Women Having It All: Myth or Reality?

Author: Leanne Donoghue-Tamplin, Senior Psychologist, Coach, and Director of Real Success Pty Ltd, helping women create the lives they deserve, W: www.realsuccess.com.au; E: leanned@realsuccess.com.au.

As a single parent that runs her own business, I am bombarded with messages about “having it all”, that is, having success in my career/business and effectively and appropriately raising my children.  Although I think it is changing, the dominant message of the last thirty years is that I am supposed to choose one or the other else I risk doing them both badly.

There is not necessarily an intent to send this negative message, it is often just the underlying theme of a person’s or an organisation’s actions.  I talk to women in my private practice that hear these messages loud and clear.  Although there is more talk about the “leaning in” mentality, I don’t think we are fully there yet.  But I am here to say, both as someone walking this path and as a psychologist witnessing many of my clients doing the same, it absolutely can be done!

There are a number of areas that you need to address to make it work successfully.  The first and probably the most important one is:

You must believe it is not only possible but it is the right thing to do

You need to believe with every ounce of your being, that it is possible and that you deserve…NO, you are ENTITLED to both.  This choice DOES NOT make you a terrible mother NOR a poor work asset.  You must believe that you are doing the right thing by yourself and your family, or you will not be able to stand up to criticism if/when it comes.

One of the reasons why having it all is “right” is that you become a fantastic role model for your children – encouraging them to live the life of their dreams.  You also become a role model for other women.  Many will admire your determination and wish they were brave or strong enough to try the same thing.  You will be an inspiration for many.

A second critical issue you need to work on to ensure this balancing act is successful:

You need to accept that it is okay to be less than perfect

Do you remember what it was like when you brought your first new baby home?  For most of us (bar the few who’s babies were absolute angels) the following days, weeks, maybe even years, were filled with compromise. Beliefs you used to hold true, expectations you had of yourself and others (probably about levels of cleanliness or how much sleep you need to be able to function), had to loosen up.  It was about survival…and it was okay.

We can normally accept that these compromises are part of coping with such a massive change in your life like having a baby.  Managing a career and your family together is just as significant and requires the same compromises.  It is okay if the house is not always clean, and it is fine if you are fifteen minutes late to the office more days than not.  You cannot be guided by other people’s expectations of you, just as you couldn’t be back when your baby was first born.  Focus on the big picture not the small details.

There are more key issues that need to be addressed to make it possible to effectively balance work and children, and I will discuss these in future articles.  But the two covered here provide a foundation for the rest, and are absolutely essential to “having it all”.

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