Women Can Have It All (But What Does “All” Really Mean?)

By Lisa Reeves

Ever since I read Anne-Marie Slaughter’s controversial article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in The Atlantic, I’ve been thinking about what having it all really means. For me, having it all has evolved throughout my career. When I was starting out in the business world after graduate school, having it all meant working 60-hour work weeks, laser-focused on advancing my career to the stage where I could make a real difference for an organization. With no family at that time, my job was my only priority. I was moving up the ranks of my company with a role that meant something – in my eyes, I had it all.

Over the next dozen or so years, I got married, had two wonderful daughters and found a senior role at Citrix as the VP and GM of Access and Cloud Services. My priorities changed, and with them, my version of having it all. Delivering an inspirational presentation at the annual sales conference was just as important as watching my daughter’s lacrosse game.  It wasn’t easy, but I knew what having it all meant to me, so I adapted to achieve it.

Nowadays, I get up at 4:30 AM every morning to sneak in a workout and some morning emails before my husband and kids leave bed. By 7:00 AM, I’m back in mom-mode making sure the kids have breakfast, packing their lunches and getting them out the door for school. If I need to slip out in the middle of the day for a parent-teacher conference, I make sure to block out my calendar and let my teams know when I’ll be out and when I’ll be back online.

Having it all takes work, and there are 3 main factors that make it possible for me:

  1. A supportive husband and family who recognize the demands of a high-pressure role
  2. A flexible employer who allows me to work where and when I need to, providing the work gets done (my job is never 9 to 5)
  3. A set of tools that allow me to untether myself from the office and collaborate effectively with my teams – wherever they are

Having it all is a journey, and it’s a journey that requires compromise. Sometimes having it all is a 60-hour work week; other times it’s being there with your family for the moments that matter. You have to recognize what matters most and tailor your life accordingly.

Take my sister-in-law for example. She was a senior expat executive at a Fortune 100 company, and when her children were teenagers, she left her job. For her, having it all then was staying at home and being a full-time mom during her children’s most formative years. After 3 years of being a stay-at-home mom, her kids left for college and she re-entered the workforce. At one time in her life, having it all was a full-time job, and at another, it was being a full-time mom.

Having it all isn’t a one-size-fits-all notion, and it’s not just about balancing your work and life – it’s the evolution of work and life. For me, having it all is working at a great company, raising my wonderful children and having my supportive husband by my side.

 

Photo credit: The Atlantic