When I was a teenager, I used to day dream about what my life would look like once I was all “grown up.” Like most young women today, I was told that as a “modern woman” I could have it all.
I would close my eyes and fantasize about my fabulous career, my marriage to an impossibly handsome and thoughtful man, my 2.5 precious children and of course, in my fantasies, I had a killer body and wardrobe to match.
We’ve all seen those “she has it all” scenes from movies and TV. An incredibly beautiful and thin actress portrays “a modern working mother and wife.” She’s up before the sun rises, gets in her morning run, grabs a coffee and is back home in time to effortlessly make breakfast for her kids.
Phew. I’m tired just reading about it.
The problem is that so many women are trying to live up to this “having it all” expectation, and ultimately finding themselves at the end of the day frazzled, exhausted and overwhelmed. They believe they’ve failed in some way.
Life is not all or nothing. You can have all the things you want from this life. You can have a meaningful career, a marriage, and a family. The catch is you just can’t have it at the same time.
There’s no way you can “kill it” in every aspect of your life on a consistent basis.
There will be times or phases of your life when you’re going to “kill it” at work and there will be times or phases when you’re going to “kill it” as a mother. Trying to do both at the same will kill you.
The reality is that your children don’t need you to be the perfect mother. Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicot was a pediatrician in London and then later became a child psychoanalyst. Winnicot famously came up with the theory of the “good enough mother.”
Winnicott says a “good enough mother” sincerely enjoys being a mom. She pays attention to her baby and provides a loving container for their life. She provides security, she keeps trying, and she’s patient and caring, but she’s not perfect. There are some things she misses, and that’s OK.
What Winnicott understood and put into words almost 60 years ago is that children don’t need supermoms who make sure every meal is home-cooked and organic, never miss a soccer game and are unfailingly patient.
So many women believe that their child will suffer or become traumatized because they didn’t bake the cupcakes for the birthday party and decided to go to yoga instead or (heaven forbid) sleep in that day.
Children are only as healthy as their parents. If you’re putting your own health and well-being aside for the sake of your child, you are doing your child a disservice.
In other words, making time to workout or get in some much-needed sleep isn’t going to harm your connection with your child.
You’re learning that developing and nurturing a successful career take time. The same is applied to developing and nurturing a child.
You’re probably working hard on your career. You’re either trying to figure out exactly what you want to do or maybe you’ve found your career “sweet spot” and you’re working towards your long-term career goals.
By now you’ve realized that creating a meaningful career takes a lot of time, patience and energy. If you want to have children, you’re going to need to invest even more time, patience and energy into having a child.
There’s no getting around it: Biology is a bitch. Women have the babies. That’s just how it is. We have the babies, which means we have to devout a certain amount of time to creating, growing, nurturing and feeding our children.
Every woman is different but overall, being pregnant is tough. If you take a step back and really think about it, you are growing a person inside of you and that person (even though they’re teeny tiny) truly sucks the life from you.
Once you’re pregnant, all of our energy goes into being pregnant which means that you’re probably not going to be able to focus on your career as much. This time of your life needs to be devoted to growing and nurturing your child.
When I got pregnant, I told everyone that I planned to stay home with my son for “3 months tops.” I returned to work 13 months later. My son didn’t like bottles and he’s a pretty headstrong kid (still that way today) so he would only have his milk from the source (aka me, that kid was ahead of his time – farm to table before it was popular.) This meant that he and I could not be separated for more than 3-4 hours in the first 6 months of his life.
When my son was six-months-old, our doctor told us it was time to start him on solid foods. The problem was my son (who apparently didn’t get the memo) refused to eat solid foods. Not one Cheerio, not one mushed up piece of banana, nothing.
My point is that we have ideas of what we want for ourselves and our careers but our children are born with personalities (Gasp! Who knew?) and they have their own wants and needs that are usually not aligned with our careers.
While my husband’s career be-bopped along, my career was put on hold for about a year and a half. That’s just how it was.
So many women are running themselves ragged trying to do 15 things at once but they’re not going enjoying their lives, and ultimately they’re not going to remember anything. You want to savor and enjoy your life but if you try and have it all, you’re going to miss out on your life. Then what’s the point?
No matter where you are on the career, marriage, children continuum, please remember that you can have it all…just not at the same time.