“I can have it all….” the heroine of the TV show “I Feel Bad” boldly proclaimed as if she is trying to convince both herself and her husband the statement is true. Then she added under her breath “I’ve read that…. in books.”
Isn’t that the truth? Having “it all” is something all women believe is possible, but not because we’ve seen examples of it in real life. “Everyone”, including books, tell us it can be done, but when we think about it, are we clear on who or what gave us that idea in the first place? There are also books on making kale taste good, but none of us are putting our blind faith in that message, are we?
This message of having “it all” has been coming up a lot for me this week. First, I saw the quote from Michelle Obama’s book tour where she was quoted as saying “I tell women, that whole ‘you can have it all’ – nope, not at the same time; that’s a lie,”. (I wrote more detailed blog post on this quote that I hope to be able to share with you soon.)
Next, I had a friend reach out to me and ask if I had been watching the show “I Feel Bad”. I hadn’t, but then watched the episode I quoted above, aptly named “I Miss Important Moments”. In the episode the working mom of three is running between helping her daughter prepare for a big dance recital while at the same time prepping for a pitch to the CEO of her company. Being a thirty-minute sitcom, you can imagine the antics are extreme, from hiring the receptionist to act as a stand-in in the dark rehearsal theater, to pulling the fire alarm to buy herself more time while rushing to the next event. At one point she says, “For once I felt like I was doing it all and not disappointing everyone, including myself.”
And that’s what we all really feel don’t we – that we are disappointing everyone. The character in the show had a supportive husband and mother who were both offering help, so she didn’t have to do it all, but she shrugged off their offers, wanting and believing she could do it all herself. On some level she was not disappointing anyone, they were all around her ready to help, but she had built up so many expectations within her own head she was most afraid of disappointing herself.
How did those expectations get built up in the first place? Like the character said earlier, she thought she had read it in a book. Having ‘it all’ seems to be folklore bred into the DNA of working moms. None of us know how it got there, but we all have it.
Michelle Obama’s quote, “not at the same time” made me feel like some of the weight was lifted off my shoulders. To me her words meant, you don’t have to be the best at everything all at the same time. This is where I think we get tripped up. We keep pushing, striving and adding more things to our to-do list thinking “if only I can get all this done, I will be able to sit back and take a deep breath”. The challenge is that day never comes. More gets added to the list, new responsibilities appear, and you are on the never-ending hamster wheel of activity.
What would happen if you stopped for a minute and asked yourself one question, “Is today enough?” Do you have enough food, enough responsibility, enough satisfaction, enough love? It doesn’t mean you have to stay in this place forever, but for today, is it enough? Too often we are so busy looking at how it will be in the future that we overlook treasures we already have in front of us.
At the end of the episode, the daughter says to the mom “When you really care about something you figure out a way to make it happen.” I would agree this is true for many and often it is in these moments of making it happen that moms earn their Super Mom title for pulling off the impossible.
Unfortunately, there are many times when no matter how much you care about something, you just can’t do it all. In those moments, we must make a choice. This is where things get tough for so many moms, like the mom in the show, we don’t want to disappoint anyone and feel that by making a choice that is exactly what we will do. We need to let ourselves off the hook.
My cousin sent me a text this morning with the quote “We are in charge of our joy.” Yes, choices are hard, but we need to make our decisions based on what is best in the moment from our heart. We shouldn’t downplay the joy our choice brings. After all, there is plenty of time to have ‘it all’.
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.