CHOG #29 - DO YOU "HAVE IT ALL" ?
What does that even mean? We hear it all the time and specifically women hear it whenever we decide to try and manage having a family, a job, and a life of our own – the nerve. The pursuit of “having it all”. What is “all”?
So, I looked it up. OMG – the number of self-help books with the actual title “Having It All” or “You REALLY Can Have it All” (an emphasis on Really, because evidently this author didn’t think the other books adequately got the message across that, yes, you CAN REALLY have it all) was hilarious. I wanted to order every single one of these books and read them. How exactly can you have it all – I wanted to know. How can these books not be on everyone’s shelf, dog-earred and worn ragged because we ALL want to HAVE IT ALL, don’t we? Well, when I took a little bit of a closer look, these books, and also articles that I found on this subject, were almost exclusively talking about women. Huh? Don’t men want to “have it all” too? Interesting.
In my book, Insert Giggle Giggle, Laughing Your Way through Raising Kids and Running a Business, my back cover mentions the “having it all” illusion. I wrote this synapsis of my book more than two years ago and I laughed at this cliché and the absurdity of its meaning. Again, what is "having it all"? I feel like I have lived a pretty large life. I have been fulfilled in so many ways, but have I had it all? How would I know? What if, in fact, my life has been very mediocre? I didn’t go to college, I had a small family business, not an empire, I only had one husband and only two children. Does this sound like I had it all? To me, it does. To you, maybe this sounds awful.
That’s exactly what I meant on my back cover description of my book – what an illusion any of our lives - the happiness, fulfilment, and success it means to us but not to others. I was a working mom and I feel like I managed it very well. I don’t think that either of my boys can cite an event of theirs that I missed. Now, I was fortunate to own my own business, so when push came to shove, I could just get up and leave, if I had to. But that wasn’t always so easy. It sometimes came with a lot of stress, manipulating several people’s schedules to fit mine, maybe leaving something undone that really should have been done, and many other things. Having it all in this scenario, may have meant something else had nothing. And really then, that meant that I really only had a part of “having it all” (my happiness to be at my child’s function) but at the expense of something else in my life suffering (a work obligation or responsibility). So, I would be interested to know what these experts, that thought they could give the rest of us directions on how to have it all, would have treated this situation which happens constantly to women, working or not. We always have multiples of things going on, that’s been my experience anyway. IF I go to a function for one of my sons, my work may suffer. IF I stay at work, then my child is disappointed. IF I decide to stay home all day and indulge myself with a day of doing nothing (or maybe attend to a lot of errands or home responsibilities), my 88 year-old mom may feel neglected. The choices never stop and the fall-out from each decision may be that something else suffers. Exactly how does any of these scenarios illicit the “having it all” way of living.
I ran across a New York Times Magazine article titled, The Complicated Origins of “Having It All”, written in 2015. It starts out discussing the 1982 book by Helen Gurley Brown, long time editor (and magazine “must have” of my young womanhood) of Cosmopolitan. I mean every time Rene Russo was on the cover, I was in heaven! This article describes how in 1982, Ms. Gurley Brown wrote, “precisely detailed instructions on everything a woman needs to know to “mouseburger” your way to the top”. “Mouseburger” being the phrase that Ms. Gurley Brown ascribed to herself and to other women that might not have started out with very much, weren’t pretty, or didn’t have other noticeable assets, and the phrase that she wanted the title of the book to actually be. The article cites some of these “instructions” as sleeping with your boss to get ahead in the corporate world and that you might have to have a “tiny touch” (is that like being a “little bit pregnant”?) of anorexia to maintain an ideal weight – huh? Boy, does that sounds like a wonderful way of “having it all”? – more like having a nervous breakdown it sounds to me. But this was seen at the time as a manual from an iconic businesswoman on how to really have it all….funny though, the article said the “motherhood” or children part of this equation was barely mentioned. Hmmm..
And is that all it’s about – the balance between having a job and having a family in the discussion about having it all? What about the millions of women that don’t have a job and/or don’t have children? Do they “have it all” or “have nothing”? What about those of us that are retired? We now have no career and probably no kids at home anymore – maybe we are now divorced or widowed? Did we have it all, experienced that wonderful of all illusions, only to now in our later life, have nothing? All interesting and very real-life scenarios for women.
And what about in Ms. Gurley Brown’s time, the Cosmopolitan woman, having to possibly sleep with her boss, have a “little” anorexia and (as later in the article explained) know all sorts of “tricks” to keep a husband? What about all that? Women at that time were the pioneers of the liberation movement, weren’t they? Well, I think so because we modeled that “Cosmo” behavior for decades and to some extent some women still do. Anything to get ahead – anything to look a certain way – anything to keep a man that maybe you shouldn’t want to keep – anything for the illusion of having it all.
What about the celebrities that I either admire or love to expose. Do they “have it all”? The “common folk” of us sometimes think they do. Money, prestige, power, beauty, gorgeous hair and perfect bodies – they “have it all”! But, depression, suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, multiple divorces, physical altering of themselves that is horrific to witness, all this and more is prevalent in this celebrity world. All the illusions are there – the reality, not so much.
Some days I feel like I have it all. When I got married and when I had my two children – I had it all. When I was there to witness the first time that Hayden qualified to compete in the Irish Dance World Championship – I had it all! When William received a full college baseball scholarship – I had it all! When Steve and I sold our business for more than we ever thought possible (and right before the pandemic hit thank God!) – I had it all! When I opened up the envelope with my first book in published form – I had it all! There are so many other achievements involving myself or those I love when I have thought to myself or said out loud, “Boy I’m so incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful life”. And then, there are days that I don’t feel any sense of achievement – what about those days? Should I say to myself, “Well you have other great days. You have other wonderful achievements. You are of value to so many people”. Or should I just take those days for the normal day that it is in the life of anyone (way more of these days than the “having it all” days) ~ just a day that’s not reflective at all about a statement of my life.
But if a normal day doesn’t make a statement about my life, then why should a day that’s full of achievement and affirmation that I have done whatever it takes to “have it all”, be the one I go with?
I have only been on Instagram for about three months, and this is the only social media I have. William told me that he chose to delete his Instagram a long while back and Hayden said that I need to stay off social media. Why? Because both of them see me spending sometimes hours a day scrolling through other people’s lives as well as waiting for people to comment on mine. Why do we have such an obsession to convince people that we “have it all”? I am as guilty of this as anyone AND I cannot believe some of the lives of people that I know, not celebrities, just everyday people, and what all they do! There are a couple of standouts in this realm – I mean, it looks like they REALLY do (to quote the author at the beginning of this Giggle Chog) have it all. But I know nothing else about their “real” life – just the gorgeous celebrations and events that they want me to see. But the illusion is there of “having it all”.
I know I “have it all”. You know why? Because I say so. My life has been full of ups and downs, successes and failures, and nothingness. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also know that I “have it all” because I am a wife and a mother. Yes, to the same husband for 43 years and to two wonderful boys. I also know that I “have it all” because I had a successful business and a professional career that I am proud of, and I am continuing to grow in new ways as a retiree. But if, for some reason, my life had been different – if I had made different choices – would I still think that I “have it all”. There is no way to know. My life is perfect just the way it turned out and “having it all” was never even on my radar. I just lived every day however it turned out, some good, some awesome, some mediocre, and some just plain awful. I hope that your path to “having it all” is as simple and perfect as that.
Always remember to insert a giggle giggle ~ Kay 😊