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Do-It-All Women rule

Opinion 28.02.17

Words Katy Lassen Illustration Linda Lahtinen

I am in awe of women.

I have always known that we are pretty amazing but I have developed a new found deep respect for my fellow females. I have now lived long enough to see what’s really going on. It is something about being in your 30s. You start to realise your ambitions at the same time that your body starts to decline. Your life to-do list suddenly multiplies and fragments into a million conflicting plans and desires. All of a sudden you have to make really big choices, the ones that will have a life-long impact, all at once. People start to ask you when you will be getting a promotion, launching that business, getting married, buying a house, having kids… with no sense of irony that you should probably do all of these things as soon as possible.

It is often banded around that women are good at multi-tasking, a generalisation that most likely doesn’t apply to everyone – I am sure there are some men out there that can do more than two things at once. However in my experience of friends and family and those I admire, it is the women who are doing the most things and men just a few.

I don’t know if it is something biological, or neurological. Or whether it is a societal expectation. Perhaps women have evolved into strident multi-taskers because so many things are expected of us. Whilst historically men were expected to go out to work and earn money, women have been tasked with everything else; keep the house tidy, raise the kids, manage household budgets, cook, clean, develop hobbies and interests to stave off madness, oh and have a career. That last one is a more contemporary expectation but one that now struggles to find its place at the top, in the middle or at the bottom of the long long list of female expectations.

Whilst historically men were expected to go out to work and earn money, women have been tasked with everything else; keep the house tidy, raise the kids, manage household budgets, cook, clean, develop hobbies and interests to stave off madness, oh and have a career

I have spent the last 13 years almost purely focused on my career. I was fiercely ambitious as a teenager and couldn’t wait to get out into the world and make my mark. Everything else was pushed down the list. While old friends were meeting partners, planning weddings and having children, I was planning my next venture, how I would break it as a stylist, and crucially how would I pay next month’s rent. There is a good level of life juggling needed in your twenties, but this mainly involves managing a schedule of work, drinking, seeing friends, drinking, going out, shopping, drinking and a bit of sleep. When you start to approach thirty people start telling you how great your thirties are and how brilliant it is to finally know yourself, love yourself and not give a shit. What they don’t tell you is that you will also have to do a lot more things; face a large number of crucial decisions about your future whilst simultaneously looking good, having fun and making the most of still, sort of being young. This is multi-tasking on a whole new level.

It has been both a positive and negative trait of mine to want to do it all. Not necessarily have it all, but do it all. It is the toxic mix of ambition, competitiveness (with myself and others) and zest for life which leaves me with a constant urge to achieve multiple things at once. Some have said (my mother) that as soon as I get something I become bored and want the next thing, but I don’t think it is as simple as that and I don’t think it is just me. Designer/mother/B’n’B host/social butterfly Elena Cooper feels that it was her upbringing that influenced her do-it-all nature; “My mother always taught me the value of independence. To her this meant not just financial independence but social circles, interests and a career that you loved. At 74 she still runs her own business. So I suppose it’s ingrained in me, but at the same time I enjoy it; the juggling, prioritising and planning how to squeeze it all in. I love the challenge and get a huge amount of satisfaction from the variety and general busyness. I find it empowering and in turn I hope it teaches my daughter the importance of doing things for yourself as well as for others. It can take the mundane into a more exciting realm, yet other times it can be stressful and telling yourself you can’t make more hours in a day becomes almost ritualistic”.

What they don’t tell you is that you will also have to do a lot more things; face a large number of crucial decisions about your future whilst simultaneously looking good, having fun and making the most of still, sort of being young

As children of the 80s we grew up with the idea that the dream line-up of career, kids, home and relationship could and should be achieved. It never occurred to me that I might have to sacrifice some of these goals if I was going to be any good at at least one of them. It is starting to dawn on me that I just might.

In 2016 I decided to launch a magazine. Along with stylist and fellow multi-tasker Simone Konu, we plotted to launch Also. I was sick of reading articles in women’s magazines about young, rich women and their ‘achievements’; of looking good, having a blog, milking their contacts, showing off their expensive wardrobes and being great under 30. What about all the brilliant women in their 30s and 40s that I knew who were doing multiple brilliant things, all at the same time? Yes they still look good and they probably have great wardrobes but I am more interested in what they are doing and how they are doing it. Most women I meet through work are freelance and therefor professional multi-taskers. They have a career that often runs at a much more complicated schedule than 9-5. They have interesting relationships. They have children. They have another job, a side project or are re-training. They have numerous pulls on their time and energy yet they remain focussed and brilliant and successful. Where are their stories? I want to read about women who inspire but that I can relate to. I want to hear about the challenges and the hurdles overcome, the politics, the struggles and the joys of success.

Psychotherapist Lucy Moss knows all about doing-it-all as she recently oversaw the complete renovation of her new house whilst seeing clients, running a property company and growing a human being. She gave birth to her daughter two weeks after moving into her new home. Her success in surviving this sort of work load is knowing when she needs to say no; “For me, the key to a healthy balance is listening to my myself & my core values, rather than societal expectations. Having it all is, in my mind, disingenuous. Rather, a fulfilling life is about focusing on the aspects that feel true to oneself and making the necessary changes to achieve this. Yes this means giving things up, delegating, drawing boundaries that others may not like; it also offers us a choice in the way we meet the world, precisely what generations of women before us fought so hard for”.

I want to read about women who inspire but that I can relate to. I want to hear about the challenges and the hurdles overcome, the politics, the struggles and the joys of success

In pure overachiever style I have recently crossed new boundaries in my subconscious quest to do-it-all. In mid 2016 we started to work on Also, designing the website, commissioning and shooting editorial and features. In the midst of this and towards the always-busy end of year rush I relocated from London to the Kent seaside and experienced the joys of trying to push a house purchase through two weeks before Christmas. I have continued to do my freelance editorial and commercial work and all the meetings and prep that come with that.  And to top it all off, I am having a baby. Yes I spent the last 3 months of 2016 with the biggest to-do list of my life whilst feeling like I was dragging my body through mud and might either collapse with exhaustion or hunger or nausea at any time.

It is this rather overwhelming experience that has opened my eyes to the unbelievable strength, resilience and amazingness that is **women**. As I dragged myself on and off packed tube trains I couldn’t help but gaze at women with their Baby on Board badges with a huge amount of awe and respect. I suddenly realised that millions of us continue to run companies, departments and projects, households, raise children and work at relationships whilst feeling like total death and not letting on. Women already have to work harder than men to achieve the same status and pay, and admitting physical vulnerabilities is not part of that game. How hard have we had to work to prove that although we feel like shit for at least one week out of every 4 we are just as capable as those non-hormonal men? If we also admitted that when we conceive we just want to crawl back into bed and eat toast and hide, it wouldn’t do our cause much good.

So it is with a fresh perspective of female amazingness that I approach my new to-do list with a ‘lets give it all a go’ mentality.  I want to celebrate the multi-taskers, the do-it-all creative women who inspire, wow and more than anything, DO. Also is for you.

Words Katy Lassen Illustration Linda Lahtinen
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