Monthly Archives: February 2015

Can Mothers Really Have it All?

working momI know – it’s the billion dollar question.  The question that has been debated for generations, and yet remains unclear.  Can mothers really have it all?  Or is it a myth, an unattainable rung on the ladder that serves only to remind us that we are failing?

I don’t know.

I am trying, dammit.  I grew up in the generation that was taught that we women could do anything and everything.  And do it well.  And with grace.  And beauty.  And charm and wit and manners and all the rest of it.

Were they right?

For my first 35 years, I would say yes.  I would probably say a resounding yes.  The formula simply worked.  I studied hard, I worked hard, and I soaked in every experience that I could.  My achievements were recognized and I was rewarded.  And so I worked harder… for greater achievements and larger rewards.  I was striving towards my potential, and slowly but surely realizing it.

I felt that I did have it all.  The education, the career, the house, the travel, the husband, the enriching friendships.  All it took were some goals and elbow grease.  I was smug.  If others worked as hard as I had then they, too, could have it all.  Perhaps those whining about not having it all were just a bit… lazy.

And then as the story goes, my first child arrived.  Then my second.  And then all hell broke loose.

Cracks began to appear.  A child is shushed on a Saturday because Mommy needs to finish something up “really quick” for work.  A project proposal draft is halted because a feverish child needs to see the pediatrician.  My new greatest fear is the nanny calling in sick.  Or an out of town business trip.

When I am with the children, I am worrying about all the things I need to remember to do at work… and emailing myself reminders.  When I am at work, I am missing and worrying about my children… and emailing myself reminders.  I am juggling, as millions of mothers do every day.

Suddenly I am torn.  My former 100% at work has doubled with a new additional 100% towards the children.  Some say that it becomes 50/50.  I don’t agree with that.  If I don’t give 100% at work then, well, my work will suffer and I will not achieve and that begins a downward professional spiral.  If I don’t give 100% to my children then, well, I don’t even want to think about what could happen.  So we try to pull the additional hours out of thin air.

Sleep suffers.  Relationships suffer.  Stress levels skyrocket.  But above all else, I feel like I’m not doing anything well.

Is this what “having it all” means?  Trudging through day by day, checking the endless boxes on a laundry list of tasks to simply make it to bedtime?  Refocusing constantly between kids… work… logistics?

But on paper, I have it all.  The family and the career.  I am living the American Dream.

Maybe this is temporary.  My children are young, ages 3 and 1, and we don’t have any help that is unpaid.  Perhaps this is the tough stage before it gets easier.  Maybe when they are ages 15 and 13, I will be so grateful that I powered through this stage to have it all… my wonderfully raised children and my flourishing career.

And maybe I won’t.  Maybe I will regret the time I missed with my children.

Or maybe having it all isn’t a destination at all.  Maybe it isn’t a societal prescription of accomplishments.  Maybe instead it is simply a frame of mind.  A focus on gratitude for whatever decisions we make in our lives.  The work-outside-of-the-home mother being grateful for the ability to nurture both her personal and professional sides.  The stay-at-home-mother being grateful to experience every moment with her child.

Maybe once we peel away the expectations of what we think having it all is supposed to mean, then we can begin to understand what it actually means for each of us.  And then our natural priorities can begin to shine through.

I still don’t know.

But I do know that the answer is not nearly as clear to me as it was a few years ago.

In the Words of My Toddler 2

And they just keep on comin’!  My toddler has become quite the unintentional comedian.  A few more jewels of wisdom for your reading pleasure.

Me: [driving to doctor’s office for son’s potential ear infection] Does it still hurt, Sweetie?
Toddler: Yes.  I think I hit my ear when I was running.  I have to be more careful.
Me: Does it hurt on the inside of the ear or the outside?
Toddler: On the inside.
Me: What does it feel like?  Is it a sharp pain?
Mom: [in a eye-rolling kind of tone] Nooo Mommy!  A shark swims in the OCEAN!  Not in my ears!

Hubby: [getting toddler up after an early nap for misbehaving] Are you in a better mood now?
Toddler: Yes.  I sorry, Daddy.  I sorry for hitting.
Hubby: Why did you hit?  Were you tired?
Toddler: Yes, I was tired.
Hubby: If you’re tired, you can just tell us and we can leave the park.  You don’t have to misbehave.  You don’t have to hit.
Toddler: [stunned] I no have to hit?!
Hubby: No.
Toddler: [still in shock] I no have to hit when I’m tired?!  [pause, thinking]  When I’m tired I just tell Mommy and Daddy?  Then we go home??  I no have to hit?!

Toddler: [with his toy doctor kit] Mommy, let me listen to your heart!
Me: Okay. [toddler listens with toy stethoscope]
Toddler: Okay, now I will look in your ear.
Me: Okay. [toddler peers inside]
Toddler: Turn around, Mommy.
Me: Okay. [I turn around but startle as toddler tries to insert something sharp into my you-know-what] Hey, what are you doing!?
Toddler: [holding up his toy thermometer] Taking your temperature!

Toddler: [with list and pencil] Mommy, what do you want to eat?
Me: Hmmm… I would like an ice cream sundae.
Toddler: Okay! [runs into the kitchen, then back] Here you go!
Me: Can I get a cherry on top?
Toddler: We have no cherries.
Me: Can you go get some?
Toddler: Okay! I am going to the store now! [starts walking across the living room]
Me: Okay, start your car…
Toddler: [shaking his head, exasperated] MOMMY!  There is no car in here!  This is the LIVING ROOM!

Toddler: [standing shirtless in front of the mirror and repeatedly pressing his outtie belly button in roughly] AARRRGHH!
Me: What are your doing??
Toddler: I’m trying to fix my belly button!  It broke and I can’t get it back in!

Baby: [crying at the dinner table]
Me: Aw, are you all done with your dinner now?  What’s wrong?
Toddler: [earnestly] I think he wants some mint chocolate chip ice cream now.

Toddler Friend: [helpfully, after having just beat my toddler in a foot race] You should really try some more vegetables.
Toddler: They will help me go faster?
Toddler Friend: Yes they will.  You should really think about it.  Try it and see.

Toddler: [running ahead of us on a walking path] I’m fast, Mommy!
Random Couple: [smiling as toddler runs by them] Wow, you are fast!
Toddler: No!  I am SUPER fast!  I eat my vegetables.  The vegetables make me go SUPER fast!

Seriously… Can I just freeze this age??