21/08/2016 6:55 AM AEST | Updated 21/08/2016 6:55 AM AEST

'Having It All' Means More Than A Picket Fence And A Promotion

It means whatever you want it to mean.

Yeah, you don't have to look this perfect to have it 'all'.
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Yeah, you don't have to look this perfect to have it 'all'.

It turns out I did a lot of heavy thinking when I was on maternity leave. I'm not sure if it was the sleep deprivation, the coffee-fuelled days or the middle of the night feeds, but having a small baby turned our lives upside down made me think, a lot.

One thing that I really thought about was the concept of 'having it all'. I read a lot of articles on having it all as a parent and as a women when I was pregnant, trying to figure out what this would look like for me as a working mother. Some of them were super positive, letting us know that we can have it all if we want, some say flat out "nope, honey its not for you", and some sit on the fence and say "it's really hard but give it a go".

Before I was pregnant, I was told that if I planned on having a family that my partner or I would have to give up our job (beyond maternity leave) to take up the roll of full-time carer -- full stop, no questions asked. I was floored. In this age of inclusiveness and empowerment -- especially when it comes to parents returning to work after having children and balancing that responsibility to suit their family structure -- I was told that my career had an expiry date because I wanted children in the future.

This conversation has stayed with me and encouraged me to define what 'having it all' means to me. I think 'having it all' needs to be redefined -- we need to clear the information in our heads that says 'having it all' means a only a white picket fence and high profile career.

I've learnt that it's a fluid concept that changes in each stage of life, and is so personal to everyone. When I went on maternity leave, my 'all' was bringing up my little one and getting used to her being around and how we operated as a new family. At the moment, my 'all' is my family and my work-life balance and whatever travel we can fit in there. For the next women it could mean her being the most fabulous stay-at-home mum, and the next a business woman that is climbing the corporate ladder, or an entrepreneur with a great new start up.

Once I figured this out, the stress of 'having it all' was removed, and I was free to think about my future and I know my 'all' will change to reflect the stage of my life.

That person who thought that they were doing me a favour by telling me what they thought was relevant to them, I thank them because it got me to where I am with defining what 'having it all' means. The stress is removed knowing that simply, it's all relative.