You can have IT ALL.
I think that phrase gets thrown around a lot lately. I also think that it’s meant to empower us. Mostly women, mostly moms. Mostly because while men and fathers aren’t viewed as having to “choose”, we are. Are you going to have a career or a baby? Are you going to give up work or give up raising your baby? Choose, choose, choose.
But society has come far enough to kind of agree that that sucks, so instead now they tell us we can HAVE IT ALL and that sounds like we don’t have to choose anymore. Isn’t that awesome! We can have all the things!
Except honestly…I don’t think having it all is very empowering at all. In fact, I kind of think it’s setting us up for failure.
When I got pregnant with my son, my husband and I decided that I would quit my job. It was a choice — MY CHOICE. It was mostly logical — the amount of money I was making after daycare and gas hardly justified the inconvenience. And raising my son at home certainly appealed to me. But I also gave up a big part of myself. There were a lot of hard months where I struggled to figure out how to adapt to a life that wasn’t about what job I was working towards. Where I was no longer approached by adults who respected me for advice and decision making. Where I cleaned poopy diapers and got frustrated and bored and felt like I was on a deserted island.
Also? Lots of Blue’s Clues.
I did not have IT ALL.
But I picked my ALL, you see. And the ALL I chose was being a stay at home mom.
That’s something that took me a really long time to understand. Years, actually. I spent 5 1/2 years raising Jon David before I decided to try blogging, thinking it would be a great way to earn an income and still be home with my kid. It was more time consuming and harder than I thought it would be but I kept plugging away as he went into Kindergarten, spending the time he was gone baking and writing and baking and writing.
That whole system worked out pretty well. There were days I was tired and frustrated and working at night because for the love, how do you stand out when you’re a new blogger other than being online ALLL THE TIMMMME. But for the most part it worked for about 3 years, until I realized that while my blog was doing well and Jon David was doing well and my marriage was doing well, I was lonely and not completely fulfilled. I was 32 years old and done having kids but I wasn’t ready to be done. Not at all.
So we decided to have another baby. Just like that. And I was so scared and wondered how it would affect my job, the blog I spend hours and years and tons of money and tears building, but I did it anyways because I thought “I will make it work — everyone else does! I work from HOME, not outside the home, which means I can have IT ALL.”
Except I didn’t. The thing about having kids 8 years apart is that you forget how LOST you feel with an infant or toddler. How those days where a dozen tiny little things not going right can leave you feeling utterly defeated. How piles of laundry and unwashed hair can make you feel like you will never accomplish anything again, let alone WORK? Do WORK? Um…no. So my blog suffered and I cried and I wondered what I was doing wrong. How do so many other women do it and not me? What is the secret to having IT ALL and why don’t I have it?
When I told my husband what I was doing, I am pretty sure I mumbled it. And by mumble, I mean whisper mumble. A week after I started. Because again, Life Coach.
But can I tell you something? It was AMAZING. No cheesy pep talks, no weird speeches I had to tell myself in the mirror, just someone who cared about my goals and what I was missing in my day to day life. It was so nice to have someone who was dedicated to ME. Who was checking in on my progress, reminding me of tasks, and encouraging me to get up at the time I wanted to be up by every morning. I think many of us women are lacking that — we tend to keep everyone else in line but who keeps us in line? I made huge progress as far as how much I was accomplishing every day.
But the thing that helped me the MOST was when she asked me ALL of my goals for the day. Not just my work goals, but my personal ones. “Write it all down,” she told me. “Even if it sounds trivial, write it down.”
That’s when my light bulb went off. I was so busy feeling bad about how much my blog was slacking off that I wasn’t taking inventory of my personal life. The ALL that I had chosen 9 years earlier, and the ALL that I chose again when I decided that working home alone all day wasn’t enough.
My goals? Being finished with work by dinnertime. Being home with my kiddos most of the week. Us eating together as a family. Not having to work on the weekend. Having my chores done for the day so I can spend time with the kiddos before they go to bed. Having time for hobbies I enjoy, even if it’s just reading or crocheting while I watch television. Making enough money on my blog to help out with bills and Christmas presents. Simple things, but they helped me put it all in perspective.
Sure, I have goals for my blog. And sure, the extra income really helps (especially in the winter month’s….contractors aren’t getting a lot of calls then) but what I have to remind myself is that my ALL is that list I made. So I have a sitter come one day a week and when I hand my toddler over crying so I can spend 5 hours in my office, I remind myself that I am still meeting my goals. I am still choosing my all. I’ll be here this evening, we will still sit down for dinner, and I am still here the other 6 1/2 days of the week. I’m making enough to help with bills and Christmas presents. And this evening? I’ll tuck my babies in and have time to relax or read or talk to my husband.
I am not in the PTA. I don’t volunteer at school functions. Sometimes I wish I did more work in the community. But the season of life I’m in right now does not allow for that AND my ALL. One day it will. Today is not that day. So again I tell myself — I’m making enough for bills and Christmas presents. I’ll be home and present for my family this evening, we will still sit down for dinner, and I am here with my kids 6 1/2 days of the week. And this evening? I’ll tuck my babies in and have time to relax or read or talk to my husband.
And when I see other women who write blog posts more often than me, who make more money than me, who have more successful blogs than I may EVER have, I remind myself that I will be here and present with my family this evening, we will sit down for dinner, and I am here all day 6 1/2 days of the week. I am succeeding at the ALL I chose. One day too soon, Lucy will be in school and I will have hours and hours alone and my ALL will change. But not right now.
Your ALL might not be being a stay-at-home mom. Maybe work fulfills you in a way that you need. Maybe staying home would make you resentful. Maybe your family relies on the income. Maybe you stay home and don’t blog and still struggle with the dailies and miss carefree lunches with friends. Maybe your all is long days at school so you can have a career that helps you and your family in the future. Maybe you’re struggling with homeschooling. Maybe you want to work but you had to quit because, like me, the money didn’t justify the inconvenience. Choosing your kids doesn’t JUST MEAN choosing to stay home with them — it also means making choices that provide for them financially and keep you in a healthy and happy mental state so you can be the best mom you can be.
Whatever your ALL is, whether you chose it because of money, or because your child has special needs, or because you love your career, or because you just feel compelled to raise your child, keep that in perspective. Because you will have days where the other things feel sucky and you feel overwhelmed and you wonder if anyone else feels sucky and overwhelmed because it doesn’t look like it. But I am telling you that they do. We all only get 24 hours a day. That is my mantra, sometimes. WE ALL GET THE SAME 24 HOURS. There are no tricks. Just carefully cropped snapshots and a bit of positive thinking.
On the days when a shower isn’t happening, when things at work aren’t working out, when you feel guilty for not being at one of your kid’s PTA meetings, remind yourself of your ALL. You might be good at a lot of things and you might suck at some things, but as long as you are kicking ass at trying to make your ALL happen, you’re doing as good as the rest of us can hope for.