You Can’t Have It All

You may have noticed that a common theme on our blog is, “You can’t have it all!”  Out in culture, women are still being told that of course you can have a fulfilling career AND have happy, well-adjusted children if you try hard enoughOur president is even spouting off about it.  We’ve talked in the past about how this minimizes the full-time occupation that it is to care for and raise a child.  Today I want to talk about the toll that this mindset takes on a woman and her family.

On a mommy message board I visit, one mom shared the following:

I am struggling to maintain a good work/home balance. I feel I am suffering from being a WOHM, my kids suffer, DH suffers, my house suffers, my relationships suffer and my work suffers. I feel stretched too thin. I work full time and have a lot of responsibility/pressure at work and that is only increasing as time goes on. At the end of the day, I am left with very little patience for my kids and my marriage and very little energy to do things around the house.

The mom went on to ask for advice from other moms: what was she missing?  How does everyone else manage?  She saw her two options as “dig in my heels and make a more concerted effort (which seems nearly impossible) to improve in all the areas I am struggling with” or to quit her job.  Dozens of moms chimed in with advice and encouragement.  You can read the whole thread, but here are some of the notable suggestions:

  • Drop down to part-time (“It is a common feeling among WOHMs I know that we are doing about 3 jobs and each of those poorly.”)
  • “see a therapist helps me a lot when I hit a wall; go 1 time a week at least”
  • “Outsource everything that can be outsourced” –  dog walker, a cleaning lady (up to 3x a week!), daycare, lawn care, dry cleaning pick-up, food delivery
  • “Demand support from spouse… Today, I have a late meeting so I will be home late, he will pick up the girls, get them fed, clean up etc. We split all the chores so they don’t all fall on me.”
  • “Me time”: “I know that I am much happier when I work out, so I carve out time to work out 6 days a week. It means that I am at work 30 minutes later than I want and that the girls are at daycare 30 minutes earlier, but having that hour to work out is important. “
  • “You might also consider getting a personal trainer who will hold you accountable to workouts and help you progress.”
  • Set limits on work so that it doesn’t bleed into the evenings or weekends.

Even with all these suggestions, most of the moms shared that they felt the same way–worn out, doing sub-par work at everything, not measuring up.  My heart broke for these women who were so hard on themselves but didn’t feel that they could quit their jobs because of the loss of income or prestige.  (And lest you think these women HAVE to work, this particular message board skews high income, with moms discussing top-of-the-line strollers, carseats, kitchen gizmos, Disney vacations, and designer clothes.)  By their own admission, they’re not having it all.  It sounds like they’re giving up a lot.  The amount of money we’d need in order to outsource everything on that list is over double what I made in my pre-children teaching career.  That’s a lot to ask a husband to subsidize (when you’re already demanding an exact 50-50 on housework and kid duty).  And then having a weekly therapist and six days of “me time” at the gym when I’d already only be seeing my kids a couple hours a day…?!  This lifestyle holds no appeal for me.  This sounds like sacrificing a peaceful home, a strong relationship with my husband and my kids, the chance to be everything to someone.

I’m not here to say that these suggestions are all evil.  (My husband and my mom convinced me to join a gym this spring, and I’ve tried to be better about getting sitters when I have appointments so I’m not getting a cavity filled with the three big kids scrunched along the floor and the baby in my lap, trying to grab the drill out of the dentist’s hand.)  The suggestions merely show the other side of the coin for working moms.  As stay-at-home moms, we’re very aware of the sacrifices we’re making (whether it’s finances, “me time” or adult conversation, or respect from our peers).  And for young women who are considering motherhood and career, the financial loss and potential alienation from other adults as sahms are more publicized than the impossible rat race of trying to have it all. No one gushes about their child loving their nanny more than mom.  I believe this is a discussion we should be having with college-aged women, and it’s one that I hope to contribute to with some posts this winter.  There is a significant cost to family and quality of life when mom works full-time.  Say it with me, ladies: you can’t have it all.

Posted in For New Moms, Having It All, Philosophy of Motherhood. Bookmark the permalink. RSS feed for this post. Leave a trackback.

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