As with all cultural conversations that touch on the issue of mothers, the “having it all” thread isn’t going away anytime soon. As I’ve said before, this stuff sells — anything that even comes close to being a smack-down among women is the low hanging fruit of news coverage. It’s easy, it’s quick and it gets people talking.
The bigger conversation, as several of us here at Babble Voices are having, is what does “all” mean? As I’ve been pondering that, it makes me wonder how my own personal struggle with this is impacting my 12-year-old daughter, who has internalized the idea of being able to be or do whatever she wants when she grows up, but at the same time sees me, her mom, struggling to stay on top of work and home and family. She sees me exhausted at the end of the day, with more headaches than I’d like to mention. She wonders why I sigh so much. Sometimes she says my husband takes her aside and tells her that mommy just has too much on her plate.
Actually, I think I need a Tylenol right now.
Anyway, even before Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote the article we’re all loving/hating to talk about, it had become crystal clear to me that something had to give in my own life. While I know some people have not been happy about what I’ve given up in order to take a shot at living my life the way I want to teach my daughter how to live hers, my gut says I’m heading in the right direction.
So what five things am I concentrating on so I don’t continue on this road of too much multitasking?
1. Focus. You know, like in The Karate Kid. Focus-POWER! There are big projects I’m pursuing and it’s hard to stay focused sometimes because the big things can feel so overwhelming. If I accomplish a few smaller things in a day, I feel good until I remember that those pie-in-the-sky goals got short shrift. So the first thing I’m going to do in my effort to have it “all” is to focus on the “all” that is important to me. That book proposal. Real family time (without electronics and PDAs). Taking time for the hobbies that make me happy. Focus.
2. Delegate. I’ve never been good at this one, especially when it comes to things around the house. But my 12-year-old ought to be able to fold her own laundry and is certainly old enough to understand that sometimes my work schedule just doesn’t mesh with her school/social calendar. She wasn’t happy when I told her she had to hang out at the summer camp after-care program sometimes so I can catch up on the focus thing, but it will make me a happier mom when I pick her up a little later in the afternoon, knowing that I can give her my full attention, rather than beating myself up over not spending more fleeting summer moments with her as I play catch-up.
3. Breathe. (Otherwise known as ‘I’m Trying Not to Care What You Think.’) Well, that’s a hard one. Anyone who knows me knows that. Why else did my husband buy me a copy of “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me” for Mother’s Day? He knew it would resonate. It’s my weak spot — wanting to be liked by everyone, worrying about whether I’m being left out of something because I did or said the wrong thing. Using part of Rule #1, I’m working on what I think about me, rather than what everyone else does. I’m going to ignore the people who think I’m nothing, who say I’m “just” this or “just” that. I’m paying no attention to that voice in my head that tries to convince me I’ve gone as far as I’m ever going to go. I’m going to feel good about what I think, even if my thoughts are different from everyone else’s. I need to breathe and convince myself that what I decide “all” is will be enough for me.
4. Friends. What good is having a ton of different things going on if I don’t have time to share them with friends? I’ve been so attached to my computer in trying to have more than “all,” that I’ve neglected my friends. I miss them. Some live closer than others, but I’m hoping I can at least manage a lunch or a cup of coffee every now and then. Yes, it is more of a challenge when people are away and summer camp schedules need to be managed. But I realized at a recent conference I need to connect with people to keep from drowning my own sea of “who’s hanging out without me” (see Rule #3). I need my friends in my version of “all.”
5. The Summer of Me. You heard me. ME! I’m going to get back on the exercise track, both physically and mentally. I’m taking the leap of chasing the big dreams I’ve had but have always worried I wasn’t good enough for or thought I’d get rejected for right away. Maybe that will still happen, but I’m going to focus (back to Rule #1) on that because at the end of the day, if I’ve made a lot of other people happy, but I wasn’t, what was all the effort for?
So can I really say I “have it all” if I focus, delegate, breathe, talk to friends and get to know myself again? I hope so, because that’s the kind of advice I want to be giving my daughter. And if I don’t live it, how can I teach it?
What tips do you have for “having it all” in your world?
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.
Find the latest at Babble Voices Facebook page, too!
Image via Joanne Bamberger/All rights reserved