Real Life

As promised in the BTS finale post, today I’m going to launch a new Wednesday here on vmac+cheese. Each week, I hope to bring you topics that are certainly present in my life, and if my intuition is correct, they’re probably pretty common in yours, too. The idea is to write posts that keep things real (in the vein of Things I’m Afraid to Tell You, which revealed that everyone wishes things were a little more honest and relatable), allow us to connect with one another and share tips, and yeah, okay, to provide a space for a post in which I can unload every now and again. But lest you think Wednesdays will become nuthin’ but a free therapy session, fear not — intermixed will be a new column launching in August that takes a look at how the men behind the bloggers fair in this bizarro world of ours, as well as the Style to Inspire column, which will move from Mondays to Wednesdays. My hope is that Wednesdays will inject a dose of authenticity and inspiration in between all the nail polish and sequins.

So, to kick things off today, I want to talk about something that’s essentially the capstone of Real Life Wednesdays: do you think that women can have it all?

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, as I struggle to balance so many different areas in my own life (and before I continue, let me say that that is entirely a subject in which one’s perception and worldview is their reality, so while the things I struggle with are certainly far less serious than many millions of Americans, they are still my own struggles and challenges all the same). The thing is, I suspect that many of the emotions I’ve gone through this year as my career and relationships have changed — elation, guilt, anxiety, frustration, anger, pride — are part of the emotional cocktail that everyone imbibes when they’re going through a major life change (or changes, as it were). Graduating, marriage, having kids, a spouse losing a job, a family member falling ill, moving cities, changing careers, ad infinitum.

I’d already been planning on asking your opinion about this subject when, while waiting for our flight in New York on Monday, the cover of The Atlantic screamed at me: “WHY WOMEN STILL CAN’T HAVE IT ALL.” It’s an interesting, thoughtful piece, especially as I read it from the millenial viewpoint that Ms. Slaughter references in the essay.

I think the question of having it all is most often about finding balance, but a lot of finding balance (at least for me) is learning to let go of things. To not feel guilty about saying no. To compromise. To not beat myself up so much. I can be notoriously bad at all of these things, so I often worry that I’ll never feel happy or feel balanced if I can’t conquer them, and hence, never really feel like I have it all.

Which leads to a broader, more important question: what does it even MEAN to have it all? So often I feel like we put these parameters on what we want our lives to look like, only to be sorely disappointed when the reality isn’t anything like we pictured. Does aiming for everything inevitably mean that we’ll end up feeling like we failed?

This is a complex topic, but I’d love to hear what you think! Do you think women can have it all? Or do you think we can have it all, just not all at once? And what does having it all mean to you?

PS – Hope you like the new Wednesdays! Where BTS initially sought to inspire and share, I hope that these columns will do the same, just in a new format.

{Image Credits: Justin Chung for GQ; David Pearson for Posters of Fortune}

 

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30 Comments

  1. 7.25.12

    V, I love this new series! So so inspiring and definitely something that everyone can relate to. Can’t wait to see next week’s topic!

  2. 7.25.12
    Rita said:

    love this new series!

    this article and the NYT article the busy trap have really impacted me over the last few weeks… I just got married and am about to finish my nighttime MBA program and find myself with more time than I’ve had in years… at first I really felt like a failure- id done everything I planned but still felt the same… I guess I thought I’d be different after everything. then I started to over schedule myself to fill in the time, which took away from the relationships I meant to cultivate. now I’m slowly but surely figuring out my priorities and new interests but focusing on managing and building my life intentionally. and constantly reminding myself- you can have it all, just not all at one time.

    woah, wrote a lot. clearly this hit home. thanks for sharing your take on this!

  3. 7.25.12
    eileen said:

    This and the nyt definitely have hit home with me recently. I have been thinking alot about what it means to have it all and I think that the definition will change through different parts of our lives. Right now for me it means working on my career but down the road it will mean focusing on my family…and I def think its all about being willing to set boundaries and say no and doing what will make you happy and not anyone else’s expectations. Great article Victoria, can’t wait for the next week!

  4. 7.25.12

    I love this new series. The more reality in blogs the better. I think thats why I love our calls so much, it brings blogging back to earth. And in terms of women having it all. I don’t really know. All I can say is that I won’t be able to continue the way I have been once I have kids. Something will have to give.

    • 7.25.12
      vmacandcheese said:

      I feel the same way too, even without the kids! But it’s silly to think that because you
      have kids and rebalance priorities, it means you can’t have it all or that you had to
      give up on something else. That’s why I think the framework around what it means to ‘have
      it all’ should shift too!

  5. 7.25.12
    Ana said:

    I agree that you can have it all, just not at once. I believe it due to personal experience that when one aspect of life starts to go exceptionally well, I’ve found that another aspect inevitably suffers. I think there’s a Bridget Jones quote out there somewhere that relays this message perfectly.

    Also, I look forward to these new Wednesday posts! I’m a new reader of your blog and I love it so far! Keep up the great work.

  6. 7.25.12
    Becca said:

    I love this new series. “Having it all’ is something I think about a lot….but as you say more in the sense of finding a way to balance my life. I am excited for this new series, and the men’s P.O.V.

    Looking forward to seeing more! I’m going to go read that article from the atlantic now.

  7. 7.25.12

    I think that having it all is an opinion. I know plenty of stay at home moms who believe they have it all. I also know plenty of women with no children who believe their careers and/or husbands and/or travelling provides it all. And I also know plenty of women who believe that having it all involves family and career.

    Personally, I have always wanted to be a loving, supportive wife and a caring, strong mother. So I have always planned on giving up working full-time when I have children. Luckily that is what my fiance always wanted the mother of his children to do as well. I’m sure I’ll touch on some part-time jobs or keep up my photography business after I quit my full-time job in a few years and I’m honestly looking forward to it! I’m not ready for all of that yet, I still want to be selfish and do more travelling before I have kids, but I am honestly excited about my future plans!

  8. 7.25.12

    Love this post, and the series concept! Something I’ve struggled with this year is finally accepting that I have only a few hours per day to do lots of things that are important.

    Once I accepted that I have essentially 4 free hours per weekday in which to exercise, eat, blog, read, watch tv (HBO show are important to me, I decided), and spend time with my husband and friends, I realized I was being really unrealistic in my expectations for myself. In my case, this meant cutting back on blogging in favor of exercise and books because I decided I want to be happier and healthier in these last years before we try to start a family.

    When I start feeling like a failure, I literally slap my own wrist and say “4 hours” and then focus on what I’m doing. 1 month in, it seems to be working, but I think being ambitious means that I’ll struggle with these feelings forever. Sigh.

  9. 7.25.12
    Lisa B said:

    I have a hard time defining what “having it all” would be. Sometimes I don’t even know what I want this minute!

  10. 7.25.12
    caitlin said:

    Love love love this new series!!

    I definitely don’t think it’s possible to have it all – it’s just too unrealistic. But I think we should all remember that to be happy and content with what we do have. We don’t always need to feel like we need more.

  11. 7.25.12

    What a fantastic series and such an interesting topic! I read the same article last week. In my opinion, women are now expected to do it all. To me “having it all” means artfully balancing career and family and yourself. Unfortunately, I have to yet to meet a woman who has found this balance. My life is so consumed by work right now, that I already feel guilty about my future children.

  12. 7.25.12

    I think I’d have to agree that women can have it all but not all at once. You can be career-focused, but you won’t have as much time for spouse and children. Or you can focus on being a great mom, but unless you have an extremely flexible schedule your career won’t advance as much. It is a difficult conundrum!

  13. 7.25.12
    Shannon said:

    First, this series sounds so intriguing! I am definitely excited for things continuing to “get real” here as you always do Victoria!

    It is interesting that most of your commenters don’t seem to have kids – it makes me wonder what your readership demographic looks like.

    I can say that I tended to agree with you on your points until 2011…when I gave birth to my son. About three months after becoming a mother, juggling a spouse working full time and in an executive MBA program while I worked full time, weird hours to accommodate transitional child care (since daycare waiting lists average 18 months in DC!) and maintaining my calligraphy business and blog…I hit a point where I broke down proclaiming the feminist movement had lied to me!

    Needless to say, the Atlantic Monthly article was refreshing to me – a chance for women to admit that it is not longer about keeping up with the Bill and Toms of the world, but rather redefining what the entire workforce looks like.

    It will be interesting to see what women of childbearing age do as the climb the ranks of business (Yahoo”s new CEO) and change the traditional 9 to 5 (7 to 7) work structure.

    But at the end of the day, I have a feeling that high achieving women will continue to fill their hours, and question how they can ever manage it all…because that is what we are, high achieving women who wouldn’t settle for mediocre.

    • 7.25.12
      vmacandcheese said:

      Yet another moment in which my comments need a ‘Like’ button!

  14. 7.25.12
    Nnenna said:

    Oh gosh, I’m not even sure what having it all means at this point in my life (I’m 22 and a year out of college). I’m at that point where I’ve graduated from college, which was honestly the main goal for the majority of my life, and it’s like “Now what?” I’m trying to figure out a new purpose/direction for my life, whether that’s going back to school, continuing with my current job, or switching to a new career. Ooof, definitely something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately!

    Thanks for keeping it real Victoria and I’m definitely liking the new Wednesdays!

  15. 7.25.12

    I don’t think ANYONE can have it “all” at the same time – not men OR women. We only have so many hours in the day. We only have so much energy. I think there are women who manage wonderfully as working mothers or even entrepreneurs and mothers. And are thriving – but I do think that being a high-powered executive (working 60/70 hour weeks) and being PTA president are mutually exclusive. No one should be expected to do it “all” – but we all have to find the balance that works best for us.

  16. 7.25.12

    You’ve hit on my main worry for at least the last year. I usually lay awake at night wondering how in the world I’m going to do it all. I’ve realized that I have to first understand what’s most important to me (my family) and put most of my energy toward that. I make sacrifices in other areas, but not so much that it takes away from me as a person, or leaves me feeling robbed of my dreams. I’m still pursuing my passions, but with less vigor than I was before, leaving me more energy to love my most prized possessions. Oh, and also, I’ve decided to live with the fact that my house won’t always be perfectly clean! :) PS- You’ve done such a great job of incorporating serious but meaningful topics into your blog. I always want to do the same, but feel that my attempts fall flat. Thank you for the inspiration and for keeping it real. What a breath of fresh air!

  17. 7.25.12
    julia said:

    i saw anne-marie slaughter on the colbert report and was really intrigued by her article … i have read some, but not all of it, so i won’t comment on that. however, i DO think that women CAN have it all and am a little sad that a lot of comments disagree. i also think that ‘having it all’ is totally dependent on each individuals perspective (echoing Victoria C’s comment) of what ‘it all’ means.

    anyways, i am excited by this new series and can’t wait to see what you have next!

    xo julesinflats.blogspot.com

  18. 7.25.12
    brighton said:

    I couldn’t be more excited Victoria! Really. I’m so thrilled!!!!

  19. 7.25.12

    For the first time in two weeks of 15 hour work days and no days off (I have two full-time jobs in an attempt to pay off my student debt and save up enough to be able to safely start my own art & design business), I am taking a moment to think to myself, “Why am I doing this to myself? This is not possible!”. Honestly my boyfriend is quite fed up with it and my house is a huge disaster, unsurprisingly enough.

    I like the idea that we can have it all, but not all at once, because that is what I’m trying to do – have it all – and it’s not working out so well, but I am happy to know that someday I will get to all of the things I want to do, just maybe not necessarily right when I wanted to do it. Reminds me of the saying, “You can do anything, but not everything.” Maybe it’s better to realize this and come to terms with it so you can take things slower and really soak up the experience of doing the things that matter most to you instead of juggling a bunch of meaningless side projects and having each day pass you by in an instant. It all depends on perspective & priorities.

  20. 7.25.12
    Nicola said:

    Oh, with such relief comes Wednesdays. Do I sense there is just the slightest revolution underway for a little more reality in the vast, oh so happy and upbeat world of blogging? A few less exclamation points may be welcome. A few less ‘ look at me, Miss Be and Do It All’ and more ‘ ‘sometimes I just don’t know which way is up’ …As women, we are far more likely to understand each other’s struggles in the midst of triumphs, too.

  21. 7.26.12

    I agree that you can have it all, just not all at once. It’s impossible to divide your attention across multiple things and expect to make progress in them all — you have to choose your priorities at the moment, and focus on those if you want to move forward. It’s a crazy balancing act, but I think the key is take things one day at a time and let your goals and what you want out of life grow and evolve as you do.

  22. 7.26.12
    Mary said:

    I love that you are going to start writing about this. Balancing everything in my life is something I have also been struggling with lately. I’ve begun to realize that I’m not allowing myself time to do the things I love because of things that need to get done. I think that having it all is different for each person, it depends on what makes them happy. For me, if I can figure out a way to get the most important things done and still have time for my passions, I will feel like I have it all.

  23. 7.26.12
    Molly said:

    People just worry too much about what others think about them and their lifestyles. Just do you and live your life as best suits you. If you want to work and have a nanny and be with your kids on nights and weekends, that’s fine! If you want to be a stay-at-home mom and devote your life to kids and home, that’s fine. If you want to travel the world and never marry or have kids or just marry or not marry at all, that’s fine! Different things work for different people. That’s what makes life so interesting – everyone is unique. There is no reason to judge or tell others what is the right thing to do. “Having it all,” as other commenters have said, has different meanings for everyone. There is absolutely no way to define it neatly. We are all so worried about what the other woman has or how her life is going that we get caught up in this “race” to be better or look better. What works for you, may not work for others. And that, my friends, is totally 100% acceptable. Don’t let society or The Atlantic tell you any different.

  24. 7.27.12
    Theresa said:

    Wonderful idea for a new series! I am/was a huge fan of BTS and I think this new series will fill its place quite nicely. Thank you for starting this series. The topics you select will undoubtedly be thought provoking. Case in point…
    Can we have it all? I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, “We can have it all, just not all at once.” I think this is the right approach. Admitting that we can’t have it all almost implies that we must give something up. I’m not willing to give up any of my dreams; I just have to prioritize.

  25. 7.27.12

    I would LOVE to read this series on a weekly basis. I have had such a hectic, anxiety-inducing week and it seems that all of my go-to blogs have expressed some type of stress going on in their lives. I have to assume it comes from “trying to have it all.” It is beyond hard to find balance, especially after kids, but I do believe you can “have it all.” It doesn’t depend on having and doing everything you want but more so being content with what your reality is. It really comes down to being able to realize that whatever your picture is right now…that is what you should focus on and enjoy. I say all this like I have it mastered but trust I DO NOT. I am reminding myself it as I type :)

  26. 8.24.12

    Gaby at The Vault Files just wrote on this topic too, and I love this quote “You can do anything, just not everything.” I think reality sets in at some point that although we know we can conquer the world and can prove it to ourselves, it isn’t necessarily what we should be doing. Running ourselves ragged? What’s the point? You find what your “all” means to you, and excel at that. For me it means running my small biz from home (not interested in growing it larger), spending quality time with my family on weekends, and getting social time in with meaningful friends. Maybe a trip here and there. And I’m happy!
    Great post V!

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