Let’s just start by saying: no one has this 100% figured out. No one has struck the perfect balance so that they feel fulfilled in a career sense while completely engaged and present as a wife and mother. If you do, please write an article (cause nobody got time to read a whole book about that).
I agree with Anne-Marie Slaughter (author of this Atlantic article published 5 years ago) that women can’t have “it all.” If “it all” means that your career and your family get equal, loving, gentle attention and everyone feels attended to and fulfilled, then nope, that’s a pipe dream. But I do believe you can have yours. Your “it all” in whatever form that looks like.
For me, I’m a stay at home mom and wife, hobby blogger, very part time barre instructor, and occasional counseling professor. That’s my “it all.” Yes, there are times at dinner parties that I wish my answer to “So what do you do?” was more impressive sounding. “Oh, I have a PhD in Physics and work on high level security issues.” (I don’t know why security needs a physics PhD in this scenario…) But that’s not me! I know myself enough to know that (besides never even taking a college level physics course) I would hate that life. I might feel important at dinner parties or when I cryptically instagram my high level security badge with my power stilettos in the background, but that’s not who I was created to be. My pride would love to be fed by the impressed eyebrow raises at my successful career rather than the dismissive smile because they have no idea what to discuss with a stay at home mom. But this is my “it all” (the grammar police in my head hate how I’m using that phrase, btw).
I talk with other stay at home moms about this, and we all struggle with balancing having an identity (and a break) away from our kids. We’d love to feel like we’re contributing to the family and using our degrees and education. But as I recently journeyed through, sometimes the season of your life or your kid’s life means that you have to pull back on the pride and find contentment rebuilding the stacking cups on the floor for the millionth time.
But alas, contentment keeps being threatened by that old trap, comparison. It is so easy to romanticize the business people out eating a casual lunch, bib-free, or even to think that another mom with her successful boutique and part-time nanny has this way better figured out that me. But that’s not my “it all.” The great philosopher, Amy Poehler, wrote in her book Yes, Please, “Good for her, not for me.” I love the sentiment of that phrase, because it means I can be excited for you and your balance, while fully acknowledging that that balance is not for me.
This renewed wave of women empowerment happening at the moment is awesome, but only if we choose to support everyone and whatever choice gives them their “all.” It’s when we try to put others into our box or find affirmation for our own choices by only seeking out people who have made the same choices that we lose out on the sisterhood-support. So whatever your “it all” is: stay at home mom, full time career power-woman, part time barista/dog walker/novelist, I hope you can find contentment in your own balance. Because you were created for a purpose, an ever-changing and evolving purpose that might look and feel crazy sometimes. So for now, my power-stilettos gather dust at the back of my closet, but I’m settling into my nikes and my “it all” right now.