Can Women Have It All?

My friend has a pet peeve called mediocrity, and he has managed to convince me to join in his club. Well, partially. The dictionary defines mediocre as, “moderate or low quality, value, ability, or performance.” However, my friend simply defines mediocrity, especially in people, as settling for less than what one is capable of.   Now, I don’t want to dive into this subject of mediocrity, but rather his thoughts on “settling in a marriage”.

Some time ago we met with a mutual friend and he was saddened to learn that she was getting married. He thought she was settling because she is a passionate, hardworking and very zealous person and marriage would prevent her from doing all the things she dreamed of, or would at least delay them. She would have to consider her husband in her decision making, then kids – who she would carry for months and care for for years afterwards. He believed that she would gain some independence back only after the children started school, but by then a lot of valuable time would have been lost.

Another friend told me how she wished she would have waited to get married. She’s not miserable in her marriage, she just got hitched very young, before discovering who she truly was and what she wanted to do with her life. So she got lost in her marriage, in becoming a wife and a mother, and in her career – basically working for “the man” until she realized she was not a satisfied or fulfilled woman. Now that her kids are a little bit older she’s started doing the things she once loved, exploring her hidden talents and passions. But she regrets not having started sooner.

This made me wonder if women can truly have it all. In our generation we are trying to beat the status quo and empower ourselves to be more than what society has designed for us, but I believe that, sometimes, we do not know the cost of ‘all’.

Feminism and the modern world tells us that we can have it all. While it is still hard for men to see us as equals, I wonder if we see ourselves as capable. Do we think we can have it all? And if we do, are we willing to pay the price? See, I think that is where the catch is. We can have it all but the price is too high – whether married or not. I think this is where most women settle for an easier course of action. In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg mentions that her greatest battle was with herself and her fellow women, she had to be confident and believe that she was just as capable and competent as men.

I believe confidence, knowing oneself and determining the cost of the kind of success you want are key. I don’t believe marriage breeds mediocrity, like my friend does; but getting married before knowing one’s self can lead to mediocrity. Before stones are thrown at me, what I simply mean is this: I think it is vital for one to know herself (passion, aspirations, vision etc.), how she intends to reach her goals, what sacrifices (because there will be sacrifices) she will have to make and then discuss these with her partner. Some men will find it hard to digest and handle, but if it is someone who loves you and is ready to make everything possible for your relationship to work, I believe they will support you.

Discuss what you are willing to do and what you’re not; talk about the taboo subjects like if you want to have children immediately or after a couple of years in marriage, or if you want children at all. Do you want to leave your job and start your own business, discuss with your partner what that entails and how it will affect your finances, ask if he is ready to support you.  This is what I mean by establishing your vision and drawing a plan on how to fulfill it. It is not in many of our cultures to discuss all these details openly or to say that you want more from life than to be a wife and a mother. Please do not get me wrong, I have tremendous respect for wives and mothers, there is no price you can put on their importance to society. But women should be able to explore other ways they can impact their communities and society.

My biggest question is mostly to myself and those who want to have it all, i.e. be a wife, mother, career driven, entrepreneur or whatever ‘it’ means to you. Do you know what it costs? Are you ready to pay for it? Are you ready to get home late at night and gladly execute your wifely duties, tend to your children, receive guests and in-laws on weekends when you should be resting, miss out on your best friend’s wedding because you are meeting an investor out of town, go on date nights with your husband when there is work pending, and everything else life throws at you? Women have a lot to juggle but I believe we have a tremendous power and ability vested in us by God. Many of us just lack those keys attributes mentioned above: confidence, knowing ourselves and knowing our goals and the cost of pursuing them.

On a brighter note, I know a couple of women who have managed to juggle all this and are successful, but I also know it wasn’t/isn’t easy for them (if it were easy everyone would be doing it). Again I am no expert, just a single girl who is asking herself if women can have it all. What do you think?


Natacha Umutoni
Iris / 4 April 2017

I love this subject!
I can’t agree more at what you have just said. You are already wise before getting into other roles (motherhood, wifehood,lol…).
I don’t think we can have it all! “Having it all” is a misleading concept. If I take what you have just said in knowing who we really are and knowing our aspirations in life it helps choosing what fulfill us. What I get from the idea of having it all is that you can be 100% everything at the same time.
To be honest I am more of a pro-quality than pro-quantity. In having it all does it mean you can do whatever you want? For how long? I’m married and mum of two, and I have realised in life we must choose what best for us in some season for our lives. Life could be a lot more easier if we can give 100% energy in one,two,three… things than “all” we want!
We must determine what accomplish us. No wonder why women are the most exhausted sometimes. We want to do it all and we want to have it all. And we want to convince ourselves and others that we can!

Asio / 6 April 2017

The struggle of wanting to be like our mothers and grandmothers who held so much on their shoulders while adding more onto our already lurden backs by trying to defy the status quo. Your article is great. Thank you for this. I hope more women can read this.

Sylvia Uhirwa / 7 April 2017

Great article Natou, it touches me somewhere! Personally, I believe one can have it all but in varying measure and seasons. I agree with you that it requires confidence, discovering oneself, setting goals and sticking by them. It also requires divine intervention and lots of sacrifices for one to be successful or get a feel of having it all.

Marlene / 14 April 2017

I think having it all varies, depepending on the woman, but when some one is still single , this question is always in their mind ( will I be able to still have my freedom?)
Some women consider themselves to have it all , once they have children and become stay at home mothers ,
Having children does not stop one from pursuing their career but rather brings an immeasurable joy in a home.
I would rather say , let life take its course, as the years go by you will have what you are supposed to have and the things u consider worth having might not be once you are there .

Matriarch Mantras: Natacha Umutoni / 30 August 2018

[…] blog post was actually inspired by my friend. We were talking about how easily people fall into mediocrity […]

Sheila Umuhoza / 19 February 2021

Commenting on an article of 3 years ago and still finding relevant. I related to this article and it got me thinking about the 1 million question. Can we have it all? Mu answer is No.we cant. No one ever has it together whether married or not. You gotta choose what’s important to you and make you are safe and sufficed.


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