Why “Having It All” Is Hogwash

Having it all is hogwashPepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi made headlines recently when she announced in an interview that women can’t have it all. For some, this revelation was a taste of freedom from the societal trope of the busy mom who shoulders more than her share of the load.

I have to admit that, for me, Nooyi’s statement sounds like more of the same patriarchal garbage that gets passed around under the guise of gender equality. As long as we are entertaining the idea of women being a separate class from men, a class that needs to have “it all,” we are living in the dark ages.

Being a working parent is difficult. Balance can be nearly impossible. And it’s not a rare situation. In North Carolina, more than 2/3 of kids live in households where all parents work full-time outside the home. So why is it that we spend so much time pondering how working moms can make it to PTA meetings and board retreats while giving dads a pass?

The truth is, there is no “all” to achieve. Until scientists find a way to extend the day past 24 hours, working parents will always struggle. During the recent White House Summit on Working Families, every single speaker, from the First Lady to a mom who was recently unemployed, described feeling nearly undone by trying to keep kids safe, their jobs secure, and their bodies healthy. In almost every case, something has to give.

By perpetuating the stereotype of the woman who lacks balance, Indra Nooyi just reinforced guilt for the scores of women who feel that because they aren’t the best at everything, they aren’t succeeding. The conversation needs to turn to a place where parents can give themselves the latitude they need to just get through the day, instead of creating a dialogue where everyone fails if they don’t run themselves ragged chasing an unobtainable dream.

As a woman, a daughter, and a friend, it’s my job to bolster up my peers. And that means not giving even a second thought to the idea that a woman can fail or succeed at “having it all.” If your children are loved, you’ve worked as hard as you could, and you are still standing at the end of the day, then that’s all the measure of success you need.




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  1. Nancy Pekar

    Bravo, Jen. I get so annoyed at the “plight of the working mom” narrative. I’m infuriated when reporters on NPR and the like will ALWAYS ask high-powered female (and NEVER ask male) professionals to comment on how they balance work and family. But you make the point that *everyone* has to balance their work and non-work lives!


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