All or….Something Better

happy woman exults pumping fists ecstatic celebrates success on gray wall background

Having it all? I’m over it.

While I understand the desire to “have it all”, I’m a little shocked that there has yet to be a significant backlash against it. We strive for it, long for it, daydream about it, write about it, sweat for it, compromise for it and are willing to bend over backwards personally and professionally for the mere chance of even coming close to it.  So raise your hand if you did it.  Raise your hand if all of your hard work and dedication and planning and sacrifice paid off and you finally have it ALL.

*crickets chirp*

“Having it all” is the working mother’s “perfection”. I kind of thought we let go of that.

Remember the time when we rejected ideals of beauty, embraced our scars and celebrated our unique gifts? Realizing that we aren’t tied to standards and expectations, we took time to figure out what we actually want and need.  Realizing that we are charmingly flawed, we let ourselves look inward – not outward – for our moral compass.  Realizing that we are loved and capable of miracles, we slipped bikinis over our soft limbs and hit the beach with our kids.

Imperfection became our fight song.

Where is that confidence now? Where is that pride?  Where is that humor?  The little voice inside our heads is saying “not good enough” again.  And we’re listening.

My “all” is a four day work week, a shorter commute, a boss that doesn’t give me the vague no-eye-contact “okay” when I need to manage a kid crisis, time for the gym, secret extended hours at stores and doctor’s offices for working moms and a mother’s helper we can afford. Instead, I spread myself thinly between home and work – five days a week, hating my alarm, chugging coffee, staring into seas of traffic, scheduled to the bone, missing my girls, smiling through the exhaustion and hustling.  Always hustling.  Raise your hand if that sounds familiar.

Given that so many of us are in this together, I suggest that we all step out of it together. Can we have it all?  Probably not.  Let’s accept that and move on.  I can say with certainty that we might not have it “all” but we do have “a hell of a lot” to work with.

I wish that I could spend more time with my kids, but we laugh a lot when we’re together. I feel lucky that they commute with me and that we have two hours a day to sing at the top of our lungs with the windows down.  When I’m not working, I am available and affectionate and this is what they need to thrive.

I wish that the demands of my job and family merged neatly into a manageable and predictable routine, but they don’t. That could change though.  Things are always changing.  In the meantime, I enjoy the benefits of covered healthcare, a good salary and opportunities to be dependable, efficient, influential and essential in two very different worlds.

Despite my wishes – we all have wishes – my life is enough. My life is more than enough.  Despite the “all” fluttering inside my mind – we all have an “all” – I know that I’m doing really well considering my workload.  It’s not always pretty, I’m sometimes super crabby and I’m definitely not the kind of mother that I thought I would be, but I have found an interesting and wonderful kind of harmony in the imbalance of the lifestyle I have chosen.

So that’s that. I’m officially rejecting “having it all”.  It is a total myth and a narrative that makes working mothers feel needlessly guilty and less-than as they carry the weight of their families and careers on their amazingly strong shoulders.

So what now? What happens when I stop the uphill push to have it all?

I’m grateful instead. Grateful for my relationships and children.  Grateful for my home and the paycheck that keeps the lights on.  Imperfect as it is, I’m grateful for it.  All of it.

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