Can we really have it all?

By Dadirayi Agnes Sibanda (@the_catapult)

Life is lived as a series of consciously chosen decisions. My view is that you can have it “all”, provided that you yourself have decided what “all” means to you. Once you know, you go for it, with clarity on how far you want to get with each area of your life. Each of us ends up having a portfolio of choices that look a bit like a graphic equaliser, tuned to your individual beat.

Photo credit: www.independent.co.uk

Earlier this year, Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, gave an interview on work-life balance that seemingly rocked the world with it’s frankness.

“If you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom.”

“I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so.”

“We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all,” Nooyi, who has been married 34 years and has two daughters.”

Over the years I have learnt that the word “all”, even though it means “everything, and excluding nothing”, is not in fact an absolute term. My all and your all are not created equal. The question of whether we can have it all, is really quite similar to asking, “how long is a piece of string?”, when it should actually read, “what length and/or type of string would you like?”

As women, this question is also often asked to / of / by us, largely in the context of whether we can kick ass in all areas of their lives: love, a family, an incredible career and social impact. As a single woman of a certain age (and I discovered this when I noticed that guys stopped calling me “sisi” and started calling me “ma’am” *sigh!*), a question like this makes me wonder whether I am to be seen as being in deficit. I don’t have it all because I am not balancing career aspirations with a marriage?

Life is lived as a series of consciously chosen decisions. My view is that you can have it “all”, provided that you yourself have decided what all” means to you. Once you know, you go for it, with clarity on how far you want to get with each area of your life. Each of us ends up having a portfolio of choices that look a bit like a graphic equaliser, tuned to your individual beat.

What seems to really get to women is “guilt”. Based on a review of the population of women I know, the majority measure their achievement according to what they understand to be the social standard and not their own. Take parenting for instance, most busy professional women have a full day at work, come back home, and want to be superwife, incredible cook, supermom, and be involved in every aspect of little darling’s life. There are only so many hours in a day and there is only so much mom-ness to go round.

Most people our generation are reluctant to get help, we overthink things and want to say we did it ourselves when the goal should be “I did it my way”. When entertaining, some women want to cook gourmet meals, me – I call a caterer, and one of my other friends has paper plates and you sort yourself out.

Now a guy in this situation typically has a baby-mama or wife, a PA, EA, and a maid – this is what I call infrastructure.

There is nothing worse than a woman who is unhappy with her lot in life and behaves like a victim. You are (should be) the cause and not the effect of your life, and should put into place the structure that will help you achieve all your goals – your way.

I myself am the product of one woman’s infrastructure. Dad was busy with a corporate job. It was made clear that I (and my siblings) had joined her family, and not the other way round. We lived on a working farm which she ran, along with a clothing business (which included a factory and 3 retail outlets), and all this while she remained very involved in church and extended family activities.

She ran this with a system of people that assisted her in achieving her goals, and she was always happy to make the unpopular decision. Parenting was her and my dad, identity formation. She did all the smacking, knew every item of clothing in each of our closets (5 kids), school teachers were co-opted into assisting her children in getting the grades that she set, she supervised our meals daily, junk food was forbidden in our home. She ran the businesses, travelled locally and internationally, and had people that held the fort when she was away.

Did I like it? Not always – I wanted her to be normal like other people’s moms, work half-day and come home to bake. But with the benefit of hindsight, I admire that she was prepared to live life on her terms, and gave herself permission to be everything she’d ever wanted. Wife, mother, entrepreneur, farmer, traveller, Christian and more.

I put it to you, M’lady, that you can really have it all. You just have to decide that

  1. you want it, and
  2. what it “all” means or is, and then
  3. build the infrastructure.

24 Comments
  1. Is it possible to have it all? that’s such a difficult question to answer…I guess it depends on an individual what is their all as per their individual needs. For me having it all is knowing what’s important to me and working towards achieving those goals that i think will complete my all.

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