Is anyone asking “can men have it all”?

Naomi Simson family

This week I think we have all delighted in the authenticity and candor of Indra K. Nooyi’s interview with The Atlantic. It is a personal account, which sets the stage for a much bigger debate. This is not a women’s issue alone.

‘Can men have it all too?’ This is a community issue about how work places are structured in the information age ie the 21st century. This is more than just creating truly flexible workplaces for all, but how we set the boundary between work and home when there is such a blending between the two. I am really concerned about the invasion of our home lives with electronic devices that are on 24 / 7.

Gary Hamel has been speaking about organizations “fit for humans” for years.

Indra sounds confident in ‘outsourcing’ and ‘planning’ everything she can – including children. However, it appears to me that she is muddling through like the rest of us. Indra has a family (and mother) who support her at home. Most of us do not have that luxury. The question I have is when Indra is at home (or any other working parent in a highly demanding role) is she able to be truly present with her family? This question has nothing to do with her gender.

I have heard many of my friends and peers lament – that “even when he [or she] is home, he is not there – he is always on the bloody smart phone.”

I have never said that “I have it all!” However what I do, is make powerful choices about where I spend my time. I too have to consciously choose to hide my phone away when I am with my family. And it did not use to be like that when we had desktop computers that stayed at work and no mobiles.

Can men have it all? When a high profile man is interviewed; do we hear the interviewer ask “Can you have it all?” Perhaps he is busy traveling and missing key milestones in his children’s lives – Harry Chapin wrote “A Cat’s in the Cradle” back in 1974. So clearly this is not a new issue.

The fact that men are not asked these same questions is the sexist bit – and the question needs to stop. (As does the media’s fascination with what women wear – they never comment on a man’s suit – but I digress.)

Or what about the single person (of any age) – does anyone ask “And can you have it all?” Perhaps in relationships, or in being connected to the community beyond the workplace – single people are missing out on things too.

My point here is, can we please stop asking “Can women have it all?” Because by definition we can never have it ALL. (Your definition of ‘all’ will differ from mine anyway.) No one – male or female, in a relationship or single, not even Bill Gates – has it all. He still has to choose where he spends his time.

  • Can a business leader have it all?
  • Can a politician have it all?
  • Can a police officer – working night shifts – have it all?

With most jobs there is sacrifice. The question for Indra was not a gender question. The human interest comes from how a business leader manages her [or his] many conflicting responsibilities.

Instead of seeing life as hard work and exhausting to be “juggling” your priorities, perhaps it should be seen as a privilege to have so much going on in your life.

No matter what we choose to do in life there is always an opportunity cost. Choose carefully where you spend your energy and time – and you will experience a sense of comfort or calm.

The number one way to experience happiness with your choices is to be present in what you do – not wishing you had it “all”.

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”– Frederick Keonig

And just to lighten things up, here is Harry Chapin singing “Cat’s in the Cradle” for those of you too young to know what I am talking about.

Photo: My personal collection – my business partner with kids  This article first appeared as part of my LinkedIn collection

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