You CANNOT have it all …

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“Whereas I did everything in my life halfway, or worse.” “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald”  by Therese Anne Fowler

That is how Zelda Fitzgerald felt about her life … trying to be a wife, a mother, a dancer, an artist … she felt like she couldn’t do any of them well because she wasn’t “allowed” to do any of them full time and therefor felt like a failure at everything.

That is essentially what I told my employer when I went into his office to tell him I was pregnant .. AGAIN! That I could not do it all, I felt like I had just gone back to work and now here I was faced with having a baby and a 1 year old, I would not be coming back, I tried my hardest not to cry, but I cried because I knew that even if I did come back someday, I would never come back in the same capacity.  Even with one child I felt like “I was doing everything in my life halfway or worse”.  Things would never be the same, I would never be the same, it’s true, having children forever changes you … physically and psychologically.  Even if I had the energy and the stamina to work and have two babies, the cost of childcare wouldn’t even equal my income, it was illogical to consider going back to work. My employer/business parter was also a long time friend and we had worked long and hard to build up our business.  He said “if you want to come back we’ll make it work”, I replied that even if it were worth it financially, I just can’t, because after coming back part-time after the birth of my son I always felt like a failure, like I was doing everything “half-assed” not 100% mother, not 100% employee, not 100% wife, not 100% homemaker … failing at everything.

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“And so, accepting that we are choosing how to best spend our time, we can then accept that we have to let go of the rest. We can’t do everything. In fact, if we tried to do everything, we’d do everything poorly. We are owning the fact that we choose to do these things, to be fully there with them, and to do them as best we can, fully and with love”. Zen Habits Leo Babauta 

This all sounds great but what if it’s not that easy, when you’re a mother you can’t choose, you can’t always “let things go” with small children you don’t get to say no to trying to please everyone, because someone is constantly in need of you, you can’t say I won’t feed, bathe, provide for you … so sometimes when we try to “do it all” it’s because we HAVE to, we have no choice and then things get done poorly or not to the standard we hold ourselves to, it’s hard to let go of that feeling that we have to be perfect and everything we do has to be perfect.  Such is the life of every mother, working or not working because no matter what, you are getting pulled in a million different directions, a million times a day, “all while trying to look better than average” 😜. 

And what if what you’re doing isn’t what you LOVE? I didn’t love being a mother to small children … it’s frustrating, tedious, exhausting, thankless and lonely.  Don’t get me wrong I loved my children then and now, more than anything in the world. Also I wasn’t good at it and even if I had been “great” at it, no-one is going to give you an excellent “job review” along with a raise to validate that you’re doing a good job.  I didn’t always love working, but for most of my working life I was good at it — I got great job reviews and raises and promotions. VALIDATION!

When the kids were older and in school I went back to work part-time and it worked for awhile, only because I had a very flexible, understanding employer.  But then my kids lives got busier, my husbands work got busier, my parents needed me more and I got older (aka perimenopausal).  And again I found myself doing everything “half-assed”.  When my husband said with the two of us working and him working even longer hours we needed to hire a personal assistant.  Clearly the logical thing was for me to quit my job and “step it up” as a wife, mother, homemaker … the only problem is I’m afraid I’m not quite up to the task.  I don’t know if its because I’m getting old, or going through perimenopause, or bored, but I haven’t “stepped it up” much, if at all 😯!  You know that saying “if you want something done give it to a busy person”– it’s true but that’s another topic.

“We can’t have it all. what we have is good enough.”  Glennon Doyle “Love Warrior”. 

When I first I read her book I thought YES, what we have, what I have is good enough, but then I thought is it good enough to constantly be feeling overwhelmed and like you’re not good enough …

“Somewhere along the way women got the wrong information. Or, I should say, we got so much of the wrong information that we washed our hands of the whole thing. We live in an all-or-nothing society that says I need to look, act, think, and speak perfectly or just throw in the towel and stop trying altogether … you feel so overwhelmed by your life that you’ve given up. You’re a piece of jetsam being tugged along with the tide. It feels too hard to keep up with the game, so you’ve quit playing. Oh sure, you’re still here. You still show up for work, you still make dinner (or don’t if you’re me 😜) and take care of your kids, but you’re always playing catch-up. You always feel behind and overwhelmed. Life is not supposed to overwhelm you at all times. Life isn’t meant to be merely survived—it’s meant to be lived.” by Rachel Hollis “Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be” 

So many women feel like they are barely surviving, barley keeping their head above water.

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“That love would do what it often threatened to do … remind you that it is timeless, as if that were the entire story about what I thought I was supposed to do vs. what I actually want to do”

I read that somewhere, I didn’t write down the source or the author … but I think about it all the time and I frequently substitute the word life for the word love and fleeting for the word timeless

“That life would do what it often threatened to do … remind you that it is fleeting, as if that were the entire story about what I thought I was SUPPOSED to do vs. what I actually WANT to do.”

I didn’t read all of “Girl Wash Your Face”  but I think the gist of it is that we need to realize that for the most part “we’re doing the best we can” and while you’re in the throes of motherhood we all need to stop being so hard on ourselves and realize everything doesn’t have to be perfect all the time  — things will feel and look messy and far from “perfect” most of the time and it’s OKAY!

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The time will come when you get to do more of what you WANT vs. SHOULD and it may creep up on you unexpectedly.  You may find its been so long that you’ll actually have to discover what you want, in the meantime it’s okay to let some things go …

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Elizabeth Gilbert’s book” Committed”,  researches the history of marriage, marital statistics, why some marriages work, why some don’t, why so many marriages that began in the 50’s ended in divorce in the 70’s (with the beginning of the women’s movement)…  

“I couldn’t help wondering what would happen to Phylis & Chad about 20 years down the road when the children were older and prosperity had been achieved and Phylis had no life whatsoever outside of the home and Chad would wonder why he had given up so much personal pleasure over the years to be a good & faithful provider only to be rewarded now with a frustrated wife, rebellious teenage children, a sagging body and a tedious career.” 

I feel like although it’s 2019 so many of us still feel this way to some degree.  People thought my husband and I were crazy to consider not having children, when my brother and his sister had adorable little babies and my biological clock was ticking, we took “the road more traveled” and settled into a different version of the the 1950’s marriage.  My husband started working with me because I was making more money than him, I was working longer hours, doing the grocery shopping, the cooking, the cleaning and the laundry and so it was the least he could do ;)). In his defense he would have been fine living his life the way he was and sometimes I feel sorry for him that he met me and then decided he wanted kids and had to get a REAL job and sometimes he probably feels like he turned into a Chad (except he does not have the sagging body☺️).

“And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?”  Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime”

Not to say we don’t adore our children, we do and my husband would tell anyone “you HAVE to have children – it’s the best!”  Me on the other hand?  I would say “it’s not all it’s cracked up to be” think long and hard about the sacrifices and concessions you will have to make, no matter how much money, time, patience etc. you have, because you CANNOT have it all.  Something has to give, especially for the mother (even if she’s not the “stay-at-home” parent — usually the brunt of parenting not to mention pregnancy, breast feeding and sleepless nights lands at the feet of the mother).

“But what about their own lives? Do these mothers feel fulfilled by the successes of their children—or resentful of their own sacrifices? Evidence suggests that the pattern is helping to produce a generation of very unhappy women. According to a 2009 study … women rated their own happiness at the lowest level in thirty-five years. (that was 10 years ago I 🙏 women are feeling better).  The survey includes a representative sample of fifteen hundred men and women of all ages, races, marital status, and educational and income levels, for a total of fifty thousand people so far. Regardless of whether they work or stay home, are single or married, have graduate degrees or high-school diplomas, women rated feeling bleak about the state of their lives. And overall, mothers had the gloomiest outlooks of anybody. By comparison, men responded to the same survey with downright giddiness compared to women. Women realize they are doing the same chores as their mothers. They scale back at work, or maybe even take off a few years, and before long, the women find themselves isolated, responsible not only for care of the children but for most details of their lives: trips to the doctor; combing through tangled braids on the lookout for lice; making appointments with the orthodontist. They didn’t plan it that way, but that’s how it happened. Resentment creeps up, imperceptibly, not the least of which stems from the fact that the closet full of size-six clothes don’t fit a size-eight body.”  Gabrielle Glaser “Her Best Kept Secret”

Or they have a closet full of beautiful clothes from their working days and no-where to wear them, it has taken me two years to give up just a portion of my work wardrobe.  I feel like if I get rid of them all I’m giving up yet another part of myself that I will never get back.

Elizabeth Gilbert interviewing her mom about marriage and kids, for awhile her mother had a job at Planned Parenthood that she loved, but when she asked her husband if he could stay home with the kids for two days (just two days after all the years of her staying home, mind you), to attend a conference he said “no”, it broke her heart and killed her dream of having a career and children at the same time (HAVING IT ALL), so she gave in (gave up) and decided she could NOT have it all and gave up her career all together.

“I can’t tell you how much I love it now that you girls are gone … to have your father to myself, to have my time to myself, but I do have to tell you something else … there are times that I refuse to even let myself think about all I had to give up in the early years of my marriage because if I dwell on those feeling too much I become so enraged I can’t even see straight.”  Elizabeth Gilbert “Committed” 

“Imagine your body is youthful, firm, a pleasure to live inside of—and you’re wise enough to know that this is fleeting, this body and its condition. It won’t last. None of it will last.” “Z” a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler

For better or worse “none of it will last” things are always changing and we’re always trying to navigate new chapters of our lives.  Hang in there … there is life after early marriage and small children … I promise.  My children are now close to 16 & 18 and I see a new chapter, however, what I didn’t see coming is how much I’m going to miss them and how it will break my heart to see them go 💔…

“You can’t always get what you want (or have it all) … but if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need” 🙏

That is my hope and my “prayer” that most of us, most of the time get what we need and I also hope and “pray” that sometimes you get what you want.

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