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"Having it all" isn't "all that"

Have less, be happier

by Divine Caroline  |  3662 views  |  3 comments  |       Rate this now! 

By Janet Zinn for Divine Caroline

“Having it all” is a tempting concept for working moms. It implies that we can have balance in our lives, suggesting it will be easy to enjoy all that our lives encompass. I suggest the phrase “having it all” appeals to those of us who have struggled with perfectionism for a long time. It is a ubiquitous thought as we go through our days trying to accomplish all the small and large demands in front of us.  Perhaps it’s just half a phrase, the entire phrase being “having it all, except peace of mind.”

The truth about having it all is that you have to be a multi-tasker. You end up juggling with too many balls in the air. At any given point you are focusing on the ball that is most likely to miss your agile grasp. To translate this in circumstantial terms, imagine that you have an important meeting coming up at work. Add to that an early publishing party in your child’s class. Plus, you have to complete employee reviews this week. And, every day you have to check homework, talk to your children about the struggles in the school yard, make sure the babysitter has all the play date information, check the household spending account so you can buy birthday gifts for your child’s friends and have more that enough for miscellaneous purchases. And, that’s just this week.

On a daily basis, you get your children to school, a little early so that you can get to work just in time not to be too late. You never know when the phone will ring to let you know the babysitter can’t come so that you have to make alternate plans. Or, your child is sick and you have to pick her up just when you’re supposed to meet a new client. Then, when at home, you’re fearful the phone will ring with an extra project you hadn’t expected to handle, or your boss letting you know you dropped the ball on some arbitrary communication. Of course, more is going on both at home and at the office, but the list could go on forever.

Any sane person would find this juggle anxiety provoking. However, if the scales tip too far to one side, it takes a heroic effort to get things back to the overwhelming norm. Although the pace is set to challenge your immune system, getting sick is out of the question. And there is little chance of feeling as if there is relief in sight. So, what’s the alternative? Having less.

It is a humbling fact that we are limited. When faced with our limitations, women tend to push back. We are socialized to take care of everything. And, as the demands in our lives increase, we think we have to take them on. It’s not easy to slow down. We have to be told, again and again, on an airplane to give ourselves oxygen before getting it for our loved ones. This goes completely against our training. And, yet, taking care of ourselves is a tricky business in and of itself. If we can admit our limitations and take a break to breathe, we have taken a huge first step. Next we have to take a break from the anxiety producing pace. Ask for help, even when it’s not the way we would do it. Allow for less than perfection in ourselves and our family. Make sure you laugh, that’s the best break for you as well as those around you.

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3 comments so far...

  • I loved reading this article. I am the one who gets anxious every month around the time when my younger one gets sick and ends up taking antibiotics. I can see it coming and I get worked up. I am gradually learning to calm down and this article helps.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Lakshmi on 12th June 2009

  • umm, yeah. It's simply not possible to be super terrific at work and super terrific at home. And we need to learn how to give ourselves a break because the whole martyr-complex routine is not an attractive look this season. This whole balance thing is hugely challenging, especially when your husband says stupid things like, "you know, being a working dad is really hard too." Let me think about that for a second. I do drop off and pick up for both kids. I get up with them in the middle of the night. I make most of their meals. I take care of them when they are sick. I take them to the doctor. I miss work to get them better. What does he do? Oh, right. He makes lunch. For one of them. Three times a week. Sure sounds equitable to me!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Kami Lewis Levin on 8th June 2009

  • Dear Divine - loved the article. As I say all the time "you can have it all, just not all at once" - it's about saying no at certain times, taking shortcuts and loving them vs. feeling guilty and knowing what is important in life. Then balancing doesn't seem like a chore, but instead feels natural. For me it is about simple tips and principles. I tried to share them in my book "millennium mom"...while not every working mom will buy into all of them, I think they are simple tips you can start doing tomorrow to make having it all a little easier, if that is the path you choose to go down (or at least try to go down). Thanks again for the article and indulging me.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Joanna Zucker on 19th March 2009