Sunday, June 24, 2012

Whoever Said We Could Have It All-Comments on The Atlantic's Article by Anne-Marie Slaughter

     Yes, some truths will "piss us off" because they make us aware of the cold realities that we had imagined were not there to begin with. In the Atlantic Magazine article, "Women Still Can't Have It All", Anne-Marie Slaughter outlines reasons why it is impossible for women today to both reach the pinnacle of their career and still lead satisfying lives as mothers and partners. She believes only women who are superhuman, rich or self-employed are capable of achieving these goals, meaning it is unattainable for most of us. I enjoyed reading her article and believe she has opened up discussions that hopefully will lead to positive changes for both women and society at large. As a psychologist I find her article to bring up the existential reality that we all wrestle with and need to accept in order to lead satisfying and happy lives: no woman, man, or child can have it all.  
     This reality is difficult for us to accept, especially because it involves mourning our losses, what it is we can not have. For example, when children become conscious of themselves and their surroundings they also become aware of their own limitations-their dependencies upon their care-takers and their inability to make their own choices (even when they are rational). The child comes to realize they are not the master of their universe. However, if the child is supported by sensitive parents who are aware of this inevitable frustration their child will face, they can help him or her come to accept the reality of what life is ultimately made-up of, negotiating and compromising. All of which helps us to mature and grow emotionally. This doesn't mean we do not have any control over our own destiny and can't live out the dream of having a certain career or achieving a personal goal. Rather, it means we need to be conscious of how our expectations will match-up with the realities of life. Chances are our expectations will not align 100% with our dreams-but should this make us unhappy? I don't think so. In fact I believe the opposite is true, as Gloria Steinem said, "The truth will set you free".
     Leading happy and satisfying lives involves being aware of and mourning the losses that each choice and decision we make entails. Once we become conscious of this, our expectations will be more in synch with our realities, thereby giving us the ability to make informed decisions. Informed and well-thought out decisions lead to emotional maturity, growth, and empowerment. Informed decisions also allow us to reach our full potential within the scope of our realities and abilities. This unequivocally maximizes our sense of happiness and satisfaction with life. Is this having it all? No, but it may just be the closest thing to it.

What does "having it all" mean to you? I would like to hear from you.

This post written by Dr. Paula Durlofsky, a psychologist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, Pa. To learn more about me and my practice, please visit my web page at www.drpauladurlofsky.com.


  1. Thanks for posting this! For me, "having it all" means relative contentment in the present moment over acceptance of where/what I am in life, as direct result of & based upon all limitations & choices.

  2. That's a great point and I really like your perspective! Thanks for commenting.