Health

Delia Ephron's definition of having it all? Cake!

Why does 'having it all' have to mean the same thing for all North American women? Nora Ephron's sister takes on the idea of marriage, children, career.

carrot cake recipe, white chocolate icing
People will disappoint you. Diets don’t work. Spot reducing is a myth. Inspirational sayings have a limited life span. But cake? Cake will always satisfy. And when you have a slice of your favourite cake, for a moment, you truly do have it all.

Or that’s what essayist Delia Ephron suggests in a recent OpEd for the New York Times.

The essay, an excerpt from her new book of essays Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.), is Ephron’s response to our cultural preoccupation with ‘having it all’. She references the divide between women who claim it’s possible to have it all, women who say it isn’t and she even cites one lone male voice that piped up proclaiming men can’t have it all either.

In this case, having it all includes three seemingly simple categories: career, husband and kids.

Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook is the current guru in negotiating this imperfect paradise. With her enviable job, helpful husband, two children (not to mention her best seller), right now she is Queen Have-It-All.”

For Ephron it’s a pretty narrow definition of a fulfilled life, but she makes another interesting point that puts all the self-help jargon and marketing hype in perspective.

“There is a statistical theory, degrees of freedom, that proves that every single choice you make narrows your choices (the choices you might make in the future), rendering having it all impossible,” writes Ephron.

So, choose to have a baby and your career will take a backseat whether you like it or not (unless you have the pull to have a nursery built in your office like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer). Take a job that demands you work nights and weekends and your romantic life will take a hit.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments of transcendence — where your needs and wants match up — says Ephron. Those moments, however, won’t make any newspaper headlines. Each person has such moments in the course of a day or week.

For me, I had it all when I woke up beside my still-sleeping baby, a smile of contentment on his face. Earlier, I had it all when I managed to drink a cup of hot coffee rather than the stone cold cup I’ve grown used to. (One thing I didn’t get, however, time to shower.)

For Ephron, one of her favourite such moments is walking into a bakery and inhaling the scents of fresh bread and baked goods.

“At that moment, in spite of statistical proof that this is not possible, I have it all. And not only that, I can have more.”

Take that, Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg.

What’s your definition of having it all? Tell us in the comment section below.