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What Counts as “Having It All” for You?

businesswoman with childTo a dramatically greater extent than decades ago, you get to create your own life path. Gone are the days when the standard path through adult life was to get married very young, have kids, stayed married, and have grandkids. Gone, too, are the days when people often stayed with the same company for a lifetime.

Now we can stay single or cohabit or get married or cycle through different relationship statuses over the course of our lives. We can choose to have kids or to not have kids. We can try new jobs (though sometimes by necessity rather than choice). We can pursue an education, then do something else, then go back to school again.

Or we can go straight into the workforce, skipping any higher education. (Statistically, our opportunities are more limited if that’s what we choose, but there are some who succeed spectacularly well without a college degree.)

My mother had six siblings and my father had one. Growing up, all of them lived in or very close to the same town. One of my aunts had grown children who lived in a home right behind hers. Families can still live that way, but it is no longer all that unusual to find family members scattered from coast to coast and everywhere in between.

With so many options for designing our own lives, it is puzzling that concepts such as “having it all” have such limited meanings. About a decade ago, I made a huge change in my life, and realized that what “having it all” meant to me was strikingly different than the usual understanding. I wrote about that in the opening to Chapter 10 of Singled Out.

EXCERPT from Singled Out, p. 185:

After I moved from the East Coast to the West, there was a time when I knew I wanted to stay out West, but was not yet sure whether I could make that happen. Would I be able to sell my home in Virginia? Would anyone hire me for only as many hours as it took to pay my bills, so I could devote the rest of my time, and all of my heart and soul, to the study of singles? What about all the rest of it – would it all work out? Then one day, I got a phone call, and I knew that it had happened. I hung up and sat in quiet stunned amazement for a moment. Then I thought to myself, “I can have it all.”

It took a second for me to realize just how bizarre that thought was – at least by the prevailing standards. Here I was, stepping into a life in which I had no husband, no children, no full-time job, and for the first time in more than a decade, no home that I owned. Yet to me, I was about to have it all.

I doubt that I would have thought of my life that way many years before. I loved my friends, my family, my job, and my home, but I would not have spontaneously appropriated a cultural catch-phrase, nor refashioned it so thoroughly.

What about you? What could happen in your life – or what has already happened – that would inspire you to proclaim that you “have it all”?

Businesswoman with child photo available from Shutterstock.

What Counts as “Having It All” for You?

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2012). What Counts as “Having It All” for You?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Jan 2012
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