MIA: 3 reasons I hate the dumb phrase 'Having It All'.

Why do all the images illustrating these kids of stories feature babies and briefcases? Ugh.


Hello, I have it all. Nice to meet you.

Said nobody ever.

After decades of hearing the tedious phrase ‘having it all’ used to frame debates about women’s lives, I’ve had a gutful.  Hush now. It’s enough. Can we please consign this phrase to the circular file marked Dumb, Lazy, Meaningless Cliches That Have No Bearing On Actual Life.

Because it’s rubbish and it belongs in the bin.

If anyone has Isla Fisher’s mobile number could they please send her a text to this effect?  Because here’s what the 37-year-old actress just said in an interview with Gotham magazine about the break she took from acting to look after her two daughters, Olive (5) and Elula (2).

‘I took three years off. It’s not like you’re taking a break and looking on IMDbPro to see your StarMeter falling. You’re doing the most important, incredible thing. When you come back in, the perspective has changed. I truly believe you can’t have it all and you shouldn’t want to.’

There is so much wrong with that last sentence that it’s hard to know where to start because I may never finish and your ears might fall off. Instead, I will put Isla carefully aside and simply focus on that heinous phrase ‘having it all’.

Here are the 3 reasons I hate it:

1. Nobody ever writes angsty articles about men ‘having it all’. That phrase is NEVER used about blokes. Men just have jobs and kids. Or they don’t. The end.

2. ‘Having It All’ is shorthand for ‘Having Kids & A Career’. Which explicitly suggests the only way a woman can be truly happy and complete is to have both. It also presupposes all women want to have both. Or should have both. Not true.


3. ‘Having It All’ sounds unmistakably greedy. Like Veruca Salt or – worse – Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Why should the choices we make in our lives be couched in terms of being greedy?

Oh wait. I thought of one more and this is a biggie:

Veruca Salt

4. Most women don’t have the luxury of wringing their hands and wondering whether they should try to have it all or just maybe, you know, pay their rent and feed their kids. Keep their heads above water. The number of women who have the luxury of even looking at their lives in terms of ‘having it all’ is miniscule, even in western countries. For most women, working is not a feminist declaration it’s a necessity. While for others, it’s a passion and a pleasure.

I have three kids and a job I love most days. Other days, I want to run away and live in a treehouse with no internet connection. But I don’t know any women – whether they have jobs, careers, kids, pets, whatever – who kick back at the end of the day with a glass of French Champagne to toast their own success. I don’t know any woman who views her life in terms of having (or not having) it all.

We’re all pursuing happiness and seeking joy. We’re all trying to work out what that looks like. We’re all grappling with disappointments and dreams and finances and frustrations and overwhelm. So much overwhelm.

By all means we should keep talking about all these things. But not in the framework of a misleading and pejorative phrase that is meaningless to most women and dumbs down the complexity of the decisions we make about our lives.

Watch the video below to see me on Mornings: