I was scanning the parenting section of Huffington Post looking for funny photos to distract me while my husband was out late. Instead saw a recap of a People Magazine interview with Drew Barrymore. I’m always happy to hear from Drew Barrymore (though sometimes I prefer the version of Drew that the brilliant minds at Go Fug Yourself created more than real life Drew) so I clicked on over to hear what she has to say about motherhood. It appears that Ms. Barrymore has discovered a hard truth:
“It sucks when you’ve worked really hard for certain things and you have to give them up because you know that you’re going to miss out on your child’s upbringing, or you realize that your relationship has suffered,” she told People magazine at a conference on Thursday. For her, that has meant giving up directing projects in favor of spending more time with her baby.
“I was raised in that generation of ‘women can have it all,’ and I don’t think you can. I think some things fall off the table. The good news is, what does stay on the table becomes much more in focus and much more important,” she said. Adding, “I feel guilty all the time — but you combat it by being a superhero. When you go out there in the world you have to remember, I’m doing the best I can, I’m doing it for them, and I’m going to be there for them too. I’m just going to figure out the balance.’”
You read it here. Drew Barrymore says you can’t have it all. And I say “Duh”.
You can’t have it all. You just can’t. Moms can’t. Dads can’t. Childless people can’t. Rich people can’t. Poor people can’t. No one – NO ONE – can have it all.
Remember when you were 22, fresh out of college and starting your first job? Remember the first time you tried to go out on a weeknight, had a few too many drinks, stayed up until 2am watching Pulp Fiction with your roommates and went to work feeling like death warmed over the next day? That’s probably the moment you actually realized that you can’t have it all. You understood, in that moment, that you had to either give up profligate partying or your hopes for a serious career because those two activities are incompatible.
Everyone had that friend who took the route of partying and made it to 30 without tucking away a single dime in a 401(k). And we have that other friend who disappeared onto a direct track to the C-suite and never took more than 5 vacation days per year. The rest of us balanced our desire for job success with our desire to have a life outside work and cobbled together a working model for ourselves. But we didn’t have it all. We had what we decided was the most important things and let other things pass into our histories.
Being a parent entails the same sort of prioritizing and shifting choices around. You have 24 hours in a day and your family has certain needs. You do what you need to do to get everything accomplished, hopefully in a way that results in some joy in your life. You focus on what’s most important at any moment, be that breastfeeding, finding the perfect charter school, pushing for a promotion at the office, or downsizing to allow for one income to support you. You give more to your kids at one time, you give more to work at other times. You stop, examine, reassess. You give up travel to seed a college fund. You walk away from urban life to find better schools. You choose baby snuggles and story-time over networking happy hours. You make it work.
What you can’t do is dwell on what you’ve left behind. Doing that will just make you miserable.
I don’t know who keeps perpetuating the idea of having it all but I just find it destructive. I do my best to have the things that make me happiest and I let other things go without agonizing. I can’t have it all. And that’s ok.
Photo credit: photo stock
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