It’s my responsibility to teach my granddaughter this… Is it yours too? 51



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A study from the UK has suggested that mothers who tell their daughters they can “have it all” are actually setting them up for failure. Why? Because the study suggests that it is simply not true. It is an interesting suggestion and an even more interesting study in entirety, but the question remains, what is “having it all”?

Each generation of women has faced different challenges in life. My grandmother had strict principles – happy house, happy life. She was a true housewife and worked to clean, cook and look after herself and her five children. The idea of work wasn’t even considered and what is more, education wasn’t even an option past form school.

Compare this to my mother, who had a little of both worlds. She finished primary school and went on to high school – one of the first 23 students ever to enrol there. She became a teacher and tried to balance work and home life. My grandmother spent a lot of time looking after us to help out. Her biggest wish for my siblings and myself was that we get properly educated and give ourselves the best chance of a career, so we did.

I went to private school my whole life and then went to university to study pharmacology. I became a pharmacist and worked until I had children. I stopped working for ten years and returned just on part time. My mother continued working well past the date that she had to and she did this by choice. In fact, sometimes she frowned upon the fact that I chose to take so much time off work.

The thing is, each generation has a completely different idea of what “having it all” means and it is usually something different to what they are living. But does it set girls up for failure? Do we raise our expectations of what is “having it all” only to be let down as we live our life?

The thing is, when I look at my granddaughter, I see that she, already in primary school, has more opportunities to succeed in life than any woman in my family history. This is because success is relative to each individual. Sarah has more options, more pathways and more things to consider than any of us did and as her grandmother I tell her regularly, “you have the world at your feet and you can do anything” because quite frankly, it is true. She can “have it all” based on whatever that is that she wants to have – she can have a career, a relationship, be a mother and travel the world. Not necessarily all at once, but she can do it all in her lifetime. And isn’t that the important thing?

Shouldn’t we be teaching our daughters and granddaughters to appreciate and take advantage of the opportunities they have relative to when they have them? Rather than giving them the idea that everything has to happen all at once or they have missed their chance?

There is a fine line between encouraging young girls and being pushy; something that often gets confused. So what are the lessons that really matter, what are the things we should tell them to help them succeed and make the choices that will make the most of their opportunities?

Do we teach them run with every opportunity they get given when they have it? Do we teach them that education is the most important thing and the rest can come later? Do we teach them that having a career is the most important part of life because then they will never rely on a man? Or do we teach them that balance, enjoying life and having fun is the most important thing?

For me, I’ll continue to teach Sarah to enjoy life, and while she is at school, to try as many things as possible whether it be academics, sport or arts and to find what she enjoys. Because to me, being happy is the most important thing and if my grandchildren are happy, then I consider them successful. Regardless of whether they have achieved someone else’s opinion of “having it all”.


How will you know when your grandchildren are successful? What have you taught them success means? Share your thoughts in the comments below…

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Failure is just a pot hole in the road, we can choose to go around or fall in. Rather than having it all, we have choices. Far more important.

  2. “Not all at once” is the key to a happy life in my view. I too, worry that my grandchildren are being taught that it all comes easily.

  3. Better to tell them do your best at school ,then you may get the work you would like and be able to save to buy things you would like .

  4. Everyone’s definition of what makes us happy is different. We have to travel along our own pathway to fulfilling our dreams

  5. It’s not possible to have it all whatever gender you are we sacrifice something along the way and if I could change anything it would be spending more time just “being” with my children instead of worrying about a clean house, money etc.,

  6. Beautifully written. I couldn’t agree more. Having it all doesn’t mean all at the same time. So what if you can’t keep up with the Jones’ while you raise your kids? It’s the only ‘job’ that will be standing around your bedside as you take your final breath. Make the most of every opportunity with the knowledge that having it all isn’t just being able to buy the best all the time. It’s also those little arms around your neck and a little whisper of ‘I love you, Mummy,’ after a morning of boring housework and patiently teaching them how to make cupcakes that is worth more than a thick pay packet when they’re at their most vulnerable and most needy – and most inquisitive. And then down the track a word of encouragement from your colleagues and a sense of accomplishment when you achieve a new skill or complete a project, knowing you had the best of both worlds albeit a few years apart. There’s a season for everything but sadly society – and our peers sometimes – almost demand that we do it all at the same time. I think it’s so sad when our little children have to ‘fit’ into our lifestyle at the time when they need us the most.

    2 REPLY
    • Jeni ~ This is brilliant.
      ” So what if you can’t keep up with the Jones’ while you raise your kids? It’s the only ‘job’ that will be standing around your bedside as you take your final breath. “

    • Thanks so much, Leone O’Sullivan 🙂 No career path could ever take the place of those precious few years with my girl. And I have had it all, albeit not the best or most expensive of everything, but time with my only child before she started school, a fabulous 11 years as school secretary at her schools so our hours and holidays matched, and then forging a new career as a court reporter when she was in uni and then married and a mum herself. And now in the last couple of years as a novelist! Yep. certainly the best of all worlds – without having to forsake that precious time with her.

  7. You can’t teach your grandaughters anything their mother’s set their examples for their daughter’s and not many mothers are being listened too in this day and age sad but true

  8. Great article & well written .Pharmacy is a flexible career choice for women …Have it all but not at once… is a saving grace. Take the opportunities as they arise

  9. I think the most important part is the fact that they do have more choices than we or my mother did. Good article. I am very proud of both my granddaughters and I am interested in things they have done no matter what the outcome.

  10. I believe in failure, it can teach us how to fix problems, if for example you say it was someone else fault that u failed (as a child) a test or sport or say never mind u did your best it’s saying that u are doing well, it’s not teaching how to do it a better way. I think if u learn to fix problems u are better prepared in the world as an adult.

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