This post has been burbling away at the back of my mind for a while – it started when I was asked to be part of a discussion with Lucy Campbell at BritmumsLive around whether you can have it all and the posts that have come out of that session have poked and prodded at my thoughts over the last couple of weeks
I think the idea of ‘having it all’ is a curse of our generation and the media is mostly to blame. When we left home and moved into shared digs we were supposed to live a life that mirrored ‘Friends’ – to get ourselves a loyal bunch of housemates who had great jobs (but didn’t spend too much time doing them), spent time together having fun and laughs, lived in a great flat and yet never really seemed to have to deal with any particularly big bumps in the road
We were doomed to never get this – a dingy flat in Shepherds Bush couldn’t compete with their airy apartment, working like a demon to stay on my graduate training programme didn’t leave much time for sitting in coffee shops shooting the breeze and whilst my friends are wonderful, real life has ups and downs that mean that collectively you are never going to be as funny or have as much time as those guys seemed to
Being a parent is much the same – Hollywood and the media perpetuate the myth that we can all continue to have the body of a 25 year old even after the ravages of pregnancy, that children are delightful, adorable, compliant beings that never, ever push the boundaries too far and that good parents manage to be glamorous, caring, fun, people
None of this is even close the reality – parenting is incredibly hard work, sleep deprivation turns the best of us into irrational zombies and a capsule wardrobe usually means a pair of jeans and 2 maternity vests or a comfy pair of pyjamas
The ideal we are all supposed to be aiming for is nothing more than a myth – ‘having it all’ is something we can’t live up to because it doesn’t exist in the real world
If you want a career, children, a marriage and a lovely home then yes that probably looks like having it all from the outside but the view from the inside is different – too much time spent letting other people look after your family, never having time to do the things you want to (like exercise or visiting the doctor), friendships that wither from a lack of attention and a perpetual feeling of not quite managing to do anything properly
We can have it ‘all’ if we work out what that ‘all’ is to us and which compromises we need to make to get a set of bits of it all that works out for us. The reality is that as adults we need to make adult choices faced with a set of incompatible pieces that make up our lives – we can’t be a stay at home mother with a high flying career who cooks every meal from scratch, keeps a house Martha Stewart would be proud of whilst raising beautiful, obedient children who sleep through every night
What we need to start doing is to stop even thinking that is something we should be aiming for – we can’t get that so why should we beat ourselves up when we don’t attain it?
We need to be more honest about what we do have – every person has a different view of what ‘having it all’ is for them and different choices won’t work for other families. We need to accept that we can’t all be perfect and try and find a way to measure ourselves off the tangible reality of raising a happy, confident family; having a strong, loving relationship with our partners; and measuring ourselves against real women and not the fantasy that the media think we want
What do you think? Is it possible to live that Hollywood life or should we find our own role models that define the reality of being a modern mother in a way that works for real women today?