Growing up in the 70s I heard a lot about women’s lib. Back then it was shiny and new, and women had just come home from burning their bras. I didn’t realize then that there had been jobs I couldn’t have because I was a girl. I am very grateful to have benefited from those smoldering bras.
From that point, women started talking about having it “all.” This implied that a woman can have a successful, upwardly mobile career at the same time that she’s raising happy, well-adjusted children. This woman is also presumably a whiz in the kitchen, has impeccable hair, and throws dinner parties for the neighbors. She is also her kids’ Room Mother at school, and her company’s #1 go-getter. This woman is either fictional, or smokes a huge amount of meth to make all of this possible. Having it all will land you in the hospital. Or rehab.
For those of us who are neither fictional nor meth addicts, “having it all” is an elusive dream. We can burn out in its pursuit. We can feel endlessly guilty when mothering is not going as well as work (or vice versa). We can even get a prescription to fix the ailments brought on by gut-searing stress. But we cannot have it all.
You know what? I’m okay with that, because it’s really all about the math.
24 hours = 1 day
- 2 hours getting yourself and little ones ready for work/school, including breakfast
- 2 hours commuting round trip, including stops at daycare and/or vet to pick up anti-anxiety meds for your beagle
- 9 hours at work
- 1 hour cooking dinner
- 1 hour for bedtime rituals, including bath, wrestling little people into pajamas, and bedtime stories
- 2 hours for cleaning up the house from the day, including laundry
- 1 hour for work email in the evening (come on–you know you do it too)
- 1 hour of TV, during which you are zombie-eyed and not really paying attention
- 5 hours of sleep, during which the baby will wake you up at least once
If you want to squeeze anything extra in there, like a PhD, shaving your legs, laundry, or a trip to the zoo with your kids, something else has to give. Most often, that something is sleep. But when one cannot tolerate further sleep deprivation, something else has to go.
I have dreams of being an overachiever. I think I used to be one. Now, there is no time to be an overachiever–I’m just a regular achiever. Most of the time I don’t mind being a regular achiever, but once a day I feel a twinge, the twinge of “if only I had more time/was more organized/was less exhausted I could accomplish “X”. My biggest dream is to finish my schooling. Namely, if I didn’t have very young kids, I would be working on my PhD right now. I’m not saying that a PhD is better or more valuable than having kids (because the kids will win no matter how you compare the two–unless maybe you’re curing cancer with your PhD).
There are notable benefits to my situation, of which I need no reminding. A PhD won’t snuggle up to me at night with a picture book, or giggle when I tickle it under the chin, or have ears like my grandpa’s. Looking into my sons’ room with the morning sunlight streaming in over toys and books and tiny socks, I don’t care whether I have it all. I have this, and it’s fantastic.