What Does "Having it All" Mean to You?

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In The Atlantic's recent cover story (aka the bi-annual female-focused rant), "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former aide to Hilary Clinton, discusses her struggle to juggle her high-powered career and her equally demanding family life. It's an age-old dilemma that plagues anyone who has ever had conflicting goals and desires and it's one worth discussing. The only problem is that the writer confuses her human emotions (longing, inadequacy) with "women problems" and blames her solution (scaling back her career to care for her rebellious teen) on the limits of feminism.

It's called being human, girl! But yeah, wouldn't it be nice if we could blame an "-ism" next time we were forced to make hard life decisions? Not surprisingly, Slaughter's essay has sparked considerable backlash. Many writers have pointed out that the notion of "having it all" isn't a goal of the feminist movement, while Rebecca Treiser of Salon suggests that we "strike the phrase from our lexicon" altogether as it promotes an impossible benchmark of success. All good points, but the phrase has such cache (it was created by marketers instead of activists, after all) that I don't see if going anywhere.

Plus, it's so much fun to say! "I have it all!" Say it with me. It will make you feel like Diane Keaton.

Perhaps, instead, we should allow our notion of "having it all" to be more fluid. Allow it to change as your goals and desires change. And here's a novel idea, take a little pressure off yourself and realize you don't need to have it all, all at once, every second of every day.

For me, in this moment, "having it all" means taking a workout class during my lunch hour, submitting my end-of-fiscal paperwork early, and getting home in time to make my friends a meal and probably drink too much wine for a Tuesday night. Tomorrow, it might mean getting a frozen yogurt with sprinkles and oreos on it. So tell me: what does having it all mean to you?

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