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Having it all means learning to fail

PerfectionI find it strange when people call me a wonder woman or say I have it all – I guess that looking in on our lives from the outside you could be mistaken from thinking I’m managing to juggle family and work and to have it all

Being brutally honest that’s an illusion

I don’t have it all

If I’m at work, throwing in massive hours on a project and coaxing a difficult case to a conclusion then I will have not seen my children awake for days, I will have missed playing with them at the weekend whilst I’ve been on conference calls or reading documents and I will have had to say goodnight over the phone more times than I want

If I’m there watching sports day or at the end of term picnic I will have walked away from something in the office that I probably should have been at, meetings that I should have attended, rushed through work so that I could walk out of the door

If I’m at home sewing name tapes onto school uniform then I’m not at the networking drinks I should have been or I’m not getting the sleep I need

If I’m out at a fancy work dinner then I’ve had to let someone else put the children to bed and will be working out how to fit in pumping and carrying a cold bag with milk in around with me

If I’m managing to just about stay on top of work and spending time with the children then I won’t have had time to see my friends for months

I have realised that I cannot have it all – if I am succeeding at one part of my life by definition there is another part of my life that I am failing at or just about scraping by at

There is no way to have it all, it is an illusion and one that we just cannot hope to live up to

Abandon the mirage of having it all and instead start to think about where you can scrape by on being good enough, where you need to be great this week and where a bit of failure won’t be a disaster and you will start to feel better

The juggling, the time pressure, the having to do half a dozen things at once doesn’t go away but the pressure to never drop any of those balls reduces because you realise that dropping some of those balls is just the way it is

At the same time can we be more accepting that this is what we parents are going through – we are drawn in so many directions that we will fail at things.

Can we be better friends and realise that people not being in touch doesn’t mean they don’t love us, just that they do not have the time – take a minute to say that we’re thinking of them rather than worrying about the multitude of times that they’ve had to come lower down the priority than everything else?

Can we say to each other that we understand the constant, changing priority list and that sometimes we cannot get it right but that we know that we’re all trying to do our best

Can we be kinder to ourselves and give ourselves permission to fail, knowing that tomorrow we’ll brush ourselves off and try again – we might not get it right then but we’ll give it another go and that having it all really means having some of it some of the time and accepting that not having some bits of the picture isn’t a failing but the only way to manage


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7 comments to Having it all means learning to fail

  • Super post. I realised after becoming a mother that it was the biggest myth in the world. Women can not have it all ever

  • Tim

    I completely empathise. As a working dad whose wife constantly tries to juggles three kids with squeezing a 4-5 day week into three days, I feel the pressure too – albeit in a different way.

    I’m very conscious that I’m the main breadwinner in the house in a company which is constantly cutting back non customer-facing roles like mine. I feel a pang of guilt every time I leave the office at 4:30 on the day a week when I’m doing pick-ups. Heck, I even feel guilty when I make a point of leaving the office at 5:45 to ensure I don’t miss bedtime too many nights in a row.

    And there are definitely times when I feel judged by my peers or superiors, who either have non-working spouses or are driven solely by their career in a way that I never will be. I do my job better than most of my peers and I do make sacrifices – I’ll be away from home at least 30 nights this year and out in the evening on as many days – but I choose to draw the line somewhere and accept that I’m choosing to leave behind the final 5% of effort that might see me get a more senior role more quickly.

    I choose family (or at least my view of work-life balance), and if that makes me imperfect in either my own eyes or other people’s I’ve learned to be okay with that. (And to have lower standards …)

  • cartside

    “Can we be kinder to ourselves and give ourselves permission to fail, knowing that tomorrow we’ll brush ourselves off and try again” – this really struck a chord with me today. Unfortunately, sometimes we are not given permission to fail and the world isn’t kind, and the ground is taken from underneath us. How I wish it was different and we’d be more supportive, more understanding to one another.

  • It’s both so very true and so very sad in someways – and it isn’t just the Mums missing out either. It just seems so wrong somehow that you cannot balance family life and having a career without something having to drop. I agree we need to be gentler on ourselves and with our expectations, but I also wonder how and whether we’ll ever be able to change the status quo.

  • So true – and I’m not even back at work at the moment yet still struggling to juggle it all….yet still feeling the pressure not to show the cracks… Thanks for putting it into words so succinctly!

  • I bloody LOVE this post. It echoes so much how I feel about removing the veil of perfectionism that we often peer through. One of the things I loved most about britmumslive this year was the Good Enough Mums Club and the whole pledge bit which, although it was a bit silly and lots of fun, really spoke to me about accepting myself and others as ‘just good enough’. Your three ‘can we’ questions are now printed off and stuck in the front of my journal to read every day as a reminder to be kinder to myself x

  • Ahhh I struggle so so much with trying to be good at everything. Recently I feel like I’m failing all over the place because I feel like I’m just keeping my head above water or because I can’t put in a million hours at work when needed. I really need to just accept I can’t do everything but that’s the hardest thing ever.

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