Friday, 17 October 2014

Is having it all possible or even desirable?

Some time ago I read an article about career women "having it all".  Indra Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCola, was interviewed on stage at the Aspen Idea Festival and she related what happened on the day her appointment as chief executive was announced.  She was overwhelmed (who wouldn't be!) and decided that instead of working until midnight (clue to being appointed here perhaps??) she hurried home to tell her family.  When she arrived she didn't get a chance to tell her news immediately because her mother asked her to go out and get some milk as there was none left with the remark "your news can wait".  This throws up a lot of questions (why had no one thought to stock up on the milk?  couldn't someone else have got it?) but it illustrates a point or at least the point that she was making "I might be chief executive in the office but I'm mom at home." Does that mean she doesn't really have it all?  How do you define "having it all"?

The average working mother knows that when she comes home there will be a dozen different things calling for her attention.  She will have to cook the evening meal, touch base with the kids on homework/school, most likely put a load of washing into the machine, maybe iron a few shirts/blouses for the morning.  And she has to keep juggling dentist's appointments, sports days, shopping, birthday presents and birthday celebrations with all the other things on her agenda.  Even if she has a child minder or a cleaning lady she still has to organize things around this.  The kids get sick and she works from home if she can or has to work round the problem. Men, on the other hand, take out the rubbish and do all the DIY jobs around the place, maybe a bit of gardening too but do not put in as much time on these chores as women and are not responsible for the overall running of the household.
I know, I know - there are exceptions to this where the man of the house shares in all of it and is a tower of strength, it's just that I never met such a paragon.

Mumsnet, the largest UK website for parents and a terrific place to visit as it has just about everything, recently surveyed 1000 working mothers.  The survey showed that women spend 10 hours a week on housework and men spend 5 hours.  A separate survey by the BBC's Radio Four Woman's Hour ( and look under the letter "W")  presents more or less the same picture.  The programme is launching an online "chore wars" calculator intended to enable couples to settle who does most around the house. I am inclined to think that if you have to start checking off on a calculator what each partner does, then you don't actually have a partnership.

So that's it.  You might have it all at work but when you come home it's all gone.  Or you might decide that having it all isn't what you are about and take on a less demanding job.  This has to be decided on an individual basis.  Currently, women are the ones who give birth and by virtue of that fact they automatically become "homemakers".  This is an honorable profession - and profession it is, to be ranked right up there with running a company.  So you can have it all once you have defined what "all" really means.  The main thing is you feel comfortable with your chosen role whether that is full time mom, career woman who is also mom, or more mom than career.  It's your decision and you don't need to explain it to anyone.

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