dear hilary: can we have it all?

Dear Hilary,

Last week there was this article that everyone went wild over. It was retweeted and linked and talked about over Facebook. It lingered in conversations in coffee shops. I overheard people in lunch lines and laundromats asking: can women have it all?

Well, Hilary? Can we?


Dear Working,

I read that article while eating homemade macaroni and cheese out of a handmade bowl at my high school. I read and pondered – what did I think about family and home and work and ambition and love and sex. But the list kept getting longer, each aspect of life added in a tangled mess. I tried to draw out the pieces of the life I dream of, and my napkin was so covered in scribbles and lines that I threw it away in frustration.

You see, working, I don’t think that we’re asking each other the right question. We are so worried about “having” it all that we forgot that we don’t “have” any of our relationships or our work or our dreams. They are always bigger than us. They involve other hearts and minds. They take effort and acceptance.

We ask “can we have it all?” but I almost want you to ask instead, “what kind of beautiful and good life do I envision?” and then chase it with the full realization that the dream is too big to achieve and that grace is the game changer.

I want to tell you, sweet pea, that women can have it all. I so much want us to have the space to have careers and families and road trips and wine tastings and books and surprise parties. I want us in politics and law and dentistry and poetry. To make that dream happen I think we have to change the rules of the game. I think we need a new idea of what it looks like for anyone to raise children and advance their career and tend to their gardens and worship and rest. We will need to make our words about “having it all” mean something new for everyone, not just women climbing career ladders or staying at home or sitting in their laundromats worried sick that they can’t fall in love because then how will they go to grad school?

But I want more from us, too. I want humility as we pursue this. If life is gift, if it is grace and luck and mystery, if it is about becoming the strange beautiful self you are created to become? We have to give up the idea that we can demand a particular package. We have to give up the idea that one “having it all” fits any of us, any of our lives as they are lived in the mess and glory.

This life is not a possession. It is a gift. Women and men cannot have it, own it, or make it fit into the box we designed at the beginning of our journeys.

We can only keep pushing forward in the direction of real life. We can push towards what is true and just, and we can obey the wild and surprising callings that come our way: callings of work and mothering and being married or being single and being a friend and worshipping and thinking. We can obey those callings and laugh- because it is bigger than us, this work we do, and we are only at the beginning.



4 thoughts on “dear hilary: can we have it all?

  1. “Worried sick that they can’t fall in love because then how will they go to grad school?” I think this ALL THE TIME. And then set it aside. Because, as you say, the question isn’t whether I can have it all – do all the things on my list – but whether I can live fully in the life I have, and offer my love freely to the people in it. How do we treat all as gift anyway?
    I still assume I’ll make it to grad school someday. But maybe (oh un-dreamed of!) I will be already married by then. The adventure is out there!

    1. yes – I believe we will go farther than we imagine, because God desires our full selves and His plans are bigger and better than we know. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  2. oh, well said, hilary. wise words, filled with grace. with vision like this, one’s focus can’t help but change from having it all to enjoying and embracing all that we are meant to be. and the beauty that results.
    love your new space here!

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