I love my life. I have three TV shows at work and I have three daughters at home. And it’s all amazing, and I am truly happy. And people are constantly asking me, how do you do it?
And usually, they have this sort of admiring and amazed tone.
Shonda, how do you do it all?
Like I’m full of magical magic and special wisdom-ness or something.
How do you do it all?
And I usually just smile and say like, “I’m really organized.” Or if I’m feeling slightly kindly, I say, “I have a lot of help.”
And those things are true. But they also are not true.
And this is the thing that I really want to say. To all of you. Not just to the women out there. Although this will matter to you women a great deal as you enter the work force and try to figure out how to juggle work and family. But it will also matter to the men, who I think increasingly are also trying to figure out how to juggle work and family. And frankly, if you aren’t trying to figure it out, men of Dartmouth, you should be. Fatherhood is being redefined at a lightning-fast rate. You do not want to be a dinosaur.
So women and men of Dartmouth: As you try to figure out the impossible task of juggling work and family and you hear over and over and over again that you just need a lot of help or you just need to be organized or you just need to try just a little bit harder … as a very successful woman, a single mother of three, who constantly gets asked the question “How do you do it all?” For once I am going to answer that question with 100 percent honesty here for you now. Because it’s just us. Because it’s our fireside chat. Because somebody has to tell you the truth.
Shonda, how do you do it all?
The answer is this: I don’t.
Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.
If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.
Something is always missing.
And yet. I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are when they come to my offices and know that they come to Shondaland. There is a land and it is named after their mother. In their world, mothers run companies. In their world, mothers own Thursday nights. In their world, mothers work. And I am a better mother for it. The woman I am because I get to run Shondaland, because I get write all day, because I get to spend my days making things up, that woman is a better person—and a better mother. Because that woman is happy. That woman is fulfilled. That woman is whole. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who didn’t get to do this all day long. I wouldn’t want them to know the me who wasn’t doing.
– Excerpted from Shonda Rhimes’ Dartmouth College commencement address, June 8, 2014