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…