The phrase “having it all” did not necessarily begin as being strictly implied for the professional mother but somehow, over the years, we have found our way here. Career driven women who inevitably question the balance of life with work and motherhood. Making choices as though it’s a necessity to choose. Or attempting to balance the load of success in every aspect of our lives because we are the great acrobats of modern society. Because being successful is how we are supposed to measure these things, right?
We question those choices. And argue about why we can’t have it all. We debate the very idea of what it means and why we want it, searching under rocks and digging on every X. Feeling the pressure of guilt, self-doubt and judgement on every scale as it balances out of our favour. We battle an ever, omnipresent idea of being bigger, better and more than we are. As though striving to reach goals, break through glass ceilings and chase our dreams becomes a questionable commodity as motherhood calls. Almost as though we search in vain.
What are we supposed to be looking for when the conversation between women, who have recently acquired the love of a newborn, veers to the idea of having it all? More love, more money, more security, more sex, more luxury, more time, space, freedom, yoga? Or just enough?
Society wants us to have it all. All. Who in this world, male or female, has it all? And why, when children are added into our cocktail of life, are we supposed to chase it? Fear? The belief not having it all, will mean we have failed? Struggled? Lost ourselves amongst the nursery rhymes and lack of sleep? As though motherhood is not enough, or having a career is not enough. We must have both, and more, to be a valued citizen who has championed past level ten. A success.
A woman who has fought against the barriers of motherhood and grabbed at professionalism and balanced both with a perfect demi plie. Because one or the other is simply not enough.
But what is enough on the larger scale and why are we undermined when our “enough” is not enough for someone else who tells us we aren’t fighting adequately for what women as mothers deserve? Or women as women? Or professionals as professionals? Because the future of the boxes we tick are in jeopardy if we don’t get to tick them all.
There is no denying we have the ability to fulfill our dreams, to fight a female prejudice and to have a career and be a mother at the same time. That we do deserve it all but at what expense does chasing it all become worth it? And why must having it all be something we have to measure up to?
There is an expectation that as modern women we should fight this common cause and be advocates to empower women to achieve their desires. But what if the idea of having it all does more damage to us as women, as mothers, than intended?
What if the chase and fight and crusade to have it all encompasses a needless pressure to fit into the perfect model “having it all” encapsulates? Why must we be defined by career or motherhood or both? Why must we attempt to achieve someone elses idea of what the perfect life is and be inundated with the idea that we are not good enough as we are?
Who sets the target we aim for?
Why is our enough, not enough for everyone else and does that even matter? Can we ignore the voices who challenge us to fight harder, to be bigger and better and simply be the woman, the mother we want to be? Can we push away from the pressure to do as our neighbour does and happily glide toward a success that does not fit with our wants and needs simply because we must fight the good battle of raising women up higher, showing exactly what we can achieve to a world who believes we have to fight for the balance?
As a woman, I will run towards my own ideal which may not necessarily fit in with the ideal of others. I may not be as successful as another woman with the same qualifications and same parental duties who aims that little bit higher than I do but to each their own. Her success and dreams are not mine and vice versa.
Changing career was the beginning of my venture into what others assumed was me attempting to have it all but I was not expecting much from it and I most certainly never expected it to be an ideal. It was a decision I knew would come with boundaries, difficulties and hardships. But it was where I wanted to be. And where I still want to be despite it being far removed from perfect.
Once we achieve some sort of balance between being the woman society expects of us, a mothering soul with potential to be career driven, there is usually something else to question it or add to it. The neverending list of success. The rungs on the ladder continue higher and higher as we continually strive to level up but the game is unceasing.
I had priorities, ideas, and a focus for how I wanted not only my life but that of my family, when I quit my job and started writing for a living. Kids countered that perfect balance of typing fancy sentences and wiping bums.
My Not So Perfect All
My idea of having it all does not fit into that perfect equation of child-rearing, raising my profile and taking the yoga mat out every morning. I do not have it all but I have my enough with a little extra for bonus points.
For one, I don’t own a yoga mat and wouldn’t know my Downward Facing Dog from my Cow Face. I may have more time to spend with my children but I also have less time to run away from them which is a daily occurrence, usually when the witching hour hits. I may be in the desirable position to be working for myself but I also have no annual leave or sick days and have very little time to relax outside of the workload and family life. Self care be damned.
Working from home, while not perfect, is a balance everyone dreams of. The ability to be there with your kids, meet your deadlines at your kitchen table – or if you’re lucky enough to have an at-home office or studio. I have a lap table and Coronation Street on in the background which will do – but the reality is far from what we envisage and curveballs are thrown when we don’t expect them. As does having the professional position on campus or on the tenth floor.
There are limitations to every eventuality of life. So much so, that the epitome of having it all creates an incessant sprint to the ever changing finishing line causing panic and worry and stress. We struggle on or believe we are struggling because the last hurdle seems to evade us at every turn. At least, this is what the modern ideal of “having it all” teaches us. We are inevitably racing towards something we are told we can not reach or something which does not exist as such. Unless we are willing to sacrifice the things we refuse to sacrifice by which, checkmate, means we can not have it all.
We rush harder, to be better, stronger and have more so that we fit into this phantom ideal.
It is a myth. A large, unified legend that grows and grows. It spins its tale and we listen in the belief that this myth is attainable or unattainable, depending on whether your glass is half full or not and whether you are willing to sacrifice certain ideals for other ideals.
Can we have it all?
If you want it.
If you remember having it all, is what you make of it. What you desire and how far you are willing to fight and sacrifice for it can make or break you. There will always be sacrifices which may make you cry over your choices, sting your heart and make you question why you do what you want to do. But dreams don’t always stay in our head. Dreams don’t always come true either but we are the makers of our future.
Society almost begs us to push harder and be better. The pressure is overwhelming, disappointing and discouraging when what we have may very well be our own vision of having it all.
Have it all. Your way.
Do you have it all? What is your all? Mine is having the opportunity to be at home with the kids and watch them grow. To be at the school gates and work from home when time permits. My all is simple. To be happy and fortunate and remember who I do all of this for.