How I Learned To Stop Asking: “Can I Have It All?”
It was your typical evening filled with networking, free wine and yummy cupcakes. The event’s purpose was to prepare millennial women to become their generation’s next leaders. But they already know how to do that. What they really wanted to know was the question of the hour: “Can I have it all?”
We all know that question is played out like an 8-track but it was interesting to observe how the panel of women leaders reacted, when it was asked. The panelist consisted of three black women and two white. Before responding to the question, the black women sheepishly looked at one another. They offered stories of the typical shoulda-woulda-couldas and encouraged young women to find their mate now. As older women, they reminisced on too many nights going to events solo, only to find themselves going back to an empty hotel room to drink champagne and kiss the news goodnight. Interestingly enough, the two white panelists grinned enthusiastically to answer. As their wedding bands danced on their hands, they eagerly described their journeys of becoming wives and mothers. Their body language and tone made it seem as though dating, marriage and motherhood came so easy, like they ordered them from Amazon. Why do black women make it seem like we have to get on a Struggle Bus to achieve what our white counterparts seem to effortlessly ease into?
One of the most powerful women in business, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook was heavily criticized for her book Lean In. Critics believed the “Lean In” world Sandberg writes of is only applicable to white women. When it comes to love, Sandberg suggests any career driven woman should look at marriage differently:
“Sandberg states: Many women talk about the importance of “supportive” partners who share the household duties and childcare responsibilities; I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is. I don’t know of a single woman in a leadership position whose life partner is not fully supportive of her career. No exceptions”
Black women are often told their education and career drive serve as road blocks to love and that it is best to not shine their light too much or their partners will become jealous. Also, culturally, many black women are told to focus on their academics rather than creating personal relationships with the gender of their interest.
Joy Chen of Wall Street Journal China believes women should not even marry before thirty. Before you say “Girl, bye,” Chen offers practical advice for a woman to have the marriage that would balance her career. She suggests women should take a head-hunting approach to dating:
“Falling in and out of love with different people is important to helping you better understand what you don’t want in a relationship as well as what you do want. This is your only chance in life to have a range of romantic and sexual experiences, so get out there and have some fun.”
Sandberg and Chen both offer women the opportunity to get to the root of what they want. A woman will stop asking if she can have it all once she tries it all. The art of life is to explore how you feel with what or whom you engage in. Whether it be your career or relationship, only you define what it means to have it all.