How The Expectation Of Trying To “Have It All” Is Hurting Us All

How The Expectation Of Trying To “Have It All” Is Hurting Us All

In Motherhood, Parenting by Jen47 Comments

How The Expectation Of  Trying To “Have It All” Is Hurting Us All

I am almost 40 years old, and with my age comes at least a little wisdom; wisdom I wish I had possessed many years before this point in order to save myself much needless heartache.

When I turned 25 I was a wife, a mother, a professional with a job, and a volunteer leader for my church with some fairly large responsibilities. Unfortunately, back then, I was also a card carrying perfectionist. I remember feeling stretched in so many different directions with moments of almost bone crushing despair when I felt like I was not fulfilling something in the way I thought it needed to be done. Which was perfectly.

I remember one night rocking my then 6 month old daughter to sleep and worrying that my inadequacies as a mother would mess her up. Because back then it seemed a certainty. You see I was raised in the burgeoning society of girl power during the 80’s and 90’s, where girls and women could be and do anything. We could be professionals, scholars and mothers, who still came home and enjoyed wonderfully rich family lives. I unrealistically expected to be able to do ALL of that.

This is where I wish the current version of me with almost 2 decades worth of experience could sit down that younger version of myself and talk some sense into her. It’s too late for that, but maybe it’s not too late for you reading this.

I am going to say something that might be an unpopular sentiment, but it’s true. The whole “You can have it all” philosophy is crap. You can’t. And if you are selling this, telling others, especially other women that this should be the norm or putting up the facade that you are living testament to “having it all” You really aren’t helping.

That is one of the gripes I have with modern day feminism. You do not have to DO or BE it all in order to be a feminist or even in order to be an example of what modern-day womanhood should look like. As women we beat ourselves up enough when we feel like we are failing in one aspect of our lives and we absolutely DO NOT need society helping us to hold the mallet over our head.

I believe there are so many women who suffer because of perceived failures that really stem from unrealistic expectations that are squarely rooted in ridiculous societal demands.

Women should be empowered to use their skills and seek out opportunities that match those skills. This may mean we are at home with children or that we are “working” mothers. I despise that phrase by the way. I think it was created by someone who wanted to make women feel inferior. How about instead we begin calling our self a woman who is also a wife, a mother, professional, single, etc. Don’t take the other moniker. You deserve more respect than that. That is what I wished modern day feminism more closely resembled.

So let me repeat this just in case you missed it the first time, you do not have to be perfect or “have it all” in order to be a good woman.

You already are one.

It took me decades to realize that my humanity and imperfections do make for a good woman. Some days I am an awesome mother, some days I am not. Some days I am a fabulous PR professional. Other days I am just a mediocre one. Some days the blogging jobs are just rolling in. Some days they are not. Although we of course have to provide for ourselves and our families, we need to allow ourselves the grace to not expect to be perfect in all things at all times.

As women we also need to learn to say no and mean it.

Just because you may have 4 children does not mean you need to be the PTO President. You don’t need to add unnecessary tasks onto your professional life just because you think it will make others “respect your professionalism.” Tell me you haven’t done something like that at least once in your life and realized late into the night as you sat typing some frivolous document just how dumb saying “yes” actually was. . .

Obviously I have, and in case you were wondering I actually stopped typing. Small victories make for big epiphanies sometimes.

We need to begin to respect the woman who says, “Thank you for asking, but no that it is not something I feel able to do right now”. Instead of looking down on her, perhaps it would be better to take the viewpoint that saying “no” was the right call for her, her family, and whatever project she wasn’t going to really be able to put her “all” into. I know personally I much prefer the woman who is honest in what she can do.

So if you are woman who is sitting here reading this right now who is feeling like a failure I want to make sure that you understand you are not. There is nothing wrong with being perfectly imperfect and true failure only happens when you stop trying. If you are still trying, you are winning and the work you are doing is of worth. It is far easier to pretend to be perfect, but it takes real courage to accept our imperfections and to still see ourselves as someone worthy of love and respect.

My hope is that right now you can see all the good that is in you. Because it is there and always has been.

How The Expectation Of  Trying To “Have It All” Is Hurting Us All.

Stay Happy! Stay Informed!

Love,

Jen

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Comments

  1. You said a mouthful here and as a woman who does push herself quite often and also forgets that there are times, I truly need to stop and say, “No”, in many cases, I just can’t thank you enough for putting all this into words here today. Seriously, more often than not, I need a good reminder like this to indeed just say, “No” and only do what I am capable of, because that extra thing on my plate is the thing that could indeed break me. So again thank for the reminder here.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Learning Still Never Say NeverMy Profile

  2. So if you are woman who is sitting here reading this right now who is feeling like a failure I want to make sure that you understand you are not. There is nothing wrong with being perfectly imperfect and true failure only happens when you stop trying. If you are still trying, you are winning and the work you are doing is of worth. It is far easier to pretend to be perfect, but it takes real courage to accept our imperfections and to still see ourselves as someone worthy of love and respect.

    This paragraph rings so true with me. THank you for writing this – you my friend are perfectly imperfect.
    Kristen recently posted…My Advice – How to Get What You Really WantMy Profile

    1. I hear you! Isn’t it kind of funny what we sacrifice our sanity for? The last 2 years I ran my daughters Daisy troop and this year I just couldn’t do it anymore. I have zero time.I felt bad, but my sanity should probably be more important than my guilt for not doing something no other parent volunteered to do themselves.Unrealistic expectations. I could write a book.
      Jen recently posted…How The Expectation Of Trying To “Have It All” Is Hurting Us AllMy Profile

  3. About four years ago I came to the conclusion that there’s no such thing as balance. When people say they want to live a balanced life, etc… I think “no – not possible”. Here’s why, life is NEVER balanced. There will always be something. Whether it’s a crisis at work, a sick child, a strained relationship, a death in the family, financial burdens… whatever. There’s always something pulling at us and vying for our attention.

    With that, there’s no such thing as perfect. Perfection is reserved for our heavenly father, His son, and the Holy Spirit. So, even though sometimes I try, I often find myself correcting my train of thought and accepting that what I am is good enough.

    Thanks for sharing. I loved this and pinned it to my Deliberate INSPIRATION board.
    xoxo
    Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom recently posted…The Parenting Resolution: Make 2016 the Best Year!My Profile

    1. Love this! I completely agree. “With that, there’s no such thing as perfect. Perfection is reserved for our heavenly father, His son, and the Holy Spirit. So, even though sometimes I try, I often find myself correcting my train of thought and accepting that what I am is good enough”

      You are right. Balance is bunk. It’s more like a constant balancing act and then life throws things our way that we just aren’t prepared for.

      I was so sorry to hear about your Grandmother. From what you have shared before I can see what a remarkable woman she was. No wonder you miss her so.
      Jen recently posted…How The Expectation Of Trying To “Have It All” Is Hurting Us AllMy Profile

  4. I love this! I’m not a mom and it always surprises me how that’s assumed to be the only thing women are really good for doing. “Do you have kids?” No. “Okay, well, I don’t really have much to say to you because you’re a woman and that’s what I normally talk to women about.” I live in the South, though…maybe it’s just that. It just surprises me that nobody really ever cares to get to know what makes a woman tick beyond how many children she has and whether or not she’s married.
    Stephanie Faris recently posted…Crowdsourcing Crime FightingMy Profile

  5. This hits home because it is the ONE area I stumble the most.. I am always wanting more more more.. both literally and figuratively. I celebrate blessings for such a short time before wanting bigger and better, and I overlook self improvement to focus on ways I could be better, more, etc. etc… great post my friend, something I needed to read this week! – http://www.domesticgeekgirl.com
    Gingi recently posted…Dutch Boy Refresh Paint with Arm and Hammer Product ReviewMy Profile

  6. Fantastic post! I do think I’ve gotten a lot better at saying “no” to things, but you’re right, it can be difficult. I like that you’re upfront about saying “you can have it all” isn’t true. It’s not true for ANYONE no matter what gender. You have to figure out what works for you and your life and your family and do what you can.

    -Lauren
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Sunday Post (9): My Surgery Went WellMy Profile

  7. I love gaining wisdom as I age…and learning from others experiences! Thank you for your piece of wisdom :) I love the line you closed your last paragraph with ” It is far easier to pretend to be perfect, but it takes real courage to accept our imperfections and to still see ourselves as someone worthy of love and respect”. SO TRUE!

  8. Being able to say no is a good thing. I would only add one thing to this. Your husband (any husband) needs to help with the kids too. I know a couple of families that have kids and they both work. They have excellent child care while they are working (family child care givers) and when mom and dad come home at night she’s starting a new set of things to do. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, homework, baths…you get the idea. Both these men do nothing. I bite my tongue. Both of these women are worn out. I could go on and on about this, but you get the idea.

    We’re home from our fabulous mini vacation to the coast. Hope to get some pictures up on Thursday.

    Have a fabulous day. :)
    Comedy Plus recently posted…Awww MondaysMy Profile

  9. So much wisdom here, my friend. The thought that we can have it all really is crap. I completely agree. It took me a long time to learn how to say no guilt free. I still struggle with it at times, but regaining my sanity has been worth it. If we say yes to everything, nothing gets our best work. Wonderful, encouraging words, Jen!
    Candace recently posted…Putting Family FirstMy Profile

  10. Such a great post Jen… again. I really want to instill this in my girls, teach them young right?! Reading posts like this are such a great reminder. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  11. Well said! often fall into the trap of wanting to ‘be it all’, but that just isn’t realistic. Besides, we’re not all suited to full-time parenting for PTA or whatever else we may think we should be doing. Thanks also for sharing this at the beginning of the year, when e often have the greatest hopes and expectations of doing and having the perfect work-life balance.
    Leslie recently posted…A Post-Pregnancy {Lack of} Weight Loss RantMy Profile

  12. Jen, you are speaking straight to my heart. I always have the image of spinning plates in my head. There are so many things that I am trying to get accomplished each day and I often don’t get everything done. Usually it’s the housework and I’ve just decided to be okay with that. This morning, my mid kid and I had to dig through a basket of clean laundry to find his matching socks and we might not make it to the weekend before the clean pants run out. I try to keep that just just enough under control to get by, but I’ll likely never be caught up there.
    Rabia @TheLiebers recently posted…Snowflake Wreath DIYMy Profile

    1. Oh my gosh I have done that same thing so many times. The laundry! Oy vey a load or more a day is what it takes around here and so something is always wet when someone needs it or still in the dryer or in a pile waiting to get folded. When it got out of control this last year I put the 14 year old in charge of laundry and I have to say she is pretty good at it. Helps her learn and helps me. That’s winning!
      Jen recently posted…How The Expectation Of Trying To “Have It All” Is Hurting Us AllMy Profile

  13. Oh Jen, how I wish you lived next door! Honestly, I think we would get on just great.

    You have had what I would describe as a mini rant (and quite rightly so). Mums have enough on their plates without the fear of being judged. So what if our homes aren’t pristine, or the ironing basket is over flowing or the dinner isn’t gourmet or we have to say ‘no’ to something? None of that makes us bad people, it just makes us human and the sooner we aren’t ashamed to admit that the better.

    xx
    Debbie recently posted…Thanking All Blog Hop HostsMy Profile

    1. Yeah me too, but on YOUR island! Well at least during the summer months when it is about a gazllion degrees without the lovely ocean you all have :)

      Hear! Hear! I am not looking for perfection in others, so why do I demand it of myself? Isn’t the human brain a bizarre things sometimes?

      Thanks for popping in and thanks for being one of my best blogging buds!
      Jen recently posted…How The Expectation Of Trying To “Have It All” Is Hurting Us AllMy Profile

  14. I think perfectionism is going to be a battle for me until the day I die, but I appreciate the reminder. I think with age I’m also beginning to realize that having it all isn’t really possible, not all the time anyway, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be!

    1. It really isn’t possible to have it all. I tried. Had the perfectionist card and I gave up holding it a few years ago. I still need subtle reminders when I start to try and pick it up again.
      Jen recently posted…Under ConstructionMy Profile

  15. I was really struck by your part about being an amazing PR professional on some days, and a mediocre one on others. And some days the blogging jobs roll in. Sometimes not.
    I feel that way about both SO MUCH, except photographer instead of PR.
    And as a wife and mother. And as a cat and dog mother.
    I thought I could do everything, but sometimes, I realistically can barely get out of bed!
    Tamara recently posted…Express Your Inner Pop..& Sweepstakes!My Profile

    1. Author

      You and me both. The children though just do not respect when mommy keeps pulling the covers over her head and ignoring their repeated question of, “Mommy are you awake?”
      Jen recently posted…Under ConstructionMy Profile

  16. Jen,

    There are so many things I love about this post. I am a recovering perfectionist, a work in progress.

    This is my favorite part: “It is far easier to pretend to be perfect, but it takes real courage to accept our imperfections and to still see ourselves as someone worthy of love and respect.” So true!
    Elizabeth recently posted…I asked for what I wanted, and it came trueMy Profile

  17. Very well said, Jen and something that echoes what is also in my mind about modern day feminism. You’re right–there’s no such thing as having it all. Life within itself isn’t perfect, so why strive for something that doesn’t exist? I think women today should focus less in doing it all and more on doing what’s best–whether that’s for their career, for their family–it’ll be different for everybody. It doesn’t make us less of a “woman” or a feminist, however. It just makes us stronger–to know what is truly important to us and focus our efforts on that, allowing no one or thing to stop us, that’s the true definition of feminism to me.

    Support–that’s what we need–not just as women or as parents. We need it as human beings. You’re right: not one person can have it all, but no one person can achieve success (in motherhood or a career or both) alone. So why not just join forces and just help each other out? Build each other up, not tear each other down, that’s a step in the right direction.

    Thanks so much for such a poignant post and for sharing it with us on #SHINEbloghop this week. This was so inspirational.

    1. Author

      Thank you Maria for sharing your wonderful thoughts here. You are so right, what is “best” will absolutely be different for every woman and her family and understanding, accepting and embracing these differences really does make us stronger. Add that type of mentality in with support and what a giant step in the right direction it would be indeed.
      Jen recently posted…The Key To A Perfect Key Lime PieMy Profile

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