Women Can't Have It All, So When Are We Going to Stop Beating Ourselves Up About It?

03/12/2014 18:40 GMT | Updated 02/02/2015 10:59 GMT
Chris Craymer via Getty Images

Let's start by getting the elephant out of the room - women still have to shoulder an unfair amount of burden when it comes to having children.

The collateral often ends up being their career - whether it's the repercussions of taking a year off (something that is more of an issue the higher you climb) or the sexist perception among employers that they'd rather hire a man because it's less hassle.

But while employers and the government do need to address the root of this (giving men proper paternity leave for instance), we have to give ourselves realistic goals to strive towards.

I'm talking about the total crock of 'having it all'.

Jo Swinson made a statement in a report published by the Coalition's Minister for Women and Equalities saying that having it all is 'entirely unrealistic and sets up expectations in complex ways' when it becomes a baton that mothers pass down to their daughters.

Although some women already realise that the traditional equation for having it all doesn't add up, I'm hoping this will be a final nail in its coffin.

That blasted phrase is the imaginary pot of gold at the end of the rainbow we've been using to bludgeon ourselves and our self-esteem with for years. It doesn't exist. How could it?

If we work on the basis that 'having it all' means work-life balance, the perfect family who feel like they have your full attention, a career that is on the up, and enough left over for your friends, then no wonder we have been exhausted.

Because having it all isn't just a gender issue. The concept is such a Sisyphean task that no man would be able to handle it either.

Consider it: any man who is successful at his career or the breadwinner isn't the person putting the most amount of time in at home.

Yes, dads are getting better at this - in fact it's encouraging to see more men at the top being very strict about the hours they keep and weekend time with their kids - but there is no way they are capable of maintaining a good career, clocking up lots of hours at home and so on.

And this isn't a standard they set for themselves either. I'm not saying they don't feel guilt but they aren't self-flagellating because they didn't make cupcakes for the charity bake sale due to work commitments.

If we ingrain the idea in our kids that they have to be a superwoman at work and in the home, we must ask ourselves what standard this sets for them. Where do the housewives go?

More importantly, by perpetuating this as a measure of success we are not pushing to get legislation changed that WILL force men to take an equal share of the burden at home.

To paraphrase Theresa May, we cannot emulate men when it comes to our working methods and personalities, we have to forge our own. And so it is the case with having it all.

We need to say goodbye to this antiquated, claustrophobic term and embrace a new future that is on our terms, not us running on a hamster wheel trying to keep up with the men.