Redefining what it means to have it all
As I perch on my bed in the stillness of night, my full three decades of life is flashing through my brain like a Boomerang on steroids. It feels strange to be back home in sticky Singapore. "Why am I here? Is this what I want? Do I now have it all?"
Here's a quick snapshot: In the last 18 months, I've left my job at Harper's BAZAAR Singapore, packed my bags and moved to Melbourne, got married to a wonderful man, did my fair share of freelance writing, then moved back to Singapore and started an exhilarating job as deputy editor of this game-changing digital platform.
It's not a conventional story, is it? Who moves to Melbourne, the great land of brunch and flat whites, and decides to return to Singapore?
That would be me, in my pursuit to have it all. I blame deep-seated passions; the kind that keeps drawing you back to a career you love. Melbourne was amazing, and in many ways I felt it was more home than Singapore ever was, but my dream job didn't exist there.
For the uninitiated, the concept of having it all is certainly a millennial issue. Women these days have the immense pressure of trying to keep up with raging societal expectations. Think a glorious career path, a loving husband, spending quality time with the kids and being able to whip up dishes like Nigella Lawson (side note: the only thing I can whip are eggs for my instant noodles).
Gone are the days where women could be housewives and seen as contributors to society. I fully respect my grandmother who left school at the age of 12 and made it her life's aim to be a stellar wife (tick), skilled cook (tick) and raise three exceptional children (tick), but can I follow in her footsteps in this day and age and be seen in the same light? On the flipside, rising to the top of the corporate ladder and not having children leaves the impression that there's something innately wrong with you. So, too many of us try to juggle career and family and later realise, something's got to give.
Frankly, I think the traditional adaptation of having it all is a myth. There's no way someone can pursue a high-flying career and not say that it meant sacrificing time with their children. My answer to this whole "Can women have it all?" conundrum is a flat no.
Not unless we move on from the conventional definition and be convicted that having it all is not trying to do it all, but finding contentment within a current life stage.
That means, sticking to your personal definition of success at each juncture, depending on where your priorities lie. If that means forgoing your career to be the best stay-at-home mum you can, so be it. Putting in the hard yards to raise a young brood is never easy, but the relationship and bond that comes with it is infinitely rewarding. If success means kicking goals at work and putting children on hold for a few years, that decision should similarly be respected.
Sarah Jessica Parker, actress, designer and mother of three couldn't have said it better. When she was promoting her film I Don't Know How She Does It in 2011, Parker stated, "The question is not only how you do it, but why? If you don't have to juggle career, children and husband for financial reasons, why choose to? The beauty of the times we live in is that we do have choices. For me, it has been hard to say no. I wanted a family and I was a career person. I tried to marry those two things; sometimes it's successful and sometimes it's not."
Having it all is not trying to do it all, but finding contentment within a current life stage.
Do I have it all, going by the world's perspective? I'm not even close. I've chosen the career path for now, having made sacrifices such as embarking on a long-distance relationship with my husband. Not having his constant presence hasn't been the easiest, but his unwavering support affirms that I'm in the right place.
And for this season of life, that's all I need to have it all.
- Image: Jonathan Ong
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