*the greatest lie told to women ever.
I mean, really. Find me a woman who is successfully ‘having it all’ (happily parenting little people, working in a fulfilling/successful job, and holding down a positive relationship) and I’ll point out that she is either; actually loosing her marbles, a figment of social media or just a mirage (in which case, I should probably break it to you; you may be loosing your marbles).
I am a working mum. I have a job that fundamentally I’m good at. I write this whilst sat in my kitchen of an evening. The two boys are asleep and my eldest has friends over for a sleepover. The kitchen is pretty clean, I completed 3 loads of washing today and my husband and I are on a good terms, last time I checked. I have no real feelings of anxiety thinking about what tomorrow brings. Sounds good doesn’t it? You may think, “well what’s that, if not ‘having it all'”?!
BUT…. I’m on 6 WEEKs of HOLIDAY!
What I guess my life looks like on the outside: it’s a job I choose to work in, I’m good at it, I have school holidays, it pays more than the minimum wage.
How it actually feels: exhausting, never done well, resentful to my kids, guilty always, rushing, not enough money to live comfortably, wishing for time at home, wishing for time alone.
I’m a 36 year old wife, mother to 3 children who works full time but term time. I ‘have it all’, apparently. But.
It is not sustainable. Something has to give.
I will leave the house before my kids are awake and work all day, I will rush home worrying about the work I haven’t completed/done well enough and try to be present through tea time. I will throw on my sports bra to fit in a run (because this is meant to make me feel better) which means missing bed time, before seeing a friend or holding down a hobby/class because again they are meant to help my mental health, and then, if my kids will not settle or one argues with their dad, I will blame myself for not being there.
Not to mention: I am ALWAYS tired, usually stressed (presenting as mouth ulcers or back pain), and rarely enjoying the moments of my children or the successes at work.
Because I chase a dream.
Except I often mistake it for reality.
That’s not ‘having it all’.
I was told I could or should or would have babies and a career. I grew up with heart-in-the-right-place suggestion’s that I could have it all. And I thought that meant that I would be doing well and being happy in all.
I’m not. You can’t.
Not without something breaking.
Your kids; because you’re not present for all the important moments in their lives or you’re too tired to be fully ‘on’ with them. Your work because you cannot always commit the hours needed or you resent it for taking you away. Your relationship because you never have time for it.
But most probably you. You will break. All because you’ll do brilliantly at trying to hold all the above together and the result will be your own poor emotional wellbeing.
I don’t write this looking for a solution because actually the whole point of ‘having it all’, I thought, is that it shouldn’t be a choice between one or the other, between mothering and working. And that’s what my solution would be. I also don’t write this to have a moan about my situation but rather because, this is a bigger picture. Its not just my working mum view point. What about women who are parenting and looking at careers thinking ‘I’d like some of that’ but feeling overwhelmed by how that could possibly work because of the logistics (astronomical childcare) or the guilt of leaving the children. This is an issue for us all, one that needs acknowledging.
I’ve been writing this post for 4 weeks. I had the idea when talking with a girlfriend. Then I got as far as some bullet points one night. Another week went by and I wrote some whole sentences. And this is the reality of me fitting anything else into my life right now.
Today? today I feel completely different to the me that started this piece. I have enjoyed my kids, completed housework and felt good about it. Last night I loved cooking the evening meal. I popped out to pick up a household item we’d been needing for weeks today and it was an easy process. I can sit here and peruse my writing happily. I’m not worrying about what I should be doing instead. Because for the next 6 weeks I am mum and nothing else. And that feels possible. Enjoyable. Realistic.
So, I think we need to stop suggesting ‘having it all’ is a thing or be a bit more honest, a bit more realistic;
You can have it all, just not all at the same time.
And if you try to have it all, then it just might not feel that good, or you might have to let something go.
And actually, for real success? Lets encourage the team work of parenting equally with partners, lets focus on expecting equality at home and at work, the flexible working, so its not all on us, and lets celebrate ……. simply getting through a day. Maybe not strive for everything on our plate being great. Lets give ourselves a break.