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Can Anyone Have It All?

I have a very distinct memory of, when I was in elementary school, my family having Chinese food every Friday night for dinner.  It was the only night of the week that we all sat around the table and ate as a family.

Most other nights my mom just gave us what we were having to eat in front of the television (there were lots of these TV dinners for kids that had fried chichen and tater tots – mmm tater tots).  Mom would eat sometime after that, alone in the kitchen and then, hours later, she would serve my his dinner when he got home.  He worked long hours and had a long commute and so he ate alone. Except for Fridays, when we were young. That tradition ended by the time I hit junior high school.

He couldn’t have it all.  A good job, a house, two cars, kids that he spent quality time with.  He had the family and the stuff, but he had to live without the quality time.  As did many men of his generation.  And they did it without thinking too much about it because that was the way things were.  My mom quit her job when she got married. That was also the way things were.

Anyway, this is what came to mind as I read ’s post, Girls, forget “having it all”, about the British headmistress who pointed out that maybe it’s time that girls were told that having it all wasn’t as easy as it seemed.

I happen to think she made some sensible points.  Encouraging blind optimism in the face of potentially overwhelming challenges isn’t helpful.  I can think of more than one woman I know who was driven to despair because her attempt to have it all didn’t quite work out the way she thought it would.

But then, and I’ll admit that my perspective on this can’t possibly be fair because I never tried to “have it all” and spent my 20s and early 30s married to my job. Maybe the probem isnt’ that girls can’t have it all but rather that no one can.  Again, I look to my dad and the men of his generation who, quite frankly, barely saw their kids during the workweek.  Perhaps it’s impossible for any person to work more than 40 hours a week (plus commuting time) and spend quality time with their family?

I’m not suggesting that women (and men) have to choose between career and family.  Rather that we be more realistic about what can and can’t be done in a single day or week.

Anyway, that’s my question:  Is it possible for a person – MAN OR WOMAN – to work more than 40 hours a week and spend quality time with their family?

  • Yes, absolutely. (18 votes)
  • No. There’s just not enough time in each day. (29 votes)
  • Maybe. It depends on the circumstances. (283 votes)
  • Other. Please explain in the comments. (3 votes)

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13 to “Can Anyone Have It All?”


  1. OpinionatedGift says:

    It’s true. You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?

    OK, Steven Wright aside….

    I think one of the things we are learning too is to ask ourselves DO we really want everything? I think its more we think we are supposed to want everything and in the end, our list of wants is smaller than we think.

    The next steps in work society must involve this “work/life” balance which isn’t supported very well in corporate America, despite the HR language you read in their orientation of PeopleSoft websites. There are still lots of fathers who don’t see their kids on weekdays so that the company can have a larger market share of some global something or other.

    When we start to prioritize better personally, both men and women, then we might get a better sense of the “all” we want four ourselves.

  2. Momma Sunshine says:

    I think that as a society we all need to be more realistic about what we can andcan’t accomplish in our lives. How can we possibly have time to enjoy life is we’re all so busy running around trying to get things done?

  3. missdtm says:

    About a year ago, I met a woman in my career field who is extremely successful and well respected. In a very honest convo w/ a few of us, she told us, “unfortunately, you can’t have it all-the marriage, career, social life. At some point, something breaks. And in my case it was my marriage.” I can’t help but feel like that’s the truth. Although I hope to have it all, I think people need to be realistic…how much can one person truly handle? I guess that’s why I’m in my late 20′s and not married…

  4. starangel82 says:

    I grew up with a workaholic father. He’d work 50-60 hour weeks. I missed him a lot and it caused a good bit of strain on my parent’s marriage. Eventually he had to choose… fortunately he chose his family.

    You can’t have it all.

  5. aGirlNamedMe says:

    No. Can’t have it all.

    Some days (years), the career gets all of the love and affection that should go to your family. Sometimes, quality family time gets in the way of your career.

    The good thing is – we’re all in the same situation. No one is doing it all. We make choices everyday and work at creating balance.

  6. pansophy says:

    I voted no. I think one of the biggest disservices to women was telling them they could. Men have never ‘had it all’ either.

  7. Jackie summers says:

    Have had it all, have lost it all, WILL HAVE IT ALL AGAIN.

  8. grad student says:

    I think this is one of the biggest disservices that has been perpetrated on girls (women). You cannot have it all. SG (and many others) hit the nail on the head… NO one can have it all. My Dad worked long hours most of my life; my Mom took care of the home and kids. Many times, Dad would come home late and even if we were able to spend time, he was tired and had to sleep early to do another 12-hour day. I missed a close relationship with my Dad growing up; we are pretty close now. I also know he has been worried about it. He mentioned to my wife once that he wonders if he did right by working so much and not being around. He was worried.

    If you have a home, yard, full time+ job, family and try to be all things to all of them, something is going to break. Women, look at the Men who ‘have it all’ and they really don’t. Something is sacrificed. Not saying it is a bad thing, just that it is.

    If at all possible, I think kids should have a parent at home, at least through junior high. I don’t have kids, so that is easy to say. Also, note I said parent. House husbands, while rare, can and do exist. So, I voted no. You can’t have it all.. something suffers. And that is true for Men and Women.

  9. grad student says:

    @ pansophy Just realized I used the same term as you… disservice. Plus, you summarized my rambling post with 2 lines. :)

  10. Simone Grant says:

    For the record, I answered maybe. I’d like to think that if someone wanted a family and a career that they could find a balance, but only if they had a very supportive partner, and an equally supportive employer. In other words, it’s not impossible but not something that everyone can accomplish.

  11. Black Iris says:

    The unfortunate answer is that a man can work more than 40 hours a week and spend quality time with his family IF he has a wife who is handling things for him.

    I saw some data once that showed that fathers married to women who stayed home spent much more time playing with their children than fathers married to women who worked full or part-time. (They were not spending tons of time with their children and their wives spent more time with them, but they were getting some quality time with them.)

    Other things that can help you spend more quality time with your children – working from home, flexible work hours, a shorter commute, and sometimes, money.

    Of course, you can’t spend as much time with your children if you work 40+ hours a week as if you stay home with them, no matter what.

  12. grad student says:

    @ Black Iris… that goes both ways though. A woman can work 40+ hours per week and spend quality time if she has a husband who is handling things for her.

    Granted, the Househusband is still very rare (I think), but the story seems to be that if there is a home parent and a working parent, then both get more quality time when compared to single working or working couple families. The key is having someone at home doing that part of the work.

    @SG I guess I may agree with you, but it depends on ‘have it all’. Having a career and a family is possible (obviously, many people do it). But if ALL means as much as possible at each, then I think no. Even if you have a househusband, the more you work the less family time you have. Of course, there is the quality time argument, but I really am not sure about that. What is quality time? Is it an activities packed hour every day? Hey, we don’t have much time but we swim, take golf lessons, go to a book club, etc etc.

    Or, maybe 2 hours of just laying in the grass and imagining cloud creatures is higher quality?

  13. Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles says:

    Amen to this post, Simone!

    I voted “Other” because, like the commenter above, I’m not sure what quality time is supposed to be. If you think it’s sitting down to dinner as a family every night, maybe you couldn’t accomplish that with a full-time work schedule. If you think it’s spending every Saturday on a family outing, then you might very well be able to do that.

    When you think about it, this idea that you can “have it all” is very recent. And what exactly is the “it” in that phrase? Happiness in every aspect of your life? Success in everything you do? How exactly would you define success? What aspects of your life count when you’re calculating whether you have “it”–marriage, kids, career, hobbies, friendships, travel experiences, community involvement? Until the information age, life looked very different, and people didn’t necessarily aspire to find fulfillment in all the ares we expect to find it in today. For example, to many people, work was work, something you did to put bread on the table, not to expand your personal horizons. Family time was helping the kids with homework questions and tucking them into bed; there wasn’t any yardstick for whether it was “quality” or not.

    We’re supposed to be living in an era in which we have more freedom than ever. So why are there even more rules for how we should live happily ever after?