27 Oct 2015

Can you have it all?


Have you seen the film "I don't know how she does it?" In the movie Sarah Jessica Parker plays Kate Reddy, a thirty-something hedge fund manager who appears to have the perfect life - high-powered career, two kids, supportive, loving husband, beautiful home. Until that is, things start to crumble and she finds herself struggling to meet everyone’s expectations and the perfect life quickly starts to fall apart. The morale of this rather naff Hollywood adaptation is that she ends up giving up her job and moves to the country to become a stay-at-home Mum (not before her husband leaves her as a much needed wake-up call, obviously!) and “readdresses” her priorities.

I've been thinking a lot about that question lately. As a mother of two small kids with a demanding full time job, a family and household to run, not to mention the blog or fitting in a fitness regime or in fact, any kind of me time, I have been getting to my limits lately, both physically and mentally.

It's not one thing that I can single out as the culprit, but all together it accumulates and often leaves me exasperated and feeling like a failure, like I'm not doing well enough. Like I’m not good enough.

There is a lot of pressure on women to be everything to everyone, and to do it all with a smile while looking fabulous at the same time: perfect job, perfect family, perfect home, perfect body, great life, great work / life balance, great social life, lots of friends, holidays, cars… The list goes on.

Why is it that we put so much pressure and so many expectations on ourselves, and when we can't deliver it all, we feel like a failure?

I certainly struggle to combine everything. My house is less than perfect most of the time, and if anyone dropped in on me unannounced, I'd probably not answer the door. My body is far from perfect, too, and there are more than just a few pounds I'd like to lose. My social life is almost non-existent, and work / life balance - well, that’s always a tricky one, isn’t it?

In fact, my career, my professional life, is one of the areas I feel has been most fundamentally affected by having kids. Because once you add little ones into the mix, you really have to make decisions and choices about everything from priorities to practicalities, and what you want out of your career and ultimately your life.

I'm very ambitious, and this ambition has always driven me. I knew I wanted to be a journalist from the age of six and have always worked towards this. I worked hard and studied hard to achieve my goals. Back in Germany, after having started to report for my regional newspaper at the age of 17 and working my way up to run a youth supplement as well as a weekend culture section of the newspaper by 19, while also reporting on news and current affairs and studying at university alongside, my path at the media group I was working for was pre- defined. After a traineeship at a respected journalism school my prospects for a secure job at my daily newspaper were pretty solid.  

But then I decided to move to the UK to be with John, my British now-husband. It threw all my plans and everything I had worked so hard for in the wind. Still, being in a foreign country and operating in a foreign language didn't stop me pursuing my dream of being a journalist after all, and I soon became a writer across national trade titles for the fashion industry. By the age of 28 I was made editor of one of the titles, and I have put a lot of effort in since to make the magazine the best it can be. 

Part of my job is to travel to trade shows and press trips, in the UK and abroad, and before I had kids, this was not just a key part of my job, but also a perk. And then I had kids. And then the perks turned into an organisational nightmare, and you have to start weighing up between what's essential and what isn't. Since going back to work in March after having Alex, I've had to say no to press trips to Lima, Marrakesh, Hong Kong, Shanghai and most recently Seoul - trips I would have jumped at before I had kids. But now I have two little people who depend on me, and I can't just bugger off to the other side of the world for a week and let them wonder where on earth (literally) Mummy is. It wouldn't be fair on them, and it wouldn't be fair on John, who has to hold the forte and often compromise his own job commitments to make things work for the travel I still do have to do, as we haven’t got any other support available to us.

The thing is, while before I would have wanted to go, now, deep down I know that I don’t. It’s not just a rational choice I am having to make, it’s also an emotional one. Aside from the fact, that it would be impossible for me to go, practicalities and all logistics considered.

Equally, since having kids, I've had to really re-evaluate my career and make choices about the goals I want to achieve, what I can realistically do and push (myself) for, and what can be compatible with being a full time Mum, too. I still have things I thrive for in my job / career, but maybe these things have to wait until my kids are older, and it is less of a burden on my family. Maybe for now, the right thing to do is to take small steps, and leave the bigger goals for later.

The thing is though, that a lot of my personal satisfaction comes from my profession and knowing that I’m doing a good job. Compromising this does very much feel like compromising a part of me, even though I know that it is the right thing to do.

I doubt that many men ever have to face the same questions, choices and challenges as women. It’s not exactly fair, is it?

As women we will always be stretched and the balance between work, life, motherhood and family will always be elusive and a challenge to achieve.

Do I think women can have it all? Yes, I do. But maybe not all at the same time.

* Linking up with #ShareWithMe and #BestAndWorst
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12 comments

  1. That's so funny - i wrote a post called "having it all" a couple of days before which I have linked up to #sharewithme as well. I totally agree with you that we can but not all at the same time. Life is a juggle isn't it? Great post xxxx (can't leave my email here but I'm Mummy Fever)

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    1. Oh, thank you for your comment Charlotte! Will go and have a read of your post, sounds like this subject matter has been on both our minds! Life certainly is a juggling act, especially once kids are involved! xx

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  2. I think we can have it all. The problem with society today is that 'all' is never enough.
    There will always be someone that does or has something better and then we add more pressure on ourselves to go that little bit further.
    I am a sahm during the day with a part time evening job so looking at it on paper, yes, I do have it all. I get to raise my child and still work and earn money. What do I not have tho? I don't have many friends I can gossip round the water cooler at work with. I don't have spare money to be able to go out to activity places whenever the mood takes us and things like that. But I do get time with my family. I get the days with my child, and the evenings after work with my husband and the weekends with both of them together. And thats enough for me. I think its not about having 'it all' I think its about having 'your all'

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    1. I totally agree, and I think this is a really good way of looking at it, to have "your all", not everybody else's "all". There is so much pressure these days on women and generally to keep up and keep bettering yourself, and there definitely are limits to what you can juggle, or juggle well. Thanks for some great perspective! x

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  3. I agree a bit with Leslie you can have it all but not all of all if that makes sense! I think once kids come along it rocks the applecart massively. They come first and you are right the pangs of guilt for going away for more than 2 nights are awful. The house, you and going out get further down on the list. I think for you though your job is second on the list to family. If that's what you enjoy then don't worry about everything else! Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst and see you soon x

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    1. Thanks Sarah! The kids definitely come first, but it's a constant tightrope I am walking, especially as I also love my job and don't want to let either side down. x

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  4. I think the whole 'women can have it all' thing has been very misjudged in recent times. Nobody can do EVERYTHING. The emphisis should be on the fact that women have the option to pick and chose from an unrestricted range of options (just the same way men do).
    #Bestandworst

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    1. Choice is definitely the key here, choosing what to juggle, how to juggle and how many components to juggle in life. I guess it boils down to what Leslie said above, to aspire to "your all", however much or little this may be. x

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  5. As a stay at home dad I'm going to pose the question to you; can men have it all? I gave up my career because I felt too stretched. I didn't feel my child (we now have two) was getting enough parental attention and was fed up with living in a domestic apocalypse. Co-incidentally, although I latterly worked in PR, I was originally a journalist. Men have never been under so much pressure to be perfect husbands, doting fathers and have successful careers. In many respects this is merely correcting a dreadful historical wrong when all domestic responsibilities were dumped on women. That said the pressure has been on guys for some time and it is growing. I wish more would do what I did but it still isn't acceptable to many men (indeed many women don't find acceptable for a man to run a household and do domestic duties, a serious failing of the feminist movement!). Anyway, I'm a no voter. I don't think men or women can "have it all". Something has to give. #sharewithme

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  6. Thanks for your comment, John. It's really interesting to hear a male perspective, and how men feel just as much under pressure as women, Sounds like you had to make similar choices and that you decided for yourself what is best for you and your family and what your "all" is. Maybe we need to rethink the term of having it "all" and instead think in terms of what is "good enough" and what is right and enough for us. I agree, I don't think we can have it all without something giving somewhere. Thanks for commenting!

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  7. My job before kids involved a lot of travel to events in Europe and North America, which I absolutely loved. However, I've come to the same conclusion as you. I don't really want that from a job any more. I now earn a lot less, am part-time and am probably not pushing myself anywhere near my potential, but I have the flexibility I need in my work life to suit my home life. I've had to compromise but it's the right thing to do for now and I feel lucky to have found a job that I still enjoy with a very understating employer. Ten years ago I had no idea this is where I'd be and I often wonder how things are going to work out in another 10 years.

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  8. It's hard to find balance working fulltime and being a parent. I feel like a constant taxi running to nursery and school drop offs and pick ups and work in between and housework and grocery shopping and it's a never ending battle to make sure I give enough attention to hubby and both kids together and individually. I think you are right we can have it all just have to balance it and be very organized. Sometimes a little down time is needed and these things have to be slowed down. I can relate to what you are saying so much. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me I hope to see you again tomorrow for another round of #sharewithme

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