People

Can we really have it all? Famous women speak out on the topic of work-life balance

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Published

Mila Kunis – who received critical acclaim for her role in Black Swan – recently admitted that she finds it difficult to balance her acting career with being a mother to her and Ashton Kutcher’s young daughter, Wyatt.

“Simply put, the idea of balance doesn’t exist,” she told The Cut. “It is your work or your kid, but you can’t balance it. There is really, in my opinion, no such thing. One will take a weight.”

Her comments sparked a world-wide debate around that age-old question; can women ever truly “have it all”?

Here’s what Mila’s fellow celebrities have to say on the divisive topic…

  • Angelina Jolie

    “I actually feel that women in my position, when we have all at our disposal to help us, shouldn’t complain. Consider all the people who really struggle and don’t have the financial means, don’t have the support, and many people are single raising children. That’s hard.

    “When I feel I’m doing too much, I do less, if I can. And that’s why I’m in a rare position where I don’t have to do job after job. I can take time when my family needs it.”

    (New York Daily News)

  • Zoe Saldana

    "Let me tell you something, it will never be the right time for anybody in your life that you get pregnant… [when I fell pregnant, some of] the productions I was slated to work on sort of had a panic. I heard through the grapevine there was even a conversation of me being written off of one of the projects.

    "I was like, 'Oh, my God, are you kidding me? It's this bad?' Right when I just feel super-duper happy, is that inconvenient for you?' That me, as a woman in my thirties, I finally am in love and I am finally starting my life? And it's [screwing] your schedule up? Really?

    "The battle will always be in trying to balance it out. That's the most exhausting thing, the balance of it all. But it helps when you're doing it with your companion. If I know [my husband] Marco is trying to balance it as well, then I feel like I'm not alone."

    (USA Today)

  • Victoria Beckham

    “Like so many working mothers all over the world, I feel the constant struggle to be the best mother I can, whilst setting a good example to my children to work hard. I travel for work when it's necessary, and I miss them all the time when I am away.” 

    (Time magazine)

  • Kate Hudson

    “Even though every primal ounce of the nurturing, domestic woman in me gets pulled, I’m a hunter as well. And I love to hunt! And as a woman I feel that somehow we are supposed to feel apologetic about wanting both. But I don’t want to apologize for that anymore.

    “Being both already comes at an emotional cost, without adding society’s antiquated idea of the traditional roles of man and woman in the home.”

    (InStyle)

  • Beyoncé

    “After giving birth there’s a moment of rediscovery when you are making sure you still have goals and take care of yourself as a woman.

    “That was something I struggled with – making sure I was still this strong woman and also making time for my child and balancing the two.”

    (The Mirror)

  • Michelle Obama

    "I tried part time because I thought, I have to figure this out, I have to be able to pick the kids up, I’ve got to be able to do all this. So I tried part time. The only thing I found out from part time was that you just get paid part time.

    "So I had vowed that if I continued to work, that I would never settle for part time… I knew what my time and energy was worth.

     “[Balancing a career and happy home life is a] ridiculous aspiration. I don’t want young women out there to have the expectation that if they’re not having it all that somehow they’re failing.”

    (VOA News)

  • Scarlett Johansson

    “I know that there will be some sacrifices. I know that's the struggle with working mothers and successful careers.

    “There must exist a world in which I can balance those things, be able to raise a family and still make a film a year, or work on my own, develop things, do theatre. I want to be able to have it all,' says the star.

     “It seems so stressful to not be able to spend time with your family because you're constantly chasing the tail of your own success.”

    (Parade)

  • Kate Winslet

    “It's a lot to juggle: to be the wife that you want to be to your husband, to be the mother that you need to be to your kids - to do the school run every day and be there for all the crucial moments of their growing-up - and also to be able to do a job like acting, which demands so much of your emotional self, and to be able to give yourself to it wholeheartedly. 

    “I think how it works for me, like for any working mother, is you just get really good at compartmentalising. My kids will always be at the forefront of my brain anyway, and when I'm with them they are my absolute priority. 

    “When I'm having a date night with my husband, we try not to talk about work. And when I'm at work, it's like laser-vision: I'm very focused and committed.”

    (Daily Mail)

  • Drew Barrymore

    “[Women can’t] have it all—at least not in the same moment. I get in trouble for saying you have to make choices and therefore you may not get to do everything you want.

    “I never hit the pillow thinking, ‘Yup, did it all today!’… I’m like, ‘Oh, phew! I think people at work don’t hate me today and my kids are feeling like Mom was there and this is good’…. It’s a hot mess and I need to make the best of it that’s possible!”

    (Forbes)

  • Amy Poehler

    “The ‘I don’t know how you do it’ statement used to get my blood boiling. When I heard those words, I didn’t hear ‘I don’t know HOW you do it.’ I just heard ‘I don’t know how you COULD do it.’ I would be feeling overworked and guilty and overwhelmed and suddenly I would be struck over the head by what felt like someone else’s bulls**t. It was an emotional drive-by. A random act of woman-on-woman violence.

    “In my fantasy I would answer, ‘what do you mean how do I do it? Do you really want to know the ins and outs of my nanny schedule? Do you want to know how I balance childcare with my husband and the different ways I manipulate and negotiate work to help me put my kids first when needed?’

    “… the biggest lie and biggest crime is that we all do this alone and look down on people who don’t. Can’t we all agree that more eyes on a kid is ultimately better? Doesn’t that at least lower the chances of him running into the street?”

    (Amy Poehler's 'Yes Please')

  • Reese Witherspoon

    “No one’s really doing it perfectly. I think you love your kids with your whole heart, and you do the best you possibly can.

    “There are some sacrifices you make, and it hurts your heart sometimes, but my kids tell me they’re proud of what I’ve accomplished, and that just means everything.

    "I grew up with a working mom, and I have so much respect for the things she did as a nurse and a teacher. I would never begrudge her that.”

    (Southern Living)

  • Tina Fey

    “‘How do you juggle it all?’ people constantly ask me, with an accusatory look in their eyes. ‘You’re screwing it all up, aren’t you?’ their eyes say.

    "My standard answer is that I have the same struggle as any working parent but with the good fortune to be working at my dream job. Or sometimes I just hand them a juicy red apple I’ve poisoned in my working-mother witch cauldron and fly away.”

    (The New Yorker)

  • Hillary Clinton

    "I think that this is an issue that is not a woman's issue. It is a human issue and a family issue. After all, there is little doubt that balancing work and family responsibilities is done in one way or another by people everywhere, every day…

    “[Either way it] is absolutely clear there is no right or wrong way to have a family, or even whether you do have a family. There is no right or wrong way to build a career, or even if you do have a career. Women and men need to find approaches that work for them, and that approach may change over the course of your life."

    [ABC News]

  • Claire Danes

    “Being a mom is incredibly challenging but we still feel a pressure to talk about it in very romantic terms. We all have that resentment at times and anxiety about being trapped by the role, that responsibility. And then chemically it can run riot…and there’s no ‘off’ button.”

    (Harper's Bazaar)

  • Naomi Watts

    “Every single day, I second-guess myself as a mother. I chose to be a mom. It’s something I’ve always wanted, but I feel torn between two worlds. I am not reaching the same depths and heights that I used to reach in movies because I’m a parent of two small children who desperately need me. It’s frustrating because I feel like I’m failing a bit on both ends.”

    (Blackbook)

  • Isla Fisher

    “You can’t ‘have it all – it’s a total myth. Whatever you are lucky enough to get should be fabulous enough. I have never met anyone with the perfect career and the perfect family life. Something always has to suffer.”

    (Fashion Magazine)

  • Jessica Ennis

    “[My mum plays a key role in looking after Reggie]… I didn’t foresee how difficult it would be to juggle [a baby] and training, because you just don’t know what it’s like until you become a mum.

    “The lack of sleep was so hard, and it was a real roller-coaster of emotions. Sometimes I wondered why I was doing it to myself, and whether I should just be happy with what I’d already achieved. But I just wanted to make Reggie proud."

    (The Mirror)

  • Jada Pinkett Smith

    “Being the best mom you can be isn’t about economic status, it’s about philosophy. I know I need help raising my kids. That’s why my mother travels with us when I’m on tour with my band, Wicked Wisdom, or if I’m on location for a movie. If she can’t make it, a friend comes along, or I bring Will.... 

    "I think part of the problem is that most women think they don’t deserve time for themselves. We’re constantly told that as women we have to do, do, do. But we need each other for support. We need to develop relationships with people so that we have help. Everyone needs to figure out a way to create a support system—no one should do it alone.”

    (Working Mother)

  • Jennifer Garner

     “[Me and Ben Affleck] got home at night and we compared notes. And I told him every single person who interviewed me, I mean every single one... asked me, ‘How do you balance work and family?’ and he said the only thing that people asked him repeatedly was about the tits on the Blurred Lines girl [Emily Ratajkowski, Affleck’s co-star in Gone Girl].

    “As for work-life balance, he said no one asked him about it that day. As a matter of fact, no one had ever asked him about it. And we do share the same family. Isn’t it time to kinda change that conversation?”

    (Elle)

  • Cate Blanchett

     “It’s always going to be a matter of deciding which film you feel you absolutely need to do and how sometimes you may be involved in other things, like when Andrew and I were running the (Sydney) Theatre Company and I had to turn down certain roles…

    “My days are free when I’m not making a film and I can spend time doing very ordinary things at home like cooking and reading or preparing dinner for the children. It’s very important to me to be able to have that kind of life away from my work.”

    (Herald Sun)

  • Elizabeth Banks

    "I balance it by always putting my children's health and safety first. Then I feel OK to go and do the job I love… [but] I don't think dads do it as well as moms, quite frankly, as I don't think there's any pressure on them to balance anything in their lives when it comes to parents being at work.

    "I try not to feel that pressure, either. I actually have a girlfriend who works in the justice department, going after criminals and the mafia, and she's got three kids. Parenting is challenging any way you slice it."

    (New You)

  • Demi Moore

    “I was brave. I was so brave! I had no sense of the impact that it would have. I just wanted to push the boundaries. When I said 'I want it all,' that wasn’t coming from a place of greed. It was coming from a desire for balance.

    "I wanted to remove the limitations that I felt were being imposed on me. Why couldn’t I be a mother and have a career?”

    (Elle)

  • Kristen Bell

    “There are endless ways to do it. And however your gut is telling you to do it, that's what's right. It's a unifying message that we all feel less than; we all feel frazzled; we all feel overworked and terrified we're messing up our humans… 

    “My husband and I tap out and take mini meditative breaks because we have two toddlers — they're so f*cking loud — and we keep an eye on each other. We'll go, ‘Oh, OK, you can take a break; I'll take over.’ When you're in the ring, you gotta tap out with your partner. That's how we do it.”

    (PopSugar)

  • Jessica Alba

    “It’s a tough balance trying to be the best mom, and obviously my family is my priority, and then also I love what I do and I love that I get to have a job that I enjoy so much and that gives me the freedom to spend a lot of time with my daughter, frankly, and travel. And everything else.

    “It’s hard not to spend every second with [Honor]. And balancing that with trying to be a great wife. Having my daughter has certainly shifted my priorities. It’s all about giving her the best life possible, and that means finding that right balance between being home and working when I can, rather than being so career driven.”

    (Terra TV)

  • Natalie Portman

    “Oh, I try to make rules. But I always break them. I’m like, ‘OK, I’m gonna exercise three times a week, no matter what, to keep sane.’ Then it’ll get too busy – babies are gorgeous [but] hard work.

    “Mothers just try to keep up with the different demands and adjust accordingly.

    “You don’t realise how nice it is to be a child until you are deep in adult responsibilities.”

    (Telegraph)

  • Sheryl Sandberg

    “I have never met a woman, or man, who stated emphatically, 'Yes, I have it all.' Because no matter what any of us has—and how grateful we are for what we have—no one has it all.”

    (Sheryl Sandberg's 'Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead')

  • Lucy Liu

    “I decided to [have a baby] a little bit later on. I was focused on my career… [and] normally, with work, it’s a three or four-month job, or a 10-month gig. You move on, you are in another city, you always have your luggage packed to go, and now I don’t have that. It’s a very different feeling, knowing that I have somebody there that I will take care of and have responsibility for. It’s exciting, it’s a nice feeling…

    “You know, it’s funny, because I used to go to work and come home and just go about my business, but now I have something to look forward to. Just seeing him and his progress is pretty fantastic.”

    (Extra TV)

  • Sarah Michelle Gellar

    "It's been difficult. My hat goes off to any working parent. It is the hardest to juggle.

    "I know my job is by no means the hardest in the world, but to any parents, again, it is so difficult because you're trying to focus so hard but you're always wondering, 'What's my child doing? Are they okay? Did they eat their lunch? Did they eat their vegetables? Did they take their nap?' It's how to separate both of them."

    (Entertainment Weekly)

  • Aishwarya Rai

    "Even prior to marriage and motherhood, it's always been about prioritising and focusing on what you can commit to. That's been my approach to every aspect of my life, be it my relationships or my professional commitments. I just take on what I can commit to completely at that point in time and that way you’ll be able to give your best." 

    (Yahoo)

  • Shakira

    “I guess our mothers and grandmothers weren't under the pressure that women of today are after delivering a baby… but it's different, I have a career, and that's the only part that's been a bit stressful because I knew that I'd have to come back here to do The Voice two months after I delivered a baby.

    “I didn't have my four months maternity like every woman on earth has. So I'm not trying to complain, but it's been a process full of challenges in my life.

    “Thank God the father is very involved. He has been amazing. The baby spends as much time with me as he does with his dad. He's the kind of dad who's full hands on. He changes diapers, he bathes him, he enjoys playing with the baby, he enjoys feeding him, all of that stuff.

    “I can't imagine doing all of this and not having the father do his part of the job. So that's a huge help to me.”

    (Us Weekly)

  • Sherri Shepherd

    “There was a time when I really had to give something up and that was when my son was born prematurely. He was born at five and a half months. That was a time that was so scary for me … So I had to give myself permission to take the actress Sherri, the stand-up comedian Sherri, put them on the shelf with the fine china and focus on being a mom. It was the best thing I did."

    (AOL.com)

  • Juliette Binoche

    "[I have always assumed responsibility for combining career and motherhood], and I think it is my responsibility because I wanted those babies. I have always organised things and I am not expecting anything from those fathers: I don't think men are aware of how much it requires anyway. That is my experience, both as a mother and a daughter.

    “[…] As a woman, working, travelling away, taking risks, it is not so easy to live with. You have to have someone who is patient and understanding and happy to be at home.  I'm like the husband of my family and I haven't found a wife. But I don't want a wife, I want a husband, someone who is as passionate and risk-taking as I am."

    (Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Felicity Huffman

    "First, I have to recognize how lucky I am to have to navigate these sorts of issues. I have a job that I love and a fabulous family that I love… but people always ask, 'How do you balance home life and work?' And I tell them, 'I don't. I just drop the ball all the time.'

    “[I sometimes say to myself,] 'I'm failing as both a mother and an actress.' But I do what I can to stumble forward joyously."

    (People)

  • Christina Milian

    “The only thing that I stress out about is, how am I going to make sure that I balance out my time for motherhood? How am I going to make this work? Because my daughter – that time means everything to her and to us. She’s all I got.

    "We could work really hard but we could watch time fly, you know? Tomorrow’s not promised.”

    (Georgie)

     

  • Giuliana Rancic

    "What I do now is that when I'm at work, I'm 100 percent focused on work. I return all my emails. I don't just sit there and surf the Internet like before. And when I'm home, I would focus 100 percent on Duke and put the phone away...that way I would feel a little more of a balance."

    (Fashion magazine)