Lily Allen says having children 'totally ruined' her career and parents can't 'have it all.' Career coaches say she's right.

  • Lily Allen discussed motherhood and her career on The RadioTimes Podcast.

  • "It really annoys me when people say you can have it all because, quite frankly, you can't," Allen said.

  • C-Suite career coach Elizabeth Pearson said juggling family and a career can feel "impossible."

According to Lily Allen, having children and a career just don't mix.

The British star got candid about her experience on a recent episode of the Radio Times Podcast. Allen shares two daughters, 12-year-old Ethel and 11-year-old Marnie, with former husband Sam Cooper.

"I never really have a strategy when it comes to my career, but yes, my children ruined my career. I love them and they complete me, but in terms of pop stardom, totally ruined it," Allen said. "Does not mix. It really annoys me when people say you can have it all because, quite frankly, you can't."

She added: "Some people choose their career over their children. That's their prerogative, but my parents were quite absent when I was a kid, and I feel like that left some nasty scars that I'm not willing to repeat on mine. And so, I chose stepping back and concentrating on them, and I'm glad I've done that."

Lily Allen, David Harbour, and children at Stranger Things season 4  premiere
David Harbour, Lily Allen, and her two daughters at the "Stranger Things" season four premiere.ANGELA WEISS/Getty Images

While Allen's comments prompted criticism from some, career coaches Elizabeth Pearson and Sara Madera told Business Insider she's not entirely wrong.

Pearson is a mother and a career coach at her eponymous company, which helps C-Suite women navigate work and family. Madera is also a mother who launched Plan Creatively, her company that aims to help mothers navigate their careers while juggling family and work.

Pearson said raising children during your "key-earning years" can be difficult — especially if you're trying to accomplish every task under the sun

When Pearson first learned of Allen's comments, she told BI she appreciated the singer's "authenticity."

"It doesn't mean we don't love our kids, but if people think that kids don't tie an anchor around your ankle while you're trying to swim in an ocean with crashing waves, they're high," Pearson said.

Parents in the workforce can face a bevy of obstacles, including inadequate family policies, discrimination, stigmas around working parents, and unequal pay. Pearson said tackling all that, in addition to being active and present in your child's life, can feel "impossible."

Mother and children during the work day.
Career coaches said navigating work and family can be difficult.MoMo Productions/Getty Images

"Even Michelle Obama said we can't have it all," Pearson said, referring to Obama's 2018 remarks. "Why is there still this notion of women having it all? I want to be given credit for the sacrifices I made for my career versus, 'Why can't you just figure it out?'"

Pearson said the weight of work and family can compound over time, typically resulting in something inadvertently falling through the cracks.

"On one hand, we've got children to raise, and we're told to give them as much of our full attention as we can," Pearson said. "At the same time, we're frantically trying to make money so we can afford to retire someday, or we can afford to buy property or summer camp."

While parents may feel the need to sacrifice one or the other, Madera said it's about prioritizing what's important in your life at that moment

Madera agreed that juggling family and a career can be tricky but told BI that parents can find a balance that works for them if they put in the work.

"There is an opportunity to be successful at work, at home with your kids, in your relationship, and in your relationship with yourself," Madera said. "But it does take time and work to find clarity about what that success looks like."

Father working while holding infant daughter.
Parents can face obstacles in the workplace.Westend61/Getty Images

Madera continued that some parents' definition of success — perhaps working 9-to-5 and having dinner on the table by six — may not be tenable these days, especially given how the workforce changed in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic forced employees to work from home, meaning their office and personal lives began to bleed together.

"I think so much of that guilt is based around these expectations that we have," Madera said. "Work looks different than it did when we were kids. We all have phones now. So work is somewhat 24/7."

Madera recalled sessions with mothers who've felt overwhelmed by their to-do list.

"I'm like, 'Can we pick three to five things that are important?'" Madera said, adding that parents need to set realistic standards.

"We can't do everything. Nobody can, so what is actually important to us?" Madera said. "What do we actually want to focus on and what can we let go of?"

Both Madera and Pearson urged parents to make themselves a priority, even when it's hard

Both career coaches agreed that parents should check in with themselves.

"Mine probably isn't going to be a popular opinion, but I think your kids grow up and leave you, so it's good to focus on your career as much as you can without feeling like you're missing out on key milestones," Pearson said. "I think we have to tell ourselves it's OK to miss certain things. The phrase I use a lot is 'there will be others.'"

Pearson added that she's spoken to clients who invested all their energy into their children but felt lost when they grew up and became more independent.

Mother and son
Parents should remember to prioritize themselves, too.Jordi Mora igual/Getty Images

"You need to always have your finger on the pulse of your career and be striving because that's yours," Pearson said. "Your kids are their own people. They're going to grow up. They need you to have your own life. Don't bail on yourself."

Madera echoed Pearson's sentiment, saying, "We can't take care of others until we take care of ourselves."

"We are valuable," Madera said, adding that parents who can take a few minutes to recenter should do so.

"Do I need a bit more rest? Do I need more activity?' Madera asked. "What do I need so I can be there for myself, work, clients, kids, my husband? That starts with me understanding myself before I'm able to do that."

Read the original article on Business Insider