I’ve just stumbled upon an old Facebook post of mine from five years ago. It describes exactly how I was feeling on the quest to ‘have it all’ as a full time working mum.
I feel like a hamster on a wheel..permanently broke, never enough time at work despite doing 50+hrs per wk, never enough time as a mother, permanent guilt and a house which stubbonly refuses to clean itself. Someone get me off the wheel!
Growing up, the message that women could do anything and be anything was everywhere. I was really eager to have a high flying career and I also knew that one day I wanted to have a fairytale romance, get married and have a family. That’s what I thought having it all meant. A pregnancy at eighteen put a halt to those fairytale ideas. However, I was still determined to have a successful career whilst raising my son. So I got a job in a big company and grafted.
At the time when I wrote that Facebook message, Zak was only just turning five and in his first, formative year in school. I was working 50+ hours Mon-Fri, travelling abroad with work at least one week of every month, regularly doing a three hour commute (one way) to London and was on call each weekend, all as a single parent. There’s no doubt that I loved my job, it was fulfilling and often exciting and glamorous. However, I did not enjoy using both breakfast club and after school club each day for Zak, just to make up the minimum hours necessary at work. It felt terrible always being the last one to pick him up, seeing his exhausted, pale little face hopefully watching out for me. I felt achingly guilty saying goodbye to go on yet another work trip. Every school holiday was a battle to either take time off work or to find suitable childcare arrangements.
Day after day passed by in an exhausted fuzz of long hours, strong coffee and extreme guilt. We barely had time for after school homework or reading practice before he would fall asleep with his face in his tea. Looking back on that time, it’s no wonder both he and I were constantly ill, stressed and anxious. Nobody can sustain that pace of life forever but at the time I told myself I was ‘having it all’.
Fast forward five years and I now work in a far less demanding, often slightly boring, job with no travel (or glamour) and part time, school hours. I feel extremely fortunate to work for a company that has allowed me to work flexibly as I know that not everyone is as lucky. I don’t necessarily enjoy the same job satisfaction anymore but I love the fact that Zak now doesnt have to use any childcare clubs, we can get up a bit later and enjoy breakfast together at home. I can leave work in time to collect him every day at the school gates and we have time and energy to do things together like going to the park or taking the dogs to the beach. There is time for homework as well as relaxation and we are no longer stressed and permanently sick. I can cook proper meals and keep the house chores done – none of which I used to do.
Whilst it’s true that I have had to pass up several excellent and exciting job opportunities as a result of my new working hours, it has been undeniably worth the sacrifice. It feels a bit taboo to say it but personally, I don’t think I can ‘have it all’. I may not be fulfilling my career potential right now but I just cannot keep that many balls in the air at once.
What do you think? Am I letting the side down by admitting it’s not possible or have you found a way to make it work? I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment.