If I am succeeding in one area of my life, I am failing in another

I wrote about this year’s Dartmouth commencement speech over on the old professional blog today. I focused on the “how to be happy and successful at work” portion of the speech over there.

The other part of the speech that really resonated in the Payne household was “Lesson Three” from the speech. We’ve got two working professionals in this house. We both are ambitious and hard working. And the modern world allows both of us to be that way. We have challenging work. We have wonderful kids. We seemingly “have it all.”

Shonda Rhimes the commencement speaker, addresses this in her speech at the 16 minute mark:

Rhimes says:

Shonda, how do you do it all?

The answer is this: I don’t.

Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.

If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK

This is the best verbalization of how me and (especially) Marni feel about our constant juggling act.

And Rhimes brings it home with why we do it:

In their world, mothers run companies. In their world, mothers own Thursday nights. In their world, mothers work. And I am a better mother for it

And I am a better father.

It deserves to be better understood by everyone. But especially the young folks who fixate on “having it all.” Because you can’t. You can have more of some things that you never could be for. Or less of other things. You have more choices. But you can’t have it all. No one can.

And that’s ok.

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