The short answer is you can’t. The bigger problem is that here in America, we try to teach people, men and women alike, that you can. Nearly every single moment of every single day results in sacrificing one thing for another. Often these sacrifices are made on a smaller scale: this dress for those pants, this time on this work task for time on that work task, cooking dinner instead of cleaning the out the dishwasher, making love to your husband instead of ironing your clothes for the next day. In the scheme of things, they are small decisions that matter to your moments, but are not life-changing or significant to anyone outside of your family.
And then there are the bigger decisions, the ones we have to make when we’re considering whether we can have it all: do I work or stay at home, do I stay late at the office charting or do I get home in time for dinner, do I go to away games or simply the ones in town, do I check over my children’s homework or trust them to do it themselves, do I take a job that requires a lot of travel, but more money, or do I limit my career to enhance my family?
These questions seem to be posed to women more often than men. Because of our feminist predecessors, my generation is not only encouraged to want it all, we’re often diminished by our elderly female relatives when we don’t make strides towards having it all. We even do it to ourselves when we whisper snide comments at parties or have gossipy lunch sessions with like-minded girlfriends. “Well that’s fine for her. She can stay home if she wants to, but I can run the house and get to work every day.” And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Life isn’t about having it all. Life is a series of adjustments, of sacrifices, and of reorganizing your priorities. While I certainly have no desire to ever limit my daughters, I would want to caution them: it is right and good to have a high-powered career, to get plenty of education, to have a lot of responsibility at work. However, it is also right and good to be a wife and a mom and let your career take a bit of a back burner. It’s not particularly possible to be successful at wifedom and momdom and still be a high-ranking employee. Something always takes a back-burner in life. And that’s the beauty of being an adult: you get to decide what your priorities are. You get to decide. It’s the beauty of life. You get to decide what your priorities are and then you get to do your damndest to make those things happen.
I don’t want to limit anyone, particularly women, who I think are limited all too often as it is. However, I think it’s extremely important that we let go of this American mentality that you can have it all, all the time, at any time you want if you just work hard enough, sleep less, medicate more, and are just motivated enough. It’s simply not true. There are always, always, always sacrifices. It’s up to you to find the ones you’re willing to make.