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Monday, December 15, 2008


Sally Quinn, reporter for the Washington Post, said during a speech that Josh heard something along the lines of this:

As women, we have learned that we can have it all, we just can't do it all.

Your reaction? Discuss.


TeamWinks said...

I suppose the whole discussion revolves around what the "all" encompasses. I don't think you can have it all or do it all. Nor, do I think you really would want to even if you could. To me it's the grass is greener debate.

Karen said...

I completely agree. When we were adopting Evie, I could have kept my teaching job and right now I would "have it all"...job, husband, baby, house, etc., but I knew *I couldn't do it all* and chose to take a break from teaching. I, personally, cannot be a good mother and a good English teacher at the same time. As an English teacher I always brought work home and spent hours upon hours at home grading essays. It was hard enough to get motivated to grade them on time before I was a mother; if I were trying to do the same thing now I would just be doing a half-@ssed job at it or getting zero sleep. On the other hand, if I were still working in a cubicle farm like I did for awhile, and not bringing work home, it wouldn't be as bad. But that wouldn't be having it all for me, since I hated that job. :)

Cassandra said...

Even without children and even in a single domain, I've learned I can't do it all.

Can a woman be a CEO and cub scout den master and cleaner of her own toilet, et al.? Maybe not.

I am a big fan of delegation (though I'm not always very good at it). Perhaps the CEO could delegate all toilet cleaning duties and a few CEO duties to make enough time for the cub scouts. I've heard many people say that's foolish, but I still believe it's possible. But as I said, I don't have kids yet.

Mrs. Spit said...

sometimes I wonder if a better question is "should we do it all" or "should we want to have it all?"

gwinne said...

What's the context for the original quote?

Certainly when my students and I talk about "having it all"--I teach gender studies, among other things--we're referring specificially to having a meaningful career and having a meaningful family life (however one individually defines those things). In that sense, I certainly do "have it all"--I've got a kid, I've got a job [many people would envy], I've got a house, etc. But I certainly have limitations about what I can do: my house gets messy, I need to hire help for all kinds of jobs male partners frequently do, I need paid childcare, etc.

But human beings are inherently social creatures--even those introverted types like me!--and never do *everything* on their own. At the most basic level, people do different jobs in order to get "everything" done that culturally needs to be done...

Somewhat Ordinary said...

I'm with TeamWinks!

PaleMother said...

I think it was Oprah ... quoting someone else ... I heard her say once that a woman *can* have it all, just not all at once. I agree with that.

loribeth said...

I think it's impossible to have or do it all. If the underlying question is "can women have both a career & a family?" the answer is yes, of course (says the woman with a career but no kids...!) -- but whatever it is you're trying to do or have, there are always, always going to be tradeoffs & priority-setting of some kind.

Patricia said...

I would say that as a society, we have been told that we can have it all, in theory. (If theory means fantasy land.) In reality, not only can we not do it all, some of us can't have it all, either.

And it isn't (big giant quotation marks) just infertility, but poverty, injustice, bias, etc.

If my comment feels bitter, well, I guess I can't argue that.

Shelby said...

It depends how you define 'having'. For instance, I could certainly see 'having' a career, a child, and a marriage all at once, but at least one of them would not have as much energy devoted to it and most likely it would be my career. In most cases you must 'do' to 'have' and my 'doing' at my job would be much less than the 100% I give now.

So, in that case, could you say that I still had it all, even in the face of not doing it all? Well, like I said, it's subjective, but I don't think so. Perhaps it's the perfectionist in me, but I believe in doing something 110% or not at all. But I am completely ok with not 'having' it all. In fact, if I could have a child with my husband, that would be enough for me.

ms. c said...

I feel that I was taught that we can "have" "it" all (having gone to an all girls' school, this was drilled into me constantly.)

I agree that we can't do it all, though. I struggle every day to get what I do have (and it certainly isn't "all") done.

The other thing that might be interesting to look at is that some women might not want it all. That just having some of it suffices. For example, the pendulum is swinging in the other direction: women are being looked down upon if they choose to be "only" a stay at home mom, or "only" a career woman.

Rachel said...

Even if we CAN have it all, do we really WANT it all????
I'm not sure on that one, I'll have to think about it some more.

Mrs. Higrens said...

My question is, regardless of whether we can have it all: why were women expected to be able do it all in the first place?

Furthermore, why can't my generation afford a housekeeper on one income like my grandparents did? My grandmother certainly wasn't expected to do it all, even as a stay-at-home mother she had daily help.

I'm wondering if the women's lib movement didn't accidentally shoot women in the foot while firing at the glass ceiling.

Cara said...

This morning I was up early, dressed, briefcase in hand, rehearsing my words for a very important outreach meeting, dressing and feeding kids,stuffing lunchboxes and backpacks, running a carpool and dropping kids in various locations when my cell phone rang.

Meeting was cancelled. "Can we try for tomorrow?" she said.

I reeled. My plans being completely uprooted and my urgecy with the kids evaporated.

Is this having it all? I don't know, but I DO know that it felt like trying to DO it all - and I can't.

Maybe "having it all" really means - having very little and enjoying it.

kate said...

Hmm. Having it all vs doing it all... is that supposed to mean that if we have the fabu job and the sweet kids and loving husband and big house that we'll have to hire someone to take up the slack because we will be unable to care for all of these items properly?

'Cos I don't know how I feel about that. I mean, a house requires maintenance, and a marriage requires work and kiddos require patience and love and etc., etc., and a job requires 8 hrs a day (minimum, typically), and the only one of those responsibilities that can be "outsourced" is honestly the home maintenance aspect.

And what does "have it all" mean anyway? If I don't have a job am I somehow missing out? If I can't have kids do I have some sort of hole? If I'm single, then somehow, I don't "have it all"?

Feh. I don't know. I think it's pretty obvious that the more responsibilities we take on the more we have to rely on others to assist us, but I think I somehow take offense with the notion that having a full life somehow includes more work/more roles than one person can fill.

I mean, I have it all right now. And I would still have it all even if I didn't have a house and a husband. And if I am lucky enough to have a child, does that mean that my current having it all state was just a lie, a sort of half-life while waiting for everything else to fall in to place?

I mean, I think that many infertiles do rightfully feel that way, that they won't have it all until they have a child, but I try NOT to think that way because what kind of life is that to lead, always feeling like you aren't full enough, that you will never be a complete woman without it. Nevertheless, that is the way that many of us feel, and thus, I feel like Ms. Quinn's statement is somewhat callous toward those of us who by virtue of any number of reasons don't have our arms full enough (be it with husband, house, self-life, kids, job, etc.). And that somehow, when we absent one of those things from our life that we must magically and suddenly be able to do it all. Just one more way that infertiles or single people or renters or homemakers (or student in my case) are just so slightly marginalized.

I don't know. What a weird thing to say... I just don't know how I feel about that.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I took the statement very differently--not that there was a particular "all" and that if you didn't have children you didn't have everything. I didn't even take it to be a statement solely about work/home balance.

I thought about it more as a "be mindful of what you are amassing and why." In other words, you can have four cars, but if you're not driving them and they're just sitting there, what was the point. I think people often amass things--including jobs, houses, marriages, and children--without being mindful of the why behind it. Why they want the career, why they want the house, why they want to be married, why they want children. They do it because it is the next step.

And her point is that anyone can amass things and have everything. But actually taking action, using those things wisely, utilizing what you have and doing--we can't necessarily do that. And then it begs the question why we amassed so much in the first place.

I want all the things I have and I THINK (I say that with emphasis because while I was mindful at the time, I can't truly measure how much societal pressure came into play too) I acquired them mindfully. And I do balance keeping house, raising kids, working somewhat full-time, volunteering, being a wife, daughter, friend, sister. All well? No. But then, when you place anything out of the ordinary into the mix, when I amass one more thing and now have something to do, I tend to see things tumble. Or place my own well-being last.

Where do you place your own well-being?

Fertilized said...

the first thing that came to my mind is ... does that statement mean contentment. So to have/do all is subjective to what one person considers all.

Is contentment possible? Yes ...

on a different thought process, have/do all somehow would mean that there would be little quality in the all because there is only so much time in a day

Waiting Amy said...

Yes, I think you can possibly have it all, but not all at once.

I started pursuing career, stopped for family, and hope to someday return to some type of meaningful work--if not the career I envisioned when young.

MrsSpock said...

You can pile as much as you can on your plate, and the world will keep letting you, and will even offer to pile more if you don't learn to say "no", but good luck carrying that 3 ton behemoth around- you'll be quickly squished as flat as a boobie in a mammogram machine.

Lindsay said...

Maybe it's about quality, not quantity here. Everyone has their own limits, their own balance. You only have a certain reserve of energy, attention, etc to give to everyone/thing AND yourself. If you're so overwhelmed and have given beyond your limit (whatever it is) that you have nothing left, are you really doing things the best you can?

I think others have said something similar but it seems to be that, sure, you could "have it all" but at what cost? What is it worth if you've given everything but the quality isn't there?

MLO said...

I don't believe you can "have it all" or "do it all" in the way most Americans think of either. Life is about taking what is given and making choices from what is in front of you. Something always suffers as a result.

There are trade-offs to everything. To believe otherwise, IMO, is just foolish.

Wordgirl said...

This is a deep question really -- because it does beg that question of what 'having it all' means -- and with the acknowledgement of course that not every woman in this society can have it all -- not every woman has access to the kind of information and education that leads to those places -- and 'having it all' in the idea of having a job that doesn't suck the very life out of you in its deadening demands -- when you then go home to your family trying to corral them into some sense of order, while trying to make ends insurance etc.

So I'm not convinced that every woman can 'have it all' and for those of us lucky enough to have the opportunity I found that in the way its most commonly understood this phrase means having 'power' in the workplace -- and running a wonderful home - -that women have access to all of those positions of power that our mother's did not -- to be doctors and lawyers and executives -- not 'simply' housewives...but I found that being a professor and even a part-time step-mom was too much. I couldn't do both well and so I left the one that I could leave -- and it was wrenching, but for me it was the right decision.

Having it all is a myth I think -- and one that puts far too much pressure on women today...and someone brought up the good question of why is it that women are the ones solely responsible for the home still (with rare exception) -- and expected to be superwoman...

Thought-provoking as always!


Wordgirl said...

Oh and as a follow up about where I place my well-being? I'm pretty good about letting a sink full of dishes sit there while I exercise...I just know I'm a much more pleasant person to be around if I take care of me -- and the housework? Well, if they are so bothered by a little disarray they can clean it themselves.


Artblog said...


Hez said...

One of the first things I paid attention to from a mentor-type at work was, "You can have it all, just not all at the same time." And then we went into a discussion of what that meant to that particular person. At that point in her career & life, she was 'outsourcing' her cooking, cleaning & landscaping. They were eating well, but she wasn't cooking, and so forth. To her it meant giving up the idea that she could do everything herself, and instead get 'real' about what was important (that her family eat healthy meals together every day, for instance), and what was not (that she be the one to prepare said healthy meals).

I'm taking it another way. I can be a stay-at-home-mom. I can be a work-out-of-home-mom. I can't be both at the same time, and so I'm taking the opportunity my company affords me to take a year off with this miracle of a child. When I return to work, it will be at 80% so I can have that one more day a week to spend focused on the kids.

As far as my well-being... Right now it seems not important. As time passes, it probably ought to get a little more attention.

Aurelia said...

The part about not having it all at the same time, is very true in my experience.

At least not doing it well.

But it takes luck and good timing and many other factors. It's not just about women blaming and what we do or don't do. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you are just fucked.

Martha said...

I have no interest in having it all or doing it all. I'm too old, too cranky, and too tired.
I'm working on being content with with I do have and am I doing. Capisce?

Piccinigirl said...

As someone who is trying to do and have it all, I can say that I don't want either one most days.
Infertilty hurts you enough to think that if you can HAVE it all, of course you'll be able to DO it all, considering what you've been through. In essense, haven't you "done" it all in terms of having/adopting/fostering etc the children you wanted so badly? Parenthood is a whole different terrain. Doing it all because very subjective, because I haven't "done" it all since I got PG. I'm slowly learning that I may never Do it all again, but as long as I have Mr Kir and the boys in my life I do "have" it all. I can work on the "doing" a little at a time.