Can A Woman Have It All?

Can I bake a pie and eat it too?

Happy International Women’s Day! In honor of March 8, devoted to the many mothers, daughters, and sisters around the globe who make life worth living, today I will write about a very feminine dilemma. Last week, many of you had many good insights on the sensitive topic of interracial dating. I was hoping you would give your thoughts on another issue that has been on my mind recently.

In The Female Brain (a must-read, by the way), Louann Brizendine describes her patient Gina’s catch-22. “She became an engineer but at twenty-eight years old was struggling with her desire to be in a more people-oriented career and one that would allow her to have a family life, too….These are value decisions that are actually shaped by hormonal effects on the female brain compelling connection and communication.”

My question is: for a woman, are a successful career and a fulfilling family life mutually exclusive? At 19 going on 20, I am beginning to form my professional goals in addition to my previous personal ones. However, the clearer the former picture gets, the murkier the latter becomes. For me, my career is not just my career; it is my life’s passion and my heart’s calling. If I don’t consider the knight in shining armor, the fairytale wedding, and the white picket fence, then I know very clearly what I want.

After receiving a BA in Romance Languages and International Studies, I would either intern with the United Nations or the U.S. Department of State or participate in a program such as Fulbright or the Peace Corps. After a few years of international experience, I would then apply to graduate schools, ideally Johns Hopkins’ SAIS or Columbia’s SIPA. Finally, upon receiving a masters degree in international relations, I would work in foreign diplomacy at either the UN or the State Department. The Middle East is one of my areas of interest — though cheesy, my goal is peace in the region. In addition, I wish to work diplomatically to alleviate humanitarian crises in nations such as Somalia, Syria, and North Korea.

Where in this picture can I fit in a boyfriend, then a husband, and then a family? I suppose my situation is worsened by the fact that my career would take me unpredictably around the globe. Usually, the 21st century husband and wife would each make concessions to allow for a compromise. In my case, though, what would a compromise look like? “Dear boyfriend, I won’t see you for the next decade, so wait around until my biological clock starts ticking, at which point I will retire and abandon my life’s work”?

I have never been more jealous of men and their lack of biological clocks and their ageless good looks.

Do you see a possible compromise to my situation? If you are a woman, how do you balance your professional and personal lives? If you are a man, do you find yourself in this same catch-22 or is it a non-issue?

Can a woman have her cake and eat it too?

À bientôt,



3 thoughts on “Can A Woman Have It All?

  1. Rebecca,
    I am a PhD student and have travelled all over the world for my job (lots of places in Africa, china and all over the US). I also have a husband I adore and a 5 year-old son I can’t get enough of. Traveling is hard, but certainly not impossible. I have an incredibly full professional and personal life. My experience is an N of 1, but I work with an incredible array of professionally fulfilled women who also have great families. No way are they mutually exclusive.
    Just my thoughts,


    • Hi Sarah, thanks for taking the time to comment. Those are very encouraging thoughts! If you don’t mind my asking, what do you do? In my case, though, I would probably be stationed overseas for years at a time. Do you have any idea how women working abroad are able to have a family?

      Your life does sound pretty awesome. 😀

  2. Pingback: Life Plan Take 438291 « Rebecca Cao

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