Can Women Really Have It All?


When I was a school girl I was always told that the world was for the taking and that I could do whatever I wanted. My young and impressionable mind actually even believed that I could be whatever I wanted to be and juggle family, career and time for myself. Now that my generation is all grown up it is clear that the idea that you can ‘have it all’ is far from true and yet many of us still believe it. If you are really honest with yourself can you really have a career, children and time to go out with your partner, see a film, have dinner or even go to the gym? I don’t believe you can.  A recent survey by Custard & Crumble revealed that over 80% of women believe that you can have a career and children but if finances were not taken into account 71% would choose to stay at home. Why do the majority believe you can work and raise a family but if they were given the choice they would choose to stay at home?  Surely it is because you really can’t have it all?

You can’t have a high-flying career and make it to every harvest assembly, nativity play, good work assembly or prize-giving. It is unlikely that you can go along to parent reading sessions or volunteer as a ‘helper’ for school trips. You can’t manage a demanding job with long hours or international travel and respond every time you get a call from school to say that your little one has been taken ill and needs to go home. You can do both but you will usually end up compromising one or the other, or both. If you have a job that pays well you can pay a nanny to take care of the childcare so that you can concentrate on a career. Some rely on family to care for poorly children and to attend the endless stream of invitations to school events, but as families rarely live close to eachother anymore and the retirement age rises grandparents are becoming less readily available to pitch in and help when times get tough.

Of the over 70% who believe you can have a career and have children many respondents qualified their answer saying you can do it but it ‘depends on how understanding your boss is’ or ‘you need a flexible career’, or it ‘depends on your support network’. If you really believe you can have it all there should be no qualifications.

When I was a school girl what my teachers should have been saying to me is ‘you can do whatever you want to do but you will have to choose between family and work and if you don’t want to make that choice then choose a career where you can work from home, work for yourself, or which is very flexible’.  As a young career women those who left to look after their children were seen as weak. We told ourselves that you just have to be more organised or you need to want to make it work, when we should have been supporting women who want to take a step back in their career whilst their family needs them. The culture of our workplaces will not change until we stop deluding ourselves that in the current work culture we can’t have it all.

The governments current answer is to make childcare cheaper and increase the ratios in nurseries but are you really having it all when you drop your baby off at nursery before 8am and pick them up after 6pm so that ‘key workers’ become the person that your child spends most time with? Governments should be working with businesses to create valued part time work, jobs that exploit technology to allow parents to work from home, job shares, or flexible hours.  We have to be more honest about the barriers that exist so that we can start to erode them and allow our workplaces to become more family friendly. Only then will it be true that you can have a career and have it all.


This is a guest post by Kirsty Hornblow who writes on her blog at Damson Lane.