Parenting: Why have we decided that only men can have it all?

By Rated PG columnist Orla Breeze

Prepare for a rant. An almighty one! For the record, I am not the kind of woman who’s known for screaming and shouting but by jingo, I shall be having the rant of all rants today! Swearing included. Mainly in the form of abbreviations but swearing nonetheless.

Parenting, families, juggling career and motherhood
Why are women made to feel bad about their choices?

And why? Because a certain news story that likes to rear its ugly head from time to time has reared its ugly head. And every time it does, I want to dive into the comments section and tell the writer to STFU.

Yes, the so-called debate around whether or not women have it all, or want it all, or even need it all, is threatening to turn me into a troll. An actual full-time internet troll.

This rant is my attempt to stop myself from taking that particular career path. So here are my issues.

Numero uno, this discussion is not really about women per se, it’s actually targeted at mothers. The basis of the argument is that it’s not possible for a woman to be an adequate mother and an adequate career woman at the same time – unless, and this is the bit that really gets my goat, someone is suffering as a result.

So, if a woman has both a job and kids, the kids have got to be missing out. I mean, if Mum’s not at home all the time, they must be losing out on something, right?

Yet, if she’s a stay-at-home parent, well hey, her kids have got to be suffering too. How are they supposed to know what the “perfect woman who has it all” looks like if she’s not role-modelling it for them?

And as for Mum? Well, she’s just spending her life scaling an ever-growing mountain of guilt.

Nobody wins. At best, it creates division between working mothers and stay-at-home mothers, dividing and separating them around the very thing that actually unites them. And that, in itself, is a good enough reason to hate this debate. But wait, there’s more!

Secondly, and this reason boils my blood to almost unhuman levels, we never level the same accusation at men.

I never see rehashed opinion pieces discussing how men just can’t have kids and a career without paying for it in some manner.

Somehow we’ve decided as a society that men can be fathers and have careers – that because of their gender, they can have it all. Which of course is utter BS.

Do we really believe that a father who works an 80-hour week has it all? Do we honestly think that travelling for work so often that he regularly misses out on his kids’ milestones is something he enjoys? Of course we don’t.

Which brings me to my point. Nobody has it all. Nobody.

In the same way that every mother and every father has their own unique way of parenting, every family has its own unique path to happiness. Everybody’s all is different.

What I want for me and my family is possibly the complete opposite of what you want for your family. And until I’m living in your family’s shoes, I can’t know for sure what defines happiness for you. And you can’t know what defines it for us.

Which means we can stop wasting our time judging each other and instead spend it on discovering our own version of joy. So we can have it all. Rant over.

This article first appeared in the Aug/Sep 2016 issue of Expat Living magazine.

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