You can’t have it all, the game is rigged

The truth is that today’s regular woman just can’t have it all. At least not at the same time. PHOTO | COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • Can a woman have a perfect work-life balance? NO, says Joan Thatiah but accepting this will change how you approach life.

Over the past few months, social isolation has turned into a productivity contest. It’s interesting to watch as women contest online about who has been most productive, who has been able to start a new business, who has been able to tick everything off on their to-do list, of course with video and photo evidence.

It’s interesting because even after the pandemic lifts and we go to the after-life, we will be back to compete on who can have it all. Who gets to smash the glass ceilings, kick ass at work and still get to go home in time to bathe her kids, help with homework and whip up gourmet meals for her husband, all without ruining her make up or getting out of shape.

Before we get here, let me just say here that the game is rigged. You can’t have it all. Let me explain.

Do you ever notice how women who seem to have it all, the Sheryl Sandberg’s of this world (She’s the chief operating officer of Facebook) outsource their lives outside the office? I have. I have noticed how these high powered career women who seem to have attained love, career and motherhood success have tens of people under their radar to keep their private lives running or one of those forward thinking husbands who have no qualms about being stay at home husbands or taking on the primary child caring role so that the woman can smash the glass ceilings.

Now, being able to pay equal attention to and succeed at all areas of your life sounds like an utterly fulfilling thing. I however think that for the average Kenyan woman who has one house help at home, two or three children and the typical Kenyan husband who will not even change the toilet roll, this notion of striking that perfect life balance is just a myth. A fantasy.

The truth is that today’s regular woman just can’t have it all. At least not at the same time. Maybe one after the other. She has to prioritise, to decide which area of her life means more to her than the others at any given time.

The race is rigged

The great news from all of this perhaps is that you are not to blame for it. The system is unfair. It’s worse when a woman becomes a mother. No matter how you look at it, a woman’s career takes a hit when she has a child. My friend Flo jokes that her career has slowed down for two years with every child she’s had. It’s a reality.

 Look around…you probably know the local companies that have day care centers because they have made it to the news. A new mother will not ask for flexi-time because she is scared of reinforcing the negative stereotypes against women at the work place so she gives up her social life. If you are always dashing to the office or to the house, you will surely have no time left for a drink with colleagues or with friends.

The race is rigged. Just being a woman puts you at a disadvantage with regard to life balance. It is a biological disadvantage that even advancing technology can’t fix. Can we fix it? No. But accepting it might change how women come at life. It may save us those feelings of failure or guilt that always come with the quest for the perfect work-life balance.

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