A New Study Proves That "Having It All" Is Bullshit


We've officially given up on "having it all."

At least, that's what a recent survey featured in the New York Times says about choosing between raising a family and killing it in the workplace.


The study: Research from the Harvard Business School offers a number of insights about how young professional women balance their career aspirations with their desire to focus on friends and family. "Work-family conflict is an issue for MBA alumni," researchers concluded. "Over 40% of both mothers and fathers say that their jobs get in the way of their personal and family lives 'often' or 'very often.'"

The researchers added that, in accordance with traditional gender roles and double standards, women are the ones who wind up adjusting their own work lives to make time for their families. This often involves taking steps to "leave the paid workforce to care for children, work part time to care for children, and make other kinds of personal and family accommodations, like declining a promotion or choosing a more flexible job."

Indeed, the Harvard Business School's stats indicate that 37% of their millennial female alumni (and 42% of their married millennial female alumni) reported that they "planned to interrupt their career for family." That's a huge increase from previous generations: Only 28% of Generation X women and 17% of baby boomers reported that they were willing to do the same.


The pressure of "leaning in": These stats are in stark contrast to the Lean In bonanza of the past few years. While the book and subsequent marketing campaign encouraged women to create professional opportunities for themselves without apology, one inevitable side effect was a resurgence of the intense pressure many women feel to accept every promotion and attend every meeting, all while somehow managing to balance their professional duties with motherhood (and, of course, keeping it tight).

While the study proves that previous generations of women were game for this gargantuan challenge, some women today are more like, "Eh, screw it."

To some extent, the results of the study can be viewed as a win for millennial women. After all, we all know that working too hard can be stressful, even bad for our health. And as many have argued before, when it comes to what really matters in life, chances are that love and support from one's family and friends matter a hell of a lot more in the long run than a big quarterly bonus.

But the results of the study also feel, well, a little retrograde: For instance, only 13% of millennial men in the study reported that they'd be willing to disrupt their careers to raise a family, versus the 37% of millennial women who said they would. If nothing else, the Harvard Business School study proves that men are still out in the workforce, free from the pressure of "having it all," fathering children without being forced to make too many tough career sacrifices.


There may be reason to be optimistic, though. Only 4% percent of Generation X men were willing to ditch their careers for fatherhood, while the boomers clocked in at a meager 3% — indicating that the number of men willing to take a timeout from their careers to raise a family is on the rise. 

"Men's attitudes are also beginning to change," wrote Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times. "Eventually, that could lead to more shared responsibilities, though it is happening slowly."

And at the end of the day, male or female, kids or no kids, too much work pressure of any kind is bad, and career burnout is still very much a thing. So maybe we should all use this new Harvard research as a reminder that we can all afford to relax for a minute, and take some time this weekend to pour one out for work/life balance.

h/t New York Times