I bought the lie that women can (and should) have it all. Little did I know it would be the biggest regret of my life.
When I was in high school and college in the 80s and 90s, it was the heyday of feminism. Women were breaking through glass ceilings left and right and the power suit was the height of fashion. Women were taking over the men’s world and they were praised as superheroes.
And who doesn’t want to be a superhero?
So, armed with my own power suit, I set out to blaze my career path and conquer the corporate world. During this time I also got married and had my first son. I’ll never forget the way that tiny human crashed into my world. I still remember the sweet smell of his dark, matted hair. My heart grew more than seemed possible.
But, my career was demanding. My community, my self-worth, and even my husband said I needed to get back to climbing the ladder. That heart that grew so large, broke into a million pieces when I dropped the tiniest of babies off at daycare.
We fell into a rhythm and I learned to live with the daily heartbreak of daycare. I told myself it was necessary, for my family’s financial future, that I was doing for all of the women who wanted to have careers and for the women who fought so hard in the name of feminism for “me”, and that my boy will someday thank me for working so hard and proving that women deserve a role in the workplace. I told myself, I was doing what “everyone” does, that this was my role as a modern woman, “I am woman, hear me roar” or “I can bring home the bacon, and fry it up in a pan”, that jingle I had heard so many times as child.
I had a second son and went through that pain all over again, but at least I was prepared for it. Or so I thought.
I kept expecting that it would eventually feel normal. Daycare, housekeeping services, hired help all to make my career work, to make feminism succeed. But it never did.
So here I am… My oldest son is in college and my youngest is close to high school graduation and all of that heartbreak is as fresh as the first day I dropped them off at daycare. I’ve been successful in my career, my boys are ok, but I missed the little things, the mundane things that made up their day-to-day lives.
And I regret it.
As modern moms, we have more on our plate than ever before. We’re a couple of generations after the feminist movement of the 60’s and 70’s and all it’s done is to put our work to-do list right next to our home to-do list.
Which means, for many of us, we have societal pressure to succeed and to live the two income life while also living the “perfect mom” life. And for others, we don’t have a choice but to work and now have the added pressure of our kids’ academic, athletic and social success more than ever before. And still others, for the stay at home moms, the pressure to do more and do it perfectly is almost unbearable. And then there’s always Pinterest and Instagram telling us we have to do it all while being beautiful and well-decorated.
But here are the facts. There are only 24 hours in a day. We can’t do it all. Feminism has played a role in the societal pressure to do it all and have it all, but it’s simply not the truth.
But, I believe we can break this modern working mom myth. As someone who has lived the “dream” feminist life and met the societal standard of a working mom and lived to regret it, here are a few simple ways I started to take back our life and our family’s’ life on our own terms:
- Get inspired by your great-grandma.
My guess is she was the queen of making things work with what she had.
The goal here is to alleviate any financial pressure you can. Did your great grandma feel the need to go on a vacation each year? How did she think about food and feed her family (my guess is simply and at home)?
When you give yourself some financial wiggle room by finding creative ways to spend less, it gives you more freedom to turn down extra hours or take the day off when you need to.
Say yes to the small things.
I know as a working mom you’re keenly aware that anything you say yes to means you’re saying no to something else. It’s an intricate dance and one of the hardest juggling acts in the world.
But I discovered it’s the small things that grow the roots to your family. The big things are memorable, but it’s the small things and open opportunities for connection that weave the fabric of your everyday life.
So, try throwing the ball back and forth for 10 minutes before dinner. Eat at the table all together without phones once a week, at least. Get creative in those tiny little nooks and crannies of your week to say yes to small ways to connect.
Schedule time with yourself to assess and problem solve.
With so many things available for us to do, it’s easy to slide into a life where you’re suddenly incredibly busy with things that are not important to you and your family.
Once a month, or even once a quarter, take your work schedule, your family’s activity schedule, and anything else that takes your time, money, and energy, and give it all a good, hard look. Is there anything that isn’t totally necessary? Could you somehow consolidate kids’ activity nights? Could you swap work schedules with a co-worker? Look for ways to be creative with your time and ruthlessly cut anything that doesn’t add to your life, your family’s life or your future.
- Get inspired by your great-grandma.
Being a mom is one of the hardest but most rewarding jobs on the planet. As a working mom, you’re fighting the good fight of being there for your kids while also providing an income for your family.
It’s not easy.
So, I encourage you to learn from me and do whatever you can to NOT get caught up in feminism’s and society’s standards for you.
Instead, be deliberate and intentional in what you say yes to, career-related and not. By letting your family’s best interests be your guide and listening to yourself and each other, you’ll all be happier, mentally healthier, and have much less regret by the time your kids are grown.
And stay at home moms, if you’ve read this far, we just want you to know we know how much pressure you’re under too. Feminism has told you that raising kids, being a devoted wife, building a loving home is not a worthy pursuit. Don’t for a second think that’s true. You’re doing an amazing job standing against the status quo and doing what’s best for your family.
Moms, we’re all in this together. We’ve got this.