Pop Mom Daily: What Does Having It All Look Like? Famous Chef And Mom Says Balance is BS.

November 9, 2015  |  

Photograph: BBC/Shine/MasterChef

Is having it all is a myth? It’s a question I struggle with everyday as a writer and mother of two, who dreams of one day taking over the world. Doing homework with my kindergartner is a daily ritual that I’ve begun to treasure, and sometimes I fear how much career success will impact that time. As a result, I spend a lot of time sitting between two chairs.

Do I really want to take over the world?

“At a certain point, women have to decide how much they want their career versus having a family. There’s no BS about it – the truth is you’ve got to put it first to do well,” explains Monica Galetti to The Guardian. “I’ve seen many amazing chefs, girls, come into the kitchen and then give it up to be with their boyfriend. Would he do that for her?”

Galetti’s a celebrity chef and judge on MasterChef in the UK, and as a married mother of one, perhaps she’s the perfect person to burst the bubble of ladies who think that reaching the higher levels of chefdom, or higher career levels period, will come easy. It’s a tough pill to swallow for many of us who want to believe that it’s possible to have it all.

But then I see women like Shonda Rhimes who adopted two kids and had a third child through a surrogate, and I’m optimistic because she’s obviously balancing career and motherhood at the highest level. And even though she doesn’t like to answer questions about how she does it because she feels that it’s sexist, we can assume it’s going well because she chose to have three kids. Even Ms. Fabulosity herself, Kimora Lee Simons, just got remarried and had her fourth kid. Watching her former reality TV show was one of my favorite pastimes because she made having it all look easy and fun. Now I know that reality TV isn’t 100 percent reality, and there’s tons that we didn’t see, but the truth is she too keeps having kids, so it’s possible.

Even accomplished chef Emily Watkins, who runs the kitchen at an award-winning UK restaurant and has four kids, thinks that Moncia Galetti’s words are too harsh. Emily told The Guardian: “What she said is a little off-putting to girls because it makes you feel that your family and your career are mutually exclusive. People need to have more confidence in the industry and realize that you’re not going to be repelled for being a woman. The demand for good chefs is so fierce that it’s an employee’s world.” Great! Mothers can find success in the professional kitchen.

But then I have to question her point when I discover that she went into labor with her first child while in the kitchen, the second and third she worked up until the day before she gave birth, and the fourth she claims to have had more balance because she was off a week before giving birth, BUT she went straight back to the kitchen two days after she left the hospital after having her baby. The only other woman I heard of doing something similar was Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer who went back to work two weeks after giving birth. And I thought she was bad. These women are making it tough for the rest of us because maternity leave starts looking like a vacation.

If that’s what having it all looks like? No thanks.

But maybe it’s not a question of whether we can have it all, but what having it all looks like?

It seems to be something that award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein, one of my favorite guests judges on Top Chef, seems to have figured out. Apparently, she was running four restaurants, but made a conscious decision to scale back when her son was born. Today, she has one restaurant, a few bakeries and consulting gigs. It still sounds like a lot, but it’s less than the 18-20 hours she says she was spending in the kitchen before. So while she may not be standing on top of the chefing empire, she sounds happy, and maybe that’s having it all.

Honestly, I like being around for my kids and I like having a career too, so I’m not going to give up on having it all. But I will shift my mind around what it looks like because what it means to me is going to be different from what it means to someone else. Maybe I won’t take over the world, but I’d be cool with America.

Check out Erickka Sy Savané’s column, Pop Mom Daily, right here on Madamenoire or visit PopMomDaily.com. Before Erickka became a writer/editor, she was a model, actress, and MTV VJ. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Jersey City. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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