The Secret to Having it All? Figuring Out What That Means to You. Here’s How!

Inside: What’s the secret to having it all as a working mom? Figuring out what “having it all” means to you with these strategies from a career coach and fellow mom.

If there is one phrase mothers across America are SO done with it’s “Can I have another snack?”

If there are TWO phrases mothers across America are SO done with the other one would be “having it all.”

What Does “Having It All” Even Mean?

I struggled with this concept of “having it all” since becoming a mom in 2015 when my son Jack was born.

How could I “have it all” as a mother and a professional? And were those the only two things I was supposed to worry about? What about my marriage, friendships, health, and outside interests? If I managed to make many of the things work but not all of the things, would that be enough?

Yet this challenge of trying to “have it all” often overshadows the underlying issue.

What if we are so busy with trying to have it all, or thinking that we should have it all, or trying to do it all, that we don’t take a pause to figure out if the “all” we are striving towards is what we really want?

Ah, therein lies the rub. So what do we do about THAT?

Here's the big secret to having it all as a working mom

The Age 30 Transition

To solve that problem we need a little help from the social sciences and career coaching.

Fast forward from my brand new motherhood worries in 2015 to 2017 when I was now a mom of two kids under two, still thinking about the secret to having it all as I sat in a career coach training at Harvard Business School. In this training, we were discussing life stages and various aspects of adult development.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway and light bulb moment for this busy and slightly confused mama was when we talked about Daniel Levinson’s research on stages of adulthood – specifically the Age 30 Transition (ages 28-40).

Leading up to these life stages, young adults have spent a considerable amount of time exploring career paths, pursuing relationships, and making moves to build out a vision for their lives. They are discovering and goal setting and achieving like woah.

Then for many there comes a turning point that makes them reflect on what they really want out of life.

Navigating the Turning Point

In the Age 30 Transition, there could be lots of different turning points but a big one is having children.

With that turning point, things start moving. Fast! And it’s great, but it’s also scary because parenthood is a big life change and your needs and priorities have changed along with it. Plus, while you’re still you, you are now trying to determine what your role in society is going forward.

And this isn’t just me spitballing, it’s science! Something about this being science makes it feels like “Okay, I’m not alone. These feels are natural,” right?

At the same time, you WANT to figure this all out but it’s also hard to keep your head above water with everything you’ve got going. Yikes!

The Secret to Having It All – Knowing What You Want

I know it’s overwhelming to think about all this, because (raises a hand to the sky) I’ve been there.

But, I’ve also been quite fortunate because my “all” includes being surrounded by experienced career coaches who have helped me learn the secret to having it all. And here it is.

Having it all is personal.

It does not depend on what Jane has or Joe has. It’s not measuring what you have against anyone else. Having it all is about determining what YOUR all is and then focusing on that alone.

What are YOUR core needs, YOUR core motivators, YOUR core interests and skills? What kind of life do YOU want so that you can have it all and define success on your own terms?

That might mean “having it all” to you is a flexible job without a big fancy title that lets you live close to your family. It could be that “having it all” to you is owning your own business, working on a mission that’s important to you, and hiring an awesome nanny. “Having it all” might mean being a stay-at-home parent and cutting back on expenses that aren’t actually that important to you to make it happen.

But, Like, How?

So now that the big secret to having it all is out, how do you truly figure out what YOUR all is? Not someone else’s definition, YOURS.

Well that, my friends, is a process and exactly where career coaching and career development tools and assessments come into play.

Let’s start with my favorite career development exercise, 100 jobs, adapted from the great book Getting Unstuck by my Harvard Business School colleague Dr. Timothy Butler. This is my go-to starting point because it pulls you out of your own head. It’s hard to sit down and write out what you need to be happy and fulfilled, so this fun activity gets the wheels turning, and puts you back in your childhood dreamer state.

Many thanks to Harvard Business School Publishing for permission to share!

Plus, when you go through this exercise you’ll learn a whole lot more about yourself than if you spent the time taking the Buzzfeed quiz about what kind of cheese you are.

(You’re a delightful sharp cheddar, of course.)

Take It to the Next Level

When I went through this exercise myself, I found core themes about what makes me tick and started to put the pieces together around humor, helping people, finding a balance between collaborative work and solo work, and intellectual challenge.

After you’ve completed 100 jobs, you’re going to have more insight into what is meaningful to YOU which is awesome and brings you one step closer to the goal.

You may still not know what “having it all” means to you just yet though. Remember, it’s a process, and that’s where the Career Clarity Program comes in next.

In this online coaching workshop, we work through more self-assessment exercises that will help you figure out what your passions are, what your core skills are, what value you can add to others, and what your key motivators and needs are. That stuff right there – that’s YOUR ALL!

With that knowledge in mind, you can start assessing what kind of life you want to craft for yourself. What job opportunities you want to go for. What you might want to build on your own that would allow you to have it all.

Does that sound good? Learn more here.

Key Takeaways

Did you skip on down to the bottom? That’s cool, here’s the Cliffs Notes!

  • If you’re struggling with “having it all” maybe it’s because you are trying to have something that you don’t really want.
  • The secret to having it all is that it is personal. You need to decide what your all is now that life has changed in lots of big ways.
  • How can you figure that out? With career coaching tools to walk you through your core interests, needs, and motivators.
  • Start with 100 Jobs then go over to the Career Clarity Program.

But my biggest takeaway for you – you’re not alone. So many people hit this turning point and struggle to figure out how to have it all. We can though – together!

What does "having it all" mean to you as a mom? Is it being a working mom? A stay at home mom? Finding the elusive balance? We are bombarded with this concept, but how often do we try to figure out what our "all" really is? Come reflect on this concept, and find a career development exercise to explore how your interests help you define what your "all" really is. #workingmoms #sahmoms #careerdevelopment #careeradvice #careercoaching
What does "having it all" mean to you as a mom? Is it being a working mom? A stay at home mom? Finding the elusive balance? We are bombarded with this concept, but how often do we try to figure out what our "all" really is? Come reflect on this concept, and find a career development exercise to explore how your interests help you define what your "all" really is. #workingmoms #sahmoms #careerdevelopment #careeradvice #careercoaching
Printable career development exercise. Define what having it all means to you in career and life. Use this printable for your career planning. #careeradvice #career #careerplanning #careerdevelopment

Read More About Career Exploration:

Transferable Mom Skills That Make You Indispensable at Work

How to Write a “You’re Hired” Cover Letter

Strategies to Rock a Remote Job Search

Similar Posts


  1. Beautiful to read that you love what you do, that is so important! At 50 years old, I have been reflecting on what my ‘all’ consists of and I am excited for all the possibilities in my future. At any age, if we follow our heart, we can and will make our goals and dreams happen.

  2. Great post! I think I’m just now finding my passion after years of being in a different career. I taught elementary for 10 years and then when my second child was born took time off to be a stay at home mom. For the first year or so I focused just on that, and then money got tight so I searched for ventures I could do from home. I started a blog and have been hard at work at it for almost four months now!

    1. Isn’t it awesome when something clicks! It’s all about giving ourselves permission to swivel in our careers and evaluate what our real drivers are. I’ll be including some stuff on blogging on here as well so I hope you’ll come back. 🙂

  3. You hit the nail on the head when you asked if the all we were striving toward was really what we wanted. Before I had kids, I didn’t want any. I had an internship lined up with NASA and I was working toward my master’s degree in biomedical engineering. Instead, I got married, had two kids so fast my head spun, and here I am eight kids later. And now I’m a blogger/homeschooler/farmer. I wouldn’t change a thing!

    1. What a great story! So awesome that you created a life that you love and didn’t let the “but this is what I said I wanted…” get in the way. We are allowed to change and re-evaluate.

  4. I’ve noticed I’m being more aware of my surroundings as I am getting older. I try to celebrate every win, no matter the size. I know I am on the right path because I just quit my job to take my business coaching full-time. I would not change it for the world even though I never expected this life for me. Funny how that works out, huh!?

    1. That’s fantastic, Sophie! I hope it’s going well. The best things happen when we continue to reflect on what is most important and exciting to us at various stages of our lives.

  5. I’ve been out of the traditional work industry for 10 years now. I’ve done freelance work since then, but I’m not sure how that will look on a resume. I’m hoping to reenter the work force next year when both kids are in school, but I’m terrified of restarting again! I look forward to following along with this, even though I’m not currently a professional.

    1. All about highlighting transferrable skills and telling your story! And lady, you’re a story teller. You’ve got this. Follow along here but also email me if you want to talk it out. Check out 100 jobs too – it is super useful even if you think you know what you want to do.

      1. Thanks girl! I will…all I know about what I want to do is that I don’t want to go back to teaching. I guess that’s a start 😀

  6. Great article! I agree, it’s super important to figure out what “having it all” means to each of us. For me personally it’s difficult to have a successful career and dedicate time to my kids. At times I feel very conflicted and I constantly change my mind about what I want. Lots of food for thought here!

    1. It’s so complicated! And I think incredibly natural to feel conflicted because our feelings on the matter will change. But it’s just important to acknowledge those feelings and lean into them. This is what having it all means to me right now and here’s how I am going to go about doing that. In a year, it could look very different.

  7. This is 100% true – having it all is subjective as it should be! And no one person should define it for anyone else – and I hate that women feel the need to put a definitive definition and criteria on what exactly this is. Thanks for sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *