In the military, often times the service member goes on TDY (Temporary Duty), which translates in civilian life to a conference out of town, leaving the other parent on their own for the duration. Lots of times, these periods of default parenting have left me in fits of productivity, but this round, the week before my birthday, left me extremely tired. Monday following, as I stewed in the bitterness of TDY, post hearing about a movie seen, great food eaten, a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth, I started to think about the term “having it all”.
Partially I’m sure because I’d read a posted article about the same subject (here and above) where a mom realizes she’s having it all by essentially not mentioning she just gave birth and is somehow managing to keep her career on full swing. I can’t even fathom how she did that without crumbling into a puddle of tears. I had so little energy for anything beyond tending to my little ones when they first arrived. I’ve thought back to a conversation I had with a client, when my first was just born. He had called because I had done a little renovation for them and wanted to do a brand new dentist office building. This is a dream for architects. A client that liked your work and service they call you with a NEW building project. I was so excited, but I knew my limits then. I was very honest and told him I’d just had a baby and there was no way I could provide the service he needed, which was rewarded with him telling me how much he respected my decision to put my family first. And no project.
People get it. They do. From the outside looking in, when we give them the facts and set limits on what we’ll give, they understand. They may not agree or like what we’re not offering to do, but they understand. I once read or heard somewhere, probably Oprah, if you don’t put limits on yourself, people will take all that they can get you to give; it’s just human nature. So true.
And yet, the worst offender is ourselves. I find it mostly with women and specifically mothers and wives. We think the meaning of having it all is DOING it all and doing it all ourselves. Feeling guilty asking our spouse for help or worrying what people might think if we put our children in daycare to get a break as a stay at home mom. The sad reality is we CAN’T do it all and that can’t be the meaning of having it all. If it is something is terribly wrong with the burden we’ve come to accept in lieu of actual happiness and a fulfilled life.
Yes, yes, I’ve mentioned on several occasions I’ve went back to work part-time. Hubby calls it my “part-time, full-time job” as it seems I work off and on all the time. Why do I do this? Because my job allows it, my boss allows it and also because I love my chosen career. It wasn’t until I went back to work that I realized how much I’d missed being an architect. There are good days, long days, days full of emergencies, coworker issues, frustrations, and completed satisfying projects. And here’s the kicker, my work situation is fantastic. Flexible enough, if say one of the boys have a possible pink-eye issue and needs to stay home for the day, I work from home and I can work during school hours only; my only limitation is the limits I put on my own time.
And yet, I have been unwilling to admit I am not capable of doing all that I did as a stay at home mom PLUS working 25 hours a week. Why is that? Why am I unwilling to ask my hubby for help when I’m in a sane state of mind, instead of on the brink (or midst) of a mommy meltdown? Is it that I saw my mom working all day then coming home to have a multi-course dinner on the table at a precisely set time? I can’t say. I’ve seen this laundry ad a few times on FB recently and while I think it does touch on an issue of modeled behavior, I think it also doesn’t tap into the biggest issue. Dare I say it again? Ourselves. It’s so easy to point the finger in any direction than directly back at ourselves and take ownership and make changes without feeling guilty.
So here it is, I’m owning up to it. For starters, I’m asking Hubby to split carpool duty and keep the dishes from remaining overnight in a pile of angst to greet me in the morning and I’ve outsourced my heavy cleaning to a paid cleaner on a semi regular basis. I just can’t do it all and I don’t want to. I’m not asking for laundry, errands, making lunches, facilitating homework and piano practice, calls to doctors and dentist appointments, all the other stuff that chops my day into little pieces, because I still want to be there for my boys. I know they won’t always be small or want me around, but they do now. Beyond domestic duties, I want to model for them what it is like to balance home life and a career you love and also what a job that doesn’t fit the bill of 9-5 drudgery looks like and for that I will continue to work.
For me, having it all means stepping back to realize nobody is asking me to do it all. That was my idea. Yes, there are going to be some growing pains in changes to routines we’ve long become accustomed to, but in the end, we’ll all be happier and maybe, just maybe a little less prone to temper tantrums; the child and adult variety.