How The Expectation Of Trying To “Have It All” Is Hurting Us All

Jennifer Humphries Working Parent

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I am almost 40 years old, and with my age comes at least a little wisdom; wisdom I wish I had possessed many years before this point in order to save myself much needless heartache.

When I turned 25 I was a wife, a mother, a professional with a job, and a volunteer leader for my church with some fairly large responsibilities. Unfortunately, back then, I was also a card carrying perfectionist. I remember feeling stretched in so many different directions with moments of almost bone crushing despair when I felt like I was not fulfilling something in the way I thought it needed to be done. Which was perfectly.

I remember one night rocking my then 6 month old daughter to sleep and worrying that my inadequacies as a mother would mess her up. Because back then it seemed a certainty.

You see I was raised in the burgeoning society of girl power during the 80’s and 90’s, where girls and women could be and do anything. We could be professionals, scholars and mothers, who still came home and enjoyed wonderfully rich family lives. I unrealistically expected to be able to do ALL of that.

This is where I wish the current version of me with almost 2 decades worth of experience could sit down that younger version of myself and talk some sense into her. It’s too late for that, but maybe it’s not too late for you reading this.

I am going to say something that might be an unpopular sentiment, but it’s true. The whole “You can have it all” philosophy is crap. You can’t. And if you are selling this, telling others, especially other women that this should be the norm or putting up the facade that you are living testament to “having it all” you really aren’t helping.

That is one of the gripes I have with modern day feminism, you do not have to DO or BE it all in order to be a feminist or even in order to be an example of what modern-day womanhood should look like. As women we beat ourselves up enough when we feel like we are failing in one aspect of our lives and we absolutely DO NOT need society helping us to hold the mallet over our head.

I believe there are so many women who suffer because of perceived failures that really stem from unrealistic expectations that are squarely rooted in ridiculous societal demands.

Women should be empowered to use their skills and seek out opportunities that match those skills. This may mean we are at home with children or that we are “working” mothers. I despise that phrase by the way. I think it was created by someone who wanted to make women feel inferior. How about instead we begin calling our self a woman who is also a wife, a mother, professional, single, etc. Don’t take the other moniker. You deserve more respect than that. That is what I wished modern day feminism more closely resembled.

So let me repeat this just in case you missed it the first time, you do not have to be perfect or “have it all” in order to be a good woman.

You already are one.

It took me decades to realize that my humanity and imperfections do make for a good woman. Some days I am an awesome mother, some days I am not. Some days I am a fabulous PR professional. Other days I am just a mediocre one. Although we of course have to provide for ourselves and our families, we need to allow ourselves the grace to not expect to be perfect in all things at all times.

As women we also need to learn to say no and mean it.

Just because you may have 4 children does not mean you need to be the PTO President. You don’t need to add unnecessary tasks onto your professional life just because you think it will make others “respect your professionalism.” Tell me you haven’t done something like that at least once in your life and realized late into the night as you sat typing some frivolous document just how dumb saying “yes” actually was…

Obviously I have, and in case you were wondering I actually stopped typing. Small victories make for big epiphanies sometimes.

We need to begin to respect the woman who says, “Thank you for asking, but no that it is not something I feel able to do right now”. Instead of looking down on her, perhaps it would be better to take the viewpoint that saying “no” was the right call for her, her family, and whatever project she wasn’t going to really be able to put her “all” into. I know that, personally, I much prefer the woman who is honest in what she can do.

So if you are woman who is sitting here reading this right now who is feeling like a failure I want to make sure that you understand you are not. There is nothing wrong with being perfectly imperfect and true failure only happens when you stop trying. If you are still trying, you are winning and the work you are doing is of worth. It is far easier to pretend to be perfect, but it takes real courage to accept our imperfections and to still see ourselves as someone worthy of love and respect.

My hope is that right now you can see all the good that is in you. Because it is there and always has been.


About the Author

Jennifer Humphries

Jennifer is a published children's book author, PR consultant, blogger and mom to 4 kiddos that range in age from teens to toddlers. She lives in sunny southern Arizona with her family. To see more of her writing visit .

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