Earlier this week, a leading headmistress claimed girls needed to choose between their careers and motherhood. The idea that women can “have it all”, she said, was “a lie”.

Vivienne Durham, head of London’s independent school Francis Holland Regent’s Park, stated in an interview with Absolutely Education magazine: “I’m sorry, I’m not a feminist. I believe there is a glass ceiling – if we tell [girls] there isn’t one, we are telling them a lie.”

Starting any sentence with the words “I’m not a feminist” is misguided at best – particularly worrying words from the leader of a girls school, responsible for instilling values, which you might reasonably assume would include the fundamental rule of feminism, that women and men are equal.

What she said next, however, in a follow-up interview with The Telegraph threw up an interesting question: “Young girls have massive options these days and some of them will make a decision that they don’t want to combine everything and that is as valid as making the decision that you do want to combine everything,” she said.

“Some of them will juggle and combine everything and that will be the future for lots of women. I certainly want women to have that choice.”

“There are different demands and people have different capacities and you need to make the decisions that are right for your family”

However, Mrs Durham added that society needed to be less judgmental of those women who went down “the road less taken”. “There are different demands and people have different capacities and you need to make the decisions that are right for your family”.

While women might appear to have more options than ever in terms of raising a family and having a meaningful career, there seems to be a growing pressure on women to do it all – rather than a choice. While many women thrive through the constant balancing act which that entails, and on the achievement of wearing so many hats, some women don’t want to do it all. They want to choose.

Among a number of women I’ve heard from lately, there is a perceived pressure – from the outside and from within themselves – that they have to do everything at once: have kids, step up their career, pursue personal ambitions. That not doing so is somehow a betrayal of the sisterhood; that it is lazy or unprogressive or lacking in aspiration.

But surely the decision to take one path rather than dancing between them all, is as valid choice as any – and one that can be just as rewarding? After all, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything… Right?

Should women have it all? That’s the subject of this week’s debate… Join the conversation now on Instagram

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