Finding Balance: Can You Have It All At Once?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This is the fourth in a series about how to find the balance between work, family and your own health and fitness goals. Click here to read the first blog entry in this series.

I don't think she's the one who originated this quote, but I once heard Oprah Winfrey say "You can have it all. You just can't have it all at one time." She was referring to balancing your time between being a wife, mother, career woman, etc.

Although some people will disagree, I think Oprah was right. I use myself as an example. I love my job and wouldn't give it up for anything. For a long time I thought I would be a career woman who didn't have children. But somewhere along the way, my plans changed. When I had kids, I was lucky enough to be able to make the choice to work part-time, and not only that, but to do most of that work from home. (Working at home with 2 little ones is not as easy as you'd think, but I'll save that discussion for another day.) I know how fortunate I am, because I work for a company that is willing to give me the flexibility I need. But that decision was never an easy one. Because I love my job, I'm often torn between work and family. There are some days when I get all of my work done, and I'm able to do a lot with my kids and give them all of the attention they need. But there are many days when I could use more quiet time to write my blog or answer the emails piling up in my inbox. Instead, I'm changing diapers or making lunch or doing the laundry. I am grateful for the time I get to spend with my kids, but that doesn't mean it's always an easy trade-off.

I think there's a lot of pressure on women to do everything, and to do all of it well. I fall into that trap sometimes, disappointed that I'm not the perfect wife, the perfect mom and the perfect employee. But I think if you can find the balance between all of those, and not expect perfection, you can find happiness and fulfillment- even if you don't have it "all" at once.

What do you think? Do you agree that you can have it all, just not all at once?

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Any one who thinks you can have it all isn't thinking straight. I can either be a healthy weight or I can eat all the chocolate I can get my hands on. I can't have both. Report
QUEENFROG 2/20/2020
Interesting article. Report
Balance, in all aspects, is a wonderful thing! Report
We are not equipped to do it all and when we "multi'task", something will suffer. We can only do what we can, when we can, SparkFriends. Report
Even after my children all grown. I still can't do it all! Just trying to lose weight & exercise takes time too. Then add aging parents to the mix and you get the picture. I have to stop feeling guilty for ME TIME! I deserve to be FIRST. This is still something I have trouble doing. One day I'll get it right. Report
I used to try to do everything. I have learned to enjoy the time you have with your children. Work will always be there. I was lucky enough to work from home when my son turned 6 and my daughter was 3. It was definately not easy. But thinking back, I wouldn't do it any different. Now that my kids are 21 and 18, in college and sometimes at home. I can't tell you how much I enjoy being around for them. I still work at home, but can walk away from it and have lunch or whatever they need me to help out with. I don't think we need to have it all at once, but enjoying it as it comes is essential.... Report
I always try to do everything at once! Luckily I am a stay-at-home mom but I swear that doesn't make that much of a difference. I am learning not to spread myself too thin but it is hard to take time for myself. Report
I've definitely "had it all" sequentially -- but not (for the most part) by plan. Yet, my life is much richer for being a mom. I can't imagine that I would be nearly as happy today (as a new grandma) if I had pursued my career single-mindedly. Report
I agree that you can have it all, but don't expect it all at once. Once the kids are grown, you'll have your spouse, who is ready to retire, pulling at you. If your parents live nearby, they will make demands.
My youngest just gradua Not alot of time for me.ted from high school, my husband no longer has a job to go off to, and both of our mothers need medical, emotional and physical attention. I have gone from having two kids to having five. Report
I have 2 daughters starting college this year 2 other daughters, one starting high school and one in middle school, work 2 jobs, and am finishing my second master's this year. I have had 2 heart attacks this year, and am in remission for cancer, but am going back to the doctor today to see if I need more surgery this summer. This will be my 9th surgery in the past 2 years. I feel as if I am going nuts, but my husband does not make enough to support the family. My older daughters are ashamed to bring friends home, as I am never home to keep house. I am in complete burn out, and wonder what happened to my life. Society has led to these type problems, but I don't see a solution. Report
I think we all have our own path that we need to follow. It is important, for us, as women to stop placing so much judgement on each other. I have seen so much hostility between "working moms" and "stay-at-home-moms". Lets face it, we all love our families and are trying to do what we think is best. And we all deserve a pat on the back for our hard work and need the support of all the women in our community to help with the stress of raising a family.

I am a 28yo wife and mom of two. I will be starting medical school this fall. So I am choosing a very busy life and career. Uniquely, all my close friends are stay at home moms. They are supportive my choices and I am supportive of their choice to stay home. The mutual respect comes from the fact that we all understand that we make our family a priority, work to find a balance and all love our families. It really should be that simple.

I think that perfect balance when you are a working parent comes from limiting other activities. Family time is soooo important and much more beneficial to your childrens' development than any activity that you can pay for. Report
I agree with you! I know it all too well! I am in the Army, have a family and need my time as well. I try to be able to accomplish everything every day, but sometimes I am just exhausted and like many people, I feel like I need more hours in the day or even at night to get a lil extra rest! Report
Exactly! We can have it all but we must prioritize our responsibilities. Trying too hard to become a super human will only lead to frustration and depression. Been there, done that. Report
I hear you, WATOGA17! Beautifully put. And thanks for the post, Jen - you're dead on. Report
Jen I totally agree, you can have it all. Maybe not all at once but as we grow as individuals and as our children grow as individuals our needs change and we change. I did the stay at home route for 10 months when my daughter was born and quite frankly I don't know how the brave and wonderful ladies who do it, do and stay sane. It wasn't for me. I have worked pretty much since I was 14 and I like what I do now. So I work. It came in real handy when my husband was laid off and he went back to school to become a teacher. Then I worked 2 jobs which I just finished doing recently to devote more time for my children. We are lucky to work in a time where some employers are getting the message that work/ home balance is important. I work from home 2 days a week so that I can get the kids on and off the bus to spend extra time with them. And in the summer they get more dad time because he is off with them, I flex and work 10 hour days so we can have an extra day together. I start my 10 hour days at 6:30 am so they don't loose any extra time in the evening with me. That said for a long time I didn't give any priority to myself. I coming to realize that if I work on my health and self esteem my children will be better off for it. So I don't want to perfect. I want to be happy and growing as a person and that is what I am choosing to focus on now. Smile. Report
As a working mom, I agree that you can't have it all at once. I really struggle with caring for family while holding down a job, but I don't have a choice; my husband is unable to support the family on his own. We could have chosen not to a child, but I am so glad she is in our life.

What bugs me is that this for most of the population of the U.S. (and probably other developed nations), this seems to be a female problem. Men just don't wrestle with it. Most men expect that they will have a career, and if there are home/family management issues, these issues fall on the wives, even if these wives are already holding down a job. This is certainly true for our family. My husband doesn't MEAN to be unfair, but he simply has no concept of what it takes to manage a home; when I complain or try to explain things to him, he offers to do an extra chore or gives me a shoulder run, but the notion of planning a child's summer activities, checking on homework, making doctor's appointments, planning and shopping for gift-giving times, planning for emergencies, making a week's worth of menus before shopping for groceries, taking advantage of sales to save money... it all is something he hasn't even been trained to think about it.

And then I remember that my worries are so paltry compared to those of a working mother in a third-world country, who has fewer options than I do and is just struggling to keep her family alive. Balance is something the wealthy like us (and I think in world terms, vitually all of the posters/readers here are wealthy) worry about. I am grateful I am in a position to contemplate balance and debate whether or not it is possible. Report
I agree that you can have it all, just not all at once. I also struggle with perfectionistic behavior. I work full-time, and when I am there, I feel the pull to be at home when the kids are home. When I am home, I feel guilty that I'm not putting enough effort into my work or my home. I work very hard at getting Me time in every day, and for me that translates into Time for Exercise. I know that's not supposed to count as Me Time, but for me, exercise is not work; it's a way to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Now that the kids are in their teens and pre-teens, it's getting easier to find time for myself, because they are helping out a lot more. When they were younger, in diapers, needing every meal cooked for them, needing me home when they were sick, it was much harder. Report
Amen, Jen!! Working at home is a blessing, but it's not at all what it's cracked up to be....especially with kids! [Throw in a little homeschooling there, and you have a recipe for insanity. :-) ] And yes, it's hard, but the days you find that balance, WOW! what a blessing. I have found that before having that get-up-and-go workout in the mornings (or rather, before finding the one that works for me), it was even harder to find the balance. It's just impossible to do without ample amounts of energy. And no, you can't be all things at one time (heck, I can barely chew gum and walk at the same time....). Although there are days that you feel like you jump from one role to the next 5 times in a matter of about 15 minutes. I think that even though there will always be "those" days that are just crazy, if we can find a way to pace ourselves, we can be what everyone needs us to be (including ourselves) without bordering insanity. Report
i agree with Oprah on this one... i was blessed with having zero distractions when my son was little (i was a single parent, no support system to facilitate working) I poured every ounce of my energy into raising him until he went to school, at which time i returned to education and then work. He is a fantastic individual, well worth the sacrifice of self that i made.

i married a few years ago, work part time, my son still lives at home (mostly), we have many pets and I now am investing lots of time on myself...

there are only so many hours in a day, some things deserve your undivided attention - only you can decide how much anything is worth! Report
For me, balance is more about not falling off the tight rope than anything else.

I am working full time, two kids under two, just rented/bought a house, getting ready to move cross country, and started training for the Goofy in January 2010. I prioritize a LOT and there are lots of days where I don't finish everything I wanted to (or needed to sometimes). I feel like I short everyone (including myself) at one point or another. I guess the balancing act is just not shorting the same person/job all the time. Report
I work full time, mother, wife, friend, sister, housekeeper, maid, cook, bottle washer.... you get the msg. We, my husband and I, also maintain a garden, can our own foods, raise our own poultry, keep bees, along with our other hobbies. Yes you can have it all, but to try to have it all at one time, definately sets one up for a very stressful situation. I feel that the secret is to find the balance. Some days it comes easier than others. Report
I want and can have it all. I was just reading the blog about visualization. I focus on my image of what type of life I want and battle between the life I am destined to have. I cannot be limited in anything I choose to do and have the power and passion to do. But I do believe all is within my just may not be the "all" in the traditional sense. I am a mother, a sister, a good friend, student, mentor, and my professions range from office manager to mystery shopper. I am a child of God. Once that man steps into my life, I believe that will add one more title to my belt: wife. So yes, I can have it all...and definitely not at the same time.

Takes balance, time, commitment. But if I want it, I can have it.

jay Report
Although you may not be perfect in all the areas in which you are involved, you certainly do a wonderful job helping us gain confidence simply by your willingness to say so. Thanks so much! Report
Finding balance has always been a struggle for me. I strive to "do it all" and realize that has contributed to the way I look. Sleep is usually the first thing to go when I am overextended. My weekend used to be filled with stuff to do. This often led to me becoming sick when I finally relaxed. But no more. Now I try to pick and choose what I will focus my energy on. It's not always easy and sometimes it requires a lot of planning or some additional help. But I'm getting there. Report
It's all about balance. Finding out what your priorities are in life, and then applying balance. It is not easy to do! Some days I feel like I spend too much time on one task, neglecting other tasks, or even not spending enough time really paying attention to my kids. Other days feel more balanced. There is no striving for ''perfection;'' it is all about balance. I think the same concept applies to dieting. I don't think I can eat perfectly healthy all the time. I strive to eat healthy foods/portion sizes MOST of the time, then I can allow for a little splurge. Report
Perfection is booooring! :-) Report
I totally agree. It is only now that my daughter is 6 years old that I have realized how true that staement is. Learning to let go of this foolish "perfect "notion has released me from constant disappointmnet. I realize that I am not the perfect mother but I am her mother. I realize that I am not the perfect hygienist but I am dedicated to my patients. I am not a perfect wife but I love my husband and so on and so on. Trying to be perfect is frustrating and way to time consuming. I'm just being me and enjoying my life.....peacfully. Report
I agree, and though all my kids are grown and gone, I find myself struggling constantly for balance in the activities I choose and the responsibilities I have to fulfill. Life is a constant opportunity to choose. When we choose well and give ourselves permission to be human, not letting failure stop us, but challenge us to keep trying with grace toward self, balance falls to us in peaceful ways. Report
Totally agree, you can have it all, just not all at the same time. Report
I think it is true. But boy is it hard! It seems I have the hardest time not feeling guilty about letting something go so I can do more of something else. Like letting the house work go a few days so that I can have more special time with my kids.
Sure, it's possible to have it all but everything will require your attention and you can't give it equally. Therefore something or someone will suffer and most likely, it'll be you who suffers most! I'm a mom who enjoyed not having it all at once. I was able to spend time with her and watched her grow. On the plus side, I learned multi-tasking as an art form! Report
Ah, I have a sister who DOES have it all --- and ALL at one time. She is a wife, mother of 2 and a pediatric oncologist (director of a childrens hospital, now). I know that she is "burning the candle at both ends" (AND in the middle!) and am waiting for her to burn out. She's been doing ALL this now for 10+ years, and I know it's taking a great toll on her.
ME? I don't WANT it ALL. I have been married 25+ years now, my kids are grown, and my career is just beginning to take off. I enjoyed my first half of life and am looking forward to the second half - and everything that I've done and will do -- and am thankful that I don't HAVE to do it all at one time! WHEW! WHAT a LIFE! Report
Yes, I absolutely agree that we can have it all sprinkled over our lifetime! If it were all at once, I don't think we would appreciate the gift of having special things. But sprinkled over a lifetime we can enjoy things so much more and take the time to share those good things with others. Report
I do belief that this is true. I also feel that some days I acommplished everything I wanted to and some days I run short. But we all have to realize that tommorow is another day and somthing can wait. Report
Trust me, the "I wouldn't give up my job for anything" ..... not true unless your career comes before the well being of your children, you just haven't had to make that choice, how fortunate for you.

There's no such thing as having it all, it's a farce....something always suffers somewhere along the line. Report
Perfection is boring. It is the flaws in people which are interesting and make them unique. So the next time you rail against yourself for not being the perfect anything - remember what an interesting and well-rounded human being you are! Love yourself. Report
The women I've known who became obsessed to the extreme with the "having it all" construct have also been some of the most miserable, unhappy, and discontented people I can remember. Sometimes I'll fall into my perfectionistic mode, but it tends to take an all-or-nothing quality, meaning do it right or not at all ... and I know when I'm there because I'm usually miserable because I'm not accomplishing anything! duh! Report
Years ago there was a song that brought this home to me big time. Karen White's "I'm not your superwoman" helped me see that there were days that I simply would not get to everything that was expected of me. I really like the idea of shared responsibilities where I was not expected to do everything traditional moms and wives were to maintain the household. My grown sons are capable of working with their wives to do what needs to be done. Report
I am struggling with this issue. I run a family business and have tried to work part time, but when I do, the business suffers. When I work full time the guilt really creeps in. I start feeling distant from my kids, and am heart broken when they turn to my nanny for comfort rather than me. I have also had to give up on a lot of my friendships. I know they understand, but friendship is like a garden that needs tending from time to time. I also have basically given up on me, but know that in order for all of this to work, I need to make myself a priority. Someone suggested making a chart of the different roles that I play and the time I spend doing them. This was devastating to me because I realized that I spent 50% of my time as a boss and only 35% as a mom, 10% as a charity do-gooder and 5% as a wife, and 0 time on me. Report
You are so right. Stay at home moms are busier than most people realize, especially when they home school their kids. You are doing a great job being a mom and doing you job. Report
It's difficult to balance work and home especially in this economy. I'm sometimes afraid to leave too early as it might be construed that I'm a "slacker" - there's always more to do in my job so I have a tough time getting to the gym, making dinner at a reasonable time etc.
But, I'm afraid of losing my job it's tough out there. Report
Yes, you can have all at once. Only God willing. Report
Right on, Jen and Oprah! Clogging life with the minutiae of a to-do list is a way to blot out life. Report
Why bother to even try. Busyness has a tendency to sap the enjoyment out of life.

Did any tell you how glad we are that your here? Report
I totally agree with this statement not only with "having" everything, but with "doing" anything and everything as well. We are our only obstacle to getting what we want. Report
I do believe you can have it all, as long as you use your own guidelines and not other people's expectations. As long as you are gentle on yourself and not to critical. As long as you have the ability to let things slide when things start to pile up - but not totally give up on those things. It takes a person who is responsible. A person who doesn't hold others accountable for what is going on in his or her's own life. Yes we can have it all. Report
When we do have those days of balance we just stand there and smile like a fool. I love it. Report