As you turn three years old, I wanted to share a few thoughts on motherhood with you, for one day you, too, will face a crossroads. Lead with your sweet heart.
“But I’m miserable,” the supermom fired back at me. Her response made me cringe, a death knell to my dreams. I had just congratulated the high-profile television personality I had admired (and who shall remain nameless) for having both a successful career and a family with four children. I had no idea “having it all” was making her that unhappy. And that’s when I promised myself I was never going to be her. If “having it all” meant being miserable, I didn’t want to have anything to do with “it.”
The truth is “having it all” is hard but so is giving up “having it all” as I did. Once a television producer chasing breaking news for a living, now I’m chasing four young children for nothing—no pay, that is. Yes, the rewards are priceless. Every day I witness the wonderment of childhood from a toddler beaming with joy after switching on his bedroom light to a six-year-old scientist who discovers foil and black construction paper can make a pretty awesome grilled cheese in sunlight. No longer am I leashed to a smartphone, demanding a punishing deadline. Now I’m considering if it’ll take a leash to keep my kids in line. (Thanks to a parenting class, it hasn’t come to that!)
What I’ve come to realize in my daily dilemmas, questioning my life’s path (usually while cleaning up some form of child secretion), is that “having it all” is simply a myth—an unattainable ideal that sets women up for failure on both the career-front and the home-front. Show me a “working mom” that doesn’t feel guilty she missed her child’s X,Y and Z activity because of a grueling work schedule, and I’ll show you a “stay-at-home” mom who misses exercising her adult brain after playing peek-a-boo. We all feel short-changed at times. We were sold a line of thinking that doesn’t always hold true.
Some lean in. Some lean out. Some lean out, and then lean back in. We, women, lean in every direction. But it turns out, no matter where you lean at any given moment, you miss out on what’s on the other side. And that’s ok. That’s life, and it’s time to own up to the fact that no matter which path we choose, choices have sacrifices.
It’s time we stop cheerleading, “Have It All!” and instead embrace what we have at any given moment. Take pride in pulling an all-nighter—whether for work or for a sick child. Just don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do both. Whether you get a sense of fulfillment from work inside or outside the home, embrace the moments that deliver you complete joy and learn from the ones that leave you devastated.
It’s medicine that’s hard to swallow, especially for a recovering news junkie. I can’t “have it all” 24/7. Instead, whether work or mom-duty calls, I vow to give my children the love and presence of mind they deserve in the fleeting moments I have with them. For as children, they do not deserve to be short-changed.