Last week was one of the craziest weeks of my life. In seven days, I worked well over forty hours, turned in a giant medical writing project, grocery shopped twice, did twelve loads of laundry, exercised every night, hosted a party at my house, oh, and filmed an interview for national TV.
On paper, it looks like I had a week straight out of Lean In. In fact, I was leaning so hard I fell over — straight onto my bed, in fact, when I had my first-ever legitimate panic attack that left me sobbing in front of my babysitter.
The hectic schedule that I tried to keep up with last week taught me a very important lesson: “having it all” on paper is not the same as “having it all” in real life. And although I lead what I think is pretty much a dream life, having it all doesn’t just happen magically. And I’m willing to bet that other mothers who “have it all” rely on a few secrets to get there along the way, such as…
1. An elaborate support system.
I work from home, which is pretty much any mother’s dream come true, and I still have an elaborate network of support to help me with the kids. I have an in-home babysitter for anywhere from 4-8 hours a week, a “school mom” buddy that I know I can always call in an emergency to pick my kid up from school, and an aunt that runs an in-home daycare that allows me to be incredibly flexible if I ever need a full day of work to get a project done. Some days, I change my childcare plans in an instant and a flurry of texts and calls later, it appears I have worked a small miracle to get it all arranged. For me, some days, it really does take a village.
2. A supportive partner.
Not all parents have a supportive partner, but let’s be honest: it sure as heck helps to have a partner who is there for you to support you in reaching your dreams and taking the journey as a parent. My husband listens to me talk about page views and SEO and helps me with article topics, even though I know it’s really the last thing he cares about, because I know he cares about me. That emotional support makes all the difference.
3. Making compromises.
I wish every day included a nice mix of me having one-on-one time with each of my kiddos, a fun yet educational craft, healthy, homemade meals, productive and fulfilling work, alone time with my husband, and exercise … but the truth is, those kind of days happen maybe once a month if I’m lucky. Some days I choose between doing my hair or doing the dishes and some days I choose between exercise and cooking dinner. And some days I pretend I don’t know what’s in a chicken nugget.
4. A concrete belief in themselves.
Maybe I’m wrong on this one, but when I think about the women I know and admire who seem to have it all, they also seem to have a very clear vision of who they are and what they want out of life. They don’t waste time trying to prove their worth to anyone or make excuses for what makes them happy. Instead of spending their energy explaining why they do what they do, they just do it. They already realize that they don’t need permission from anyone else to make their own rules for living the life that they want to live.
5. A winning battle over “mom guilt.”
On a related note, moms who have it all don’t have time to feel guilty. Sure, they may be prone to feeling bouts of that infamous mom guilt like every other mother on the planet, but instead of dwelling on it or letting it ruin their self-confidence, moms who have it all make the choice to not let guilt dictate their decisions. No guilt for doing what you love allowed, mama!
6. Saying “no” a lot.
Whether it means saying no to baking up 4-dozen cupcakes for my daughter’s preschool class or passing on an invite to a party in lieu of sleep, I admit that I utter the two-lettered world quite a bit. I run a tight ship of trying to keep up on what’s important to my family and me. Some days, this also includes saying “no” to laundry and “yes” to a nap. You do what you gotta do.
7. Asking for what they want.
Forget the lovely advice of the Microsoft CEO who says women should rely on “karma” to get the raises they deserve (true story) — women who get what they want often start by simply asking for it. It starts with figuring out exactly what you want, being honest with yourself about how to get there, and going for it. I’ve used this strategy on everything from squeezing in extra exercise time during the day to setting personal financial goals for myself. And I’ll tell you one thing — this week I’m asking for chocolate every day and the baby to sleep through the night. That would really be having it all in my book ….
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