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Heidi Shaffer, Published July 21 2012

Shaffer: Do we have to ‘have it all’?

I recently tried to convince myself that I’m justified hiring someone to clean my house every couple of weeks.

My practical side argued that I work hard and want to spend my time away from the office enjoying my home with my husband without worrying about scrubbing my toilet or detailing my coffee maker.

But my emotional side guilted me out of it.

“You don’t even have kids,” I told myself. “Think of all those women out there who work full time, take care of their families and still manage to clean their houses.”

And right then, without any children to speak of, I found myself on the battlefield of the Mommy Wars, in which women everywhere try to decide whether they can actually “have it all.”

Marissa Mayer, who was named CEO of Yahoo! this week, found herself on the frontlines.

Following the announcement Tuesday, women around the world applauded the 37-year-old pregnant business executive for finding a way to “have it all.”

Other women questioned whether Mayer could really “have it all.” In an explosive column this summer for The Atlantic, Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former Washington power player, calls the concept a fallacy in today’s economy and society and describes what needs to change in order to make it happen.

At the same time, several mommy bloggers shook their heads knowingly and took to their keyboards to poke fun at Mayer’s proclamation that she would take just a few weeks off for her maternity leave and work through it.

Stay-at-home moms, who left “it all” to take care of their families, shot back that they’re doing just fine, thank you.

Single women focused on their careers professed they already have everything they want.

And many single moms out there have no choice but to “do it all.”

But why are we so obsessed with the concept of “having it all” in the first place? And who ever said that having kids and a successful career is the epitome of the modern woman?

It seems we’re holding women to different standards than men. The pressure to achieve “it all” overshadows our accomplishments both in the home and office.

Sometimes I find myself standing still instead of pushing forward because I’m worried about whether I’m living up to what a modern working woman should be.

When I consider not having children, another part of me cringes over whether I’m succeeding in my personal life. Is that what I really want or is it just what I think I want because I can’t imagine what a baby in the mix would mean for my career?

It’s time to redefine the “all” and get over it. We need to stop wasting energy on figuring out if we “have it all” and live our lives.

Ask yourself, “Am I happy and fulfilled?” If the answer is yes, then you have it all. I give you permission to say it, regardless of how big your office is, how many children you have or how shiny your hardwood floors are.

I have a career I love, no children on the horizon and a slightly untidy house, but I’m living the dream in my own world.

Readers can reach Forum features editor Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511.