Why the 'having it all' discussion is driving me to despair

When I read that Julie Bishop had dipped her toe in the Can Women Really Have It All debate, my shoulders dipped under the weight of despair.

How many times are we going to be asked that question? We dealt with it almost every other month throughout 2012. Can't we now agree to focus on how we get to have as much of it all as we need on an individual level?

No two situations are alike. We all have different career aspirations. What works for me may not work for you.

I feel as though I have been trying to have it all for most of my working life. My children are now teenagers and I have managed to wrangle a rewarding career along the way. But I have always felt guilty abut something at some time. It's rarely been perfect but my career appears to have weathered a few storms and my children are (touch wood) remarkably well-adjusted, happy and healthy.

Others have gasped in horror at my juggle but it works for me, and more importantly for the 'us' that is my tight family unit. We have found a way to make things work.

I worry about the impact on the next generation of career-focused mothers when the continued focus is on how we can't have it all. We should instead be providing women with examples of how they can successfully manage a career and family because it's the reality for most women now whether we like it or not. Let's stop overwhelming them with the negative. I'm happy to stick my hand up and claim that I feel I have been able to have it all.

My 'have it all' has involved compromises, melt-downs and moving on from roles that proved inflexible or prohibitive to my ability to also be an effective parent. But isn't that what the juggle of career and parenthood is about?

Somewhere along the line the message of what it means to have it all has become scrambled. There seems to be an expectation that somehow we could enjoy the perfect career that involves a direct trajectory to the C-suite and the kind of motherhood experience where quality time and calm discussions are the norm. Both at the same time. And undoubtedly living in a Disneyland castle with your fantasy prince.

Most women I know are juggling a ridiculous amount of things each second of the day, but apart from admitting to sometimes feeling exhausted there isn't a constant reflection on how they are 'having it all'. They are just getting on with life.

Is the constant focus on whether women can have it all driving you to despair too?

Marina Go

Marina Go is Chair of the Wests Tigers NRL Club, a non-executive director of Autosports Group and author of the business book for women, Break Through: 20 Success Strategies for Female Leaders. She was previously GM of Hearst Australia at Bauer Media. Boss magazine named her as one of 20 True Leaders of 2016.  Marina has over 25 years of leadership experience in the media industry, having started her career as a journalist. She was appointed Editor of Dolly magazine at the age of 23, before spending the next decade editing a number of leading women's magazines. She has held senior leadership roles at Fairfax, Pacific, Emap, Bauer and Private Media, where she was CEO and founder of the career website Women’s Agenda.  

She is a director of digital startup Daily Siren, and also a member of the Advisory Boards of the Walkley Foundation, The Australian Republican Movement and Women’s Agenda. She is a former director of Netball Australia, Odyssey House,  Sydney Symphony Vanguard and The Apparel Group. She lectures on digital media at the University of Technology, Sydney, is a Mentor with the Women In Media and NRL Women programs and a UNSW Alumni Leader and Ambassador. She has an MBA from The Australian Graduate School of Management, a BA (Mass Communications) from Macquarie University and is a member of the AICD. She is a mother of two young men and passionate about diversity and equality. 

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