It’s been a tough week emotionally. Aside from the horrible tragedy of the past few days, and the entirely disheartening reactions around the web that I’ve had to remove myself from to keep from becoming distraught, my schedule has been a bit…challenging. I’m juggling a tough work schedule, a two-way commute with Sage to summer camp, and kids and Nate’s night shifts (meaning single mom duty morning and night, a several days a week). Dinner needs to be made, baths given, dishes cleaned, the next Oz book read and cuddle time had. By 9, I’m ready to collapse, without a single ounce of energy left in me.
As far as problems go in the world it’s hardly a major one, but the fact is, I’m tired.
Yay for mothers who claim they “do it all.” But I’m really not one of them. I like sleep. And spending more than 4 seconds a day with my kids that doesn’t involve me cajoling them to give me a foot rub for a dollar. Weird, huh?
In fact, since the working mom article heard around the world, closely followed by the announcement of Melissa Mayer’s new position at Yahoo, undertaken while pregnant, I’m not entirely surprised that this discussion has started again. I am somewhat more surprised that it’s been followed by an extraordinary number of not-so related pitches I’m receiving that insist, but NO, you CAN have it all! If only you buy this widget or download this app or interview our expert. Seriously.
This week I was offered an interview with a privileged, upper-class celebrity type entrepreneur with the following in the press release:
“I started my company when I was pregnant with my first daughter,” [redacted] says, “and I only stopped running it for the four hours it took me to birth my second, earlier this month. Our company’s COO (my husband) was right there with me and the midwives. He caught the baby. It’s crazy-making hard sometimes, but so are most things worth doing. I believe that every woman and every man can do it all, and do it all well.”
On one hand I think it’s lovely and optimistic to encourage women to live out their dreams. But my second thought is, are you freaking kidding me? To come out and say that every woman can do it all and do it all well?
It’s simply not true.
Not every woman has a supportive husband or partner–or one at all. Not every woman has money in the bank from a childhood spent modeling and acting. Not everyone is in a career or at a position that allows them to own their work schedules and vacation days. But aside from issues of privilege, class and circumstance, there’s a bigger point to be addressed: not every women wants to stop work for a mere 240 minutes to push out a kid, then race right back to the conference call. Nor should we.
Is that what working motherhood has come to? “I am overxtended, hear me roar?”
And anyone who thinks that make me an feminist killer, I’m happy to chat with you offline anytime.
I’m not judging her choice by the way. If this is what works for her and her family, more power to her. But it’s hardly what most women want to aspire to.
Life, as my parents always told me, is a series of choices. Unless I’m unaware of some great developments in Doc Brown style science, it is impossible for our bodies to be in two places at once, both with our children and with our fulfilling careers–even if our hearts are.
I love my work. I love my kids. I am successful at my work. I am successful at raising fairly awesome children (says me, so far). And while I do my best to balance or juggle or whatever today’s catch-phrase is that’s least likely to cause more wars, that does not mean I do it all, or do it all well.
We need to stop asking women to live up to impossible standards. Because we put enough pressure on ourselves as it is.
No one is more proud of what I do for a living than Thalia. When we talk about how I started a website to help other moms support their families with their businesses, and I explained some of the accomplishments we’re most proud of, she said, “wow that’s important!” And I agreed.We talked about how my advertising job helps support our family and pay the bills, and make sure she can go to college, and how it also makes me feel good to get paid to do something I like to do. She understands the value of that too, and we then talked about what she’d like to do when she grows up and what possibilities will be open to her.
And yet, a few nights later, having come home a little later than usual, Thalia held me tight as we cuddled in the dark under her blanket.
She said, “Mommy, I wish I could create a string that reaches around the world 4,000 times. That way anywhere you go, wherever you go, I could always get to you. I could just push a button and then it would be like coolest zipline ever and it would just bring me right to you.”
Doing it all?
“All” is a very, very big word.