In 1983, legendary Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown released a book called Having It All, in which she outlined tips for women hoping to find success in the workplace, at home and in bed. The past 25 years have left women's plates increasingly—some might argue, precariously—overloaded, as they try to maintain healthy portions of career, love and family. In her book, In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures In Finding Love, Commitment, And Motherhood, New York City journalist Rachel Lehmann-Haupt explores the expanding buffet of choices that exist for women hoping to "have it all" today.
YourTango: Tell us about your book. What prompted you to write it?
Rachel Lehmann-Haupt: In 2001, when I was 31 years old, I ended a relationship with someone at the same time that a woman named Sylvia Ann Hewett wrote a book called Creating A Life. It basically told women that they needed to start having children younger because the dividing line between a regular pregnancy and a high-risk pregnancy was age 35. For the next couple years, single and dating, I was very aware of this age looming over me. There was pressure to find love and create a family before getting "too old."
This baby panic was shooting through the media and I thought to myself, "This doesn't feel right." The answer that women should start having kids earlier seemed too simplistic. Most of us who are educated and want careers also want to support our families. I found a statistic that said the number of women having babies between 35 and 44 has doubled since the '80s. They need their twenties and often their early thirties to go to medical school or law school. Where is having kids going to fit into all of this?
So what advice do you have for women who want to have it all?
You have to expand your concept of choice. We have this idea that we're supposed to do things in the right order, when in reality, it might mean having a kid first and then meeting the love of your life. Or maybe you meet the love of your life and you have kids, but you have to put your career on hold for a while. Or you have a career, then you meet the love of your life and that means you have to use assisted technology, a donor egg or adoption, to have a child.
The other thing that's important is that you don't have to have it all. Who's to say that having it all is the most fulfilling life? A lot of people have told me it's really stressful trying to balance it all. Maybe you want to be a really good writer; you focus on that, and you and your partner don't have kids. Or maybe you just want to be a mom. Having it all does not have to be the end-all be-all goal for every woman.