You Can’t Have it All

Tomorrow, I’m heading to Maine for a vacation with my husband and in-laws. I’m looking forward to hiking in Acadia National Park, taking some pictures, and working on my laptop. That’s right, I’ll be working.

The fact that I’m choosing to work reminds me of a woman I once observed when I was people watching in downtown Princeton. She was dressed in a woman’s skirt suit and had three-inch heels on. (She looked fantastic; this was no cheap suit.) Trailing behind her were her two children, probably about four and six years old. The kids were carrying bags and she was carrying a box of pizza. She was frazzled and was trying to make sure that her kids kept up with her.

This woman was trying to have it all – a high-powered job and kids. Nothing against women who want high-powered jobs and kids, I understand wanting both. The thing is, you can’t have it all.

Sure, if you’re a woman you can have a corporate job and kids, but you will struggle to spend quality time with family. In January, Businessweek featured an article on stay-at-home dads who are married to women in high-level corporate jobs.  Instead of hiring nannies, many couples choose to have one parent stay home, and in this case it’s the husband.

If you want to make tons of money and want to have summers off too, you’ll have to decide which one you want more. Making lots of money usually comes with hard work and having two to three months off doesn’t go with most high-paying jobs.

If you want a high-powered job and want to live a balanced life – have lots of time for friends and family – you’ll have to decide which you want more. You can’t have both.

Last month, I went on a short trip to Puerto Rico with my mother. She was appalled when I told her that I had to work. “This is a vacation! What’s the point of being in Puerto Rico of you’re going to work?” she said.

But I didn’t let her reaction stop me. Every morning we sat overlooking the beach, drank our coffee, and read the NYT. Some days we went for a walk. And when it was time to work, I pulled out my laptop and enjoyed fantastic views. I wasn’t on a complete vacation from work, but I still rather have to work in Puerto Rico rather than not go away at all.

And at the end of the trip, my mom said, “Gee, I’m pretty impressed with how much work you got done.”