I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that you can’t have everything in life. Despite what the brightly clad pages of magazines, shouting to female masses that “you can have it all” with their feminism wands a-waving, I’m beginning to realise that this is a myth, something we tell ourselves to make it easier to swallow the fact that one day we will wake up and have to choose one thing or another to a certain degree. It’s something that is constantly churned out to encourage women to strive for the impossible, to remind us that we are failing and lower self esteem.
A fabulous career and awesome family life are totally achievable, they said. 5 steps to maintaining the balance, they wrote. Be a mum BOSS and have both, they bellowed.
Well, I’m calling bullshit.
I think at this point I would get to call myself a “mum boss” or “mumpreneur” if I chose to (which I don’t. No.) I pay my bills via blogging and social media promotion using tobyandroo, something I set up out of thin air and a damn good tech friend who designed a site for me and showed me which buttons to push to send my words live to the masses. Since then there has been a total rebrand, a lot of learning and a hell of a lot of growing social media platforms and hard work. I rarely talk about it because I often think it’s kind of wanky and I’ve never felt the need to write articles about “how I earn 6 figures blogging and how you can too!”
I’m also a mother of three, a home owner who is responsible for the day to day humdrum and a wife.
And I’m stressed to the max, struggling to maintain everything, dropping more balls than a juggler with buttered fingers.
A lifetime of watching Hollywood movies where the heroine has a mega successful career, hilariously struggles through the trials of having a family and might feel a tiny touch shit at the odd point, but it all comes right in the end and she can indeed have both and get it all right, has done me no good at all. It’s given me the illusion that, actually, you can have it all and that you will just be that funny mama who occasionally makes a mistake but everyone forgives because you’re epic and life is so happy. That’s not real.
In reality, you can’t have everything. You can’t have every snuggle at bedtime and be in London working an event. You can’t help but shout and lose your temper when you can’t find the kid’s hats because, yet again, they have been moved by someone either trying to help or by a 2 year old with superb pick pocket abilities. You miss the smear test. You miss the parent/teacher appointment. You miss the work deadline because one of the kids is sick and you feel like you’ve let the client down. It all adds up and it stars to take a toll. That’s the reality of over doing it and stretching yourself so thin that everyone smiles and says “I don’t know how she does it” or “oh my goodness; you’re crackers to do so much”. The reality is that certain things slide and the myth of “having it all” isn’t accurate at all. Sure, you can have a balance of certain things, but you simple cannot have it all.
I think there is a balancing act that happens when you try to have a challenging career and run a family too. There is so much guilt to be managed, so many things to get in order that the slightest tip of the scales leaves you feeling totally shoddy. It’s one of those things that is really hard to explain and put into words without just sounding like an ungrateful cow, but it’s the truth. I’m tired of being asked “how do you do it?” because the truth is I don’t have a clue.
Interesting that you say about the balancing act. That’s exactly what my blog is all about, the balancing act of being a working mum, in fact my blog is actually called My Balancing Act! I am a full time working mum and have a blog too and I feel like my life is a constant balancing act, with my son always being my number one priority. I work because I enjoy it but also because I want to be able to afford to take my son places to discover the world and to have a nice home. Things do drop, I’m always overdue for appointments for myself like the Dentist, etc and I don’t see friends as often as I did (hardly ever!). The hobbies I used to love I rarely do anymore – reading is a rare treat rather than my weekend occupation. I wouldn’t swap it for the world though. My favourite part of the day is coming home to my son. My second favourite part of the day is putting him to bed and pouring myself a glass of wine once he’s asleep – and relax!
Had a little tear in my eye reading this! Really feeling the burnout recently and this post really summed it up for me.
One of my colleagues works part time and has signed herself and her son up for swimming – I thought oh yeah maybe I’ll join her and be a good bonding sesh with the eldest – and then I really thought about how I work full time on non set days and although my partner is self employed, I couldn’t commit to a day a week and it made me so sad! I do feel like I’m missing out on the kids and my partner is around and super hands on, he doesn’t worry about the little things the same as me, like I haven’t had a chance to go through spellings for 3 weeks on the trot, etc!
It can make you feel like a shit mum trying to juggle every single ball, but life’s always going to throw new ones into the mix! I am doing good, and being able to provide my children with a lovely roof over their head, food in their bellies and everything they need, has got to be good enough!
Sometimes it can feel super lonely, especially when you’re out of energy, but posts like this are so helpful! Need to give ourselves a break and pat ourselves on the back a bit more ! Xxx
Lets get rid of the concept of ‘having it all’ – it is outmoded. Who came up with that? And also this pressure or expectation that Hollywood or the media puts on us. Unless you have full time childcare – which will cost you the same as Prince George’s school fees if you live in London – you cant maintain a high flying career. And if you do you’ll feel guilty that things are missed. Lets all lower our expectations of ourselves as mothers – you cannot ‘have it all’ as – just like the concept of a ‘perfect mother’ that’s a total nonsense. We’re all flawed and just doing our best. As long as you’re showering your kids with love, and turning up for work and generally handling it well, you’re doing great!
I love it Julie! You are so right, it’s infuriating – this expectation isn’t placed on men, so why do we do it to ourselves? We don’t need the added pressure. H x
I totally agree! Hubby and I go out to work, both kids are both school aged, housework, family life and trying to have a blogging hobby (addiction). I have many times looked at perfect IG photos and blog posts and thought how do they do it. It’s so nice to know it’s probably not all real.
I don’t mean this to sounds like I’m disagreeing ( because I don’t – I agree that you can’t ‘have it all’) but I think I do a pretty good job of it, as far as you can. Both myself and my husband work 4 day weeks in senior manager jobs. We don’t earn mega bucks, but it is a lot by lots of peoples standards – around £50k each – we own a home. And we have 4 kids, under 6. It is possible to have a career and still be a hands on mum. So it is possible to strike a balance. 100% job and 100% family clearly don’t add up. At 60-40 (or whatever floats your boat) you can be happy with both.
I think that sounds amazing Anna – I wish I had found that balance 🙁
I think my issue is that I want to do 100% of both 100% of the time – which is illogical, but I do think the media gives us the impression we SHOULD be able to do that with a smile… and I can’t.
Oh I know what you mean H! I feel like I am having an existential crisis right now. Why am I doing all that I do with my full time job and my family? Is it all really and truly benefiting our family? Is this what I and we should really be doing? And when people ask me how I do it all I say, “I don’t!”
Harriet I love you!! I couldn’t agree more with everything you’ve said here. My only wish is that it could be easier for Mums and Dads to share work and home life. I think everyone would be happier if this could be simpler xxx
I think ‘having it all’ is quite an outdated phrase. Nobody can have it all. Women (or mothers) should be able to have the same as men (or fathers). That’s a realistic aim, in my opinion. And it goes both ways; many men aren’t happy being the sole breadwinner and never seeing their kids, just as many women wouldn’t be happy giving up all hope of a career the day they get pregnant. In my experience there are plenty of parents, both mothers and fathers, that want to be able to balance a fulfilling and rewarding career with spending quality time with their family.
Both my husband and I changed to part-time/compressed hours after my son was born. It’s not ideal; both of us have taken a bit of a hit career-wise and neither of us get to see every bath time or bedtime but it’s the best compromise we could find and it works well. The sooner we move away from the idea that becoming a parent is all about mothers taking on all the responsibility (whilst simultaneously sacrificing the best bits) while the father’s life carries on exactly the same, the better!
Thanks for your comment Sarah – I just wanted to clarify what I meant. This wasn’t meant as a pissing contest kind of post between the two genders, rather that WOMEN are taught that they SHOULD be able to do everything, run the home (without expecting help from their spouses or family – that is silly, geez, you gotta do it all yourself or you’re a terrible mother) AND have a high flying career which the break glass ceilings and what not. In comparision men are taught that they are a bread winner, the worker and it’s totally weird if they don’t want to work 90hrs a week because heaven forbid they miss their partner or kids.
What I meant in this is that I feel (and I don’t think it’s remotely me looking at the social media comments and blog comments) that women have so much pressure on them to not make that compromise you and your partner have made and to be able to almost split themselves in two. It’s not realistic, in the same way it’s not realistic that men should work full time without it bothering them that they miss out on first steps, miss out on sports day – two things that absolutely broke my husband’s heart and resulted in him taking a huge pay cut to make sure that didn’t happen with our younger kids.
I think what I’m trying – and rambling, sorry, chronic habit – to say is that women are no different to anyone else, there has to be a choice at times and you can’t be in two places at once. Somehow, somewhere, the ball gets dropped in one way or another. You aren’t going to have a high flying career where you are required to travel and work 90+hrs and still remain the head of the fambalam. It just isn’t going to work.
After having a kid straight out of school, I tried to pretend I was just like every other normal teenager – I got into uni, went out on benders, had a Saturday job and even managed a placement away for a year (thanks to the wonderful childcare offered by my parents), but in the end, I only succeeded in making people think I didn’t have kids. Now, after trying to do it all again with a PhD, I’m left feeling completely frazzled! It doesn’t matter how many people tell you that ‘you can have it all’, I have to agree with your post… Once you’re a parent, you don’t fit into the same box as ‘non parents’ anymore 🙁