Since having Penelope in August and going back to work eight weeks later I have been feeling more than exhausted, I've feeling been literally spent. As in, there is absolutely no more time in my day or in my life for anything or anyone. Now please do not take this post as me complaining, I am exceedingly thankful for my job, my education, my family and my husband who truly defines the word "partner" in our relationship. I also know that I do not have it bad in any way whatsoever. We are solidly middle-class and have what we need, and a life full of love. Yet all of that does not take away from the truths I write here and the truths of so many other women's lived experiences. When I was in college I read "Lean In" and loved it. I was all-aboard the Sheryl Sandberg bandwagon. While I still find validity in elements of the "Lean In" argument--that young girls are often labeled as "bossy" rather than as leaders, and that women often undercut their skills and success in the workplace for fear of being labeled in an equally unfavorable manner--overall I take issue that women need to do even more to reach the successful playing field of men in their careers. Quite frankly, I do not have the energy to Lean In any more than I already am. I am not capable of giving any more to my career at this point in my life, and if I did have any more to give, I would give it to my kid, my family, my dog.
There is so much guilt and pressure pushed upon women when they become mothers--both imagined and real. Guilt for how you feed your baby, guilt for how you diaper your baby, guilt for how and who takes care of your baby, even guilt for how you birthed your baby. There is also so much guilt and pressure pushed upon educated women with careers who chose to have children--and along with that there is this concept that you could possibly 'waste' your education, your potential, your talents by not continuing to actively push forward in your career when you do have children. And mixed in with that whole mess is a complete ignorance of financial situations and the actual need to work, or to choose off brand disposable diapers, or to try to breastfeed and pump while going back to work because formula literally costs too much.
Doing all of it at the same time was never the idea. By that definition, single working moms have been 'having it all' for ages and yet society does not hold the single working mom up as the goal for women everywhere. No, no, that's just what happens when you're poor and have no choice. Except actually, that's what happens to all by the very very rich when you encourage women to work and have children but don't change any other part of the world they live in (...) It's like we all said hey, let's change the narrative for women, but not change anything else. And then expected women to be so grateful that we're allowed to have casual sex and work now that we wouldn't notice that we're being pushed toward an ever less attainable and less desirable goal. (more of this here)
I have been feeling all of this. And it's overwhelming.
Then this weekend I read this wonderful article by Chaunie Brusie on Babble. and from there read this equally excellent piece on Medium by Amy Westervelt. I identified with these women so much. I see the same frustration, fatigue, and fear in them that I do in myself. But what can we do about it? I mean I can write this and talk to friends and family about it and share these articles on social media, but what can we do, really? There's this notion of bettering one's life by only choosing things that bring you joy floating around the trendy blogger internet world. What a great concept, let's only let joyful things into our lives, I think at first. Then when you really dig into it, and dig into your own real life you realize that life doesn't take form in such absolutes. Sure there are things to be learned from a joy-filled life, but reality doesn't allow for us to just throw away everything else in our lives--be they physical items, daily tasks, chores, or adult realities like paying the bills.
The reality of it is that we have to find balance. We have to balance those things that bring us joy in life, with those things that life requires us to do whether they bring joy or simply fulfill needs and requirements. We as career-having mothers have to adjust our personal viewfinders from focusing on 'having it all' to 'doing what we need to do to have a happy and content life.' And this is something I think we will have choose to do every day, probably even several times a day, because the reminders of that 'having it all' life are inescapable in today's ever-connected world. If we do not do this, if we don't make this adjustment in thinking and adjustment in how we view our lives and accomplishments we won't end up with 'having it all,' but instead will end up burnt-out and full of discontentment.