Can women have it all?

Indra Nooyi said no, we can’t. And when I read that article, back when it was published, I gladly agreed with her. Gladly, because it was such a relief to have someone (and someone big, at that) say that we can’t have it all and that’s ok. Because one does get tired of constantly trying to catch up and be omnipresent and fail miserably. And then die of guilt, that all-pervading discontent-inducing guilt. So, it was a good thing. Women can’t have it all. Phew! I can stop trying now.

And then yesterday, I was thinking about this for no reason (I do that – I have to keep reminding myself to not be so hard on myself) and it occurred me that Nooyi might have got that incomplete, if not all wrong.

So here’s what I think now.

Women CAN have it all, provided they (and only they!) decide what their ‘all’ is.

How that does work? Easy. I decide what I want. I decide what makes me content and happy. Not my husband, not my child, not my parents, not my in-laws, not my neighbor, not the judgmental women in my book club, not my grocer, not my hairstylist and not my invisible BFF. Me. I decide. That’s how simple it is. Well, simple to say that is.

If my happiness lies in a 9 to 4 job that doesn’t pay me the sky and I spend the rest of my time taking care of my child/spouse/parents, then that’s what I’ll do. In that case, since I set my own expectations, I can have it all. Yes, the friend-who-means-well might think I’m becoming a dull boring woman by not showing any interest in making my life ‘happening’. Yes, the yummy-mummy-in-the-playground thinks I’m not spending enough time with my child, sending him to play with a nanny. Yes, my coworker thinks I don’t work enough just because he can’t see me at my desk at 4:01 PM. I have to ignore all that. Yep, it’s tough. Yep, it’s near impossible because one has been conditioned to care about what others think. That’s conditioning I have to break. That’s conditioning I should not inculcate in my son. My liberation and my consequent having-it-all lies in how successfully I break the thoughts that creep up questioning MY own decisions about what makes ME happy.

It’s a difficult thing, but it’s not impossible. I think all the women out there who vehemently disagreed with Indra Nooyi knew this all along. They were having it all, because they knew what their ‘all’ was. At least they knew what they were trying to have. Me, on the other hand? No frickin’ clue. Apparently my ‘all’ was decided by everyone but me. No wonder I was failing and falling apart. I was trying to hard to achieve that golden balance that the world set for me, that it didn’t even occur to me that that balance was not balanced after all. It wouldn’t be, because it wasn’t mine.

See, this is the deal, right – there is no right or wrong. There is only ‘are you happy or not’. All things considered, it’s as basic as that. So, let’s set our own ‘all’. And we can have it. If ever we feel we can’t, we should go back and see how many in our list of ‘all’ were chosen by others for us. I guarantee there will be at least one. Throw that out the window. We’ll do fine.

Come, now. Let’s have it all. Because, dude, we can!!! 😀