Refusing To Have It All
I must have written the first lines of this blog post fifteen times in my head.
So #blessed to have a job where I can still pick up my kids from school every afternoon.
The #flexibility of voiceover work means I can do it all - record a national commercial in the city in the morning, get my daughter to her pediatrician in the afternoon, and volunteer for my church at night!
But you know what? Those are lies. They're lies and they are harmful - to myself and to those around me - pretending that I can have this amazing fulfilling career while still giving my children 100% of what they need. Or rather what I *think* they need (more on that later). And if you've seen me in the last five years and I've said something charming and self-deprecating like "Oh sure it's hard and some days I feel like I'm just failing at everything! But I love my work and I love being a mom and I'm just so lucky to be able to do it all..."
I apologize. Sincerely. Consider this my confession.
Here are some truths:
1) I'm not actually interested in having it all. Because the version of me that buys into that idea is constantly chirping things like "Yeah I drop off the kids right at 8am so I can hit the gym for half an hour and get my youngest to preschool by 9am and then I have three whole hours for my business before pickup and all of our afternoon activities and it's busy sure but so so great!!!" And all of that may be true, but to paint it as some wonderful perfect scenario and not the exhausting slog it actually is serves to do nothing but build myself up at the expense of whoever I'm talking to; often someone who is "just" a stay-at-home-parent or "just" a working parent as opposed to this miracle creature who is doing it alllll! And the truth is...
2) I take breaks all the time. I make selfish choices all the time. I get lazy. I have an expensive Starbucks habit (that money could go towards the kids shoes!) I send the kids downstairs to watch TV, not because I need to work but because I want to watch a show upstairs on my laptop (how have I never seen "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23" before?) I tell them I'm "working" when I'm actually checking Facebook on my phone. And yes I should be cleaning the house instead of reading my book, but most of all...
3) I shouldn't exaggerate how busy I am. When I don't feel like changing out of workout clothes I should tell my friend I can't meet her for lunch because I'm feeling lazy, not because "I have soooo much work to do!" When the house is a mess I should tell my husband I didn't feel like cleaning today, not that "I was going non-stop all day long!" It's a silly and self-sabotaging habit because...
4) I do work hard. I really do. And I'm very, very good at my job. I'm disciplined about getting my auditions in every morning (because I genuinely love what I do) and I deliver for my clients with lightning-quick turnaround, great acting, and consistent high quality. I live for the high of booking the job, whether it's a national TV campaign or a voicemail for a local business. I love everything about it. I'm also a great mom, by just about every standard but my own. Because as I mentioned before...
5) My kids don't get 100% of me. And honestly I don't think they would even if I were doing the full-time SAHM thing... the job just gives me an excuse. Because I need something for myself, not just the cliched self-care routine of manis/pedis and lots of wine but some substantial part of myself that is held in reserve just for me. That's the way I'm wired and I've read enough memoirs and biographies of women artists to know that I'm hardly alone in this. Having said that...
6) This is just about me. We're all wired differently. We all find our pleasures and our satisfactions where we can, we all negotiate the needs of ourselves vs. our communities in ways that work for us, and we all should be focused on finding a way to arrange our lives in a way that suits us best. I do not believe that we were put on this earth to suffer, or to belittle others for not doing enough. In my work, in my parenting, in my volunteering, I have always had the most success when I prioritized the things that made me happy. I encourage you to do the same, to stop talking (bragging) about how busy you are and start talking about the balance of work, sacrifice and selfishness that brings you joy.
Further Reading from Very Smart People:
"Having It All - and Hating It" (The Atlantic 12/19/16)
"The Complicated Origins of 'Having It All'" (The New York Times 1/2/15)
"Having It All Kinda Sucks" (HuffPost 2/15/16)
and a great article showing some recent findings about the general culture of overwork
"What's Really Holding Women Back?" (Harvard Business Review March 2020)