously – possibly our mothers, even – who did it all flawlessly. Or they didn’t, and everything we saw in our childhoods was a lie. But still, maybe it can be done. But it doesn’t have to be. It is no longer the destiny of every woman to have 14 jobs, on top of a regular day job. Sometimes, you can outsource the part for cooking. Or, you can refuse, and have people acknowledge that it isn’t fair that you have to do everything and then some. Or, you can even make the decision early on to not be a part of that life.

I know some might say it is anti-feminism to say that there are things that women can’t do, but this isn’t even about feminism, for once. Whatever gender and sex you ascribe to, you don’t have to be a one-man conquering army, because no man is an island, right? If anything, introducing the idea of choice, choosing the things to do, if you have the privilege, is true feminism indeed. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel imperfect because they can’t be a freak in the sheets and then wash the sheets or stitch new ones while running a company that ships out said sheets across the globe (say that last sentence quickly!). I want us all to be allowed a life that frees us from the fallacy of having everything under control. 

Let’s redefine the idea of having it all. For some women, that looks like choosing your career above all else, and letting that, in spite of what some misguided podcasts believe, warm you at night. Sometimes it is pursuing the oft out of reach ideal of a work life balance, and losing, and being ok with it. For others, it’s always picking a thriving life over a gruelling, daily commute. Or growing plants with your cats. On your farm. You can decide and commit to what all ‘has to’ be. Let people enjoy things. Let yourself.


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