Checking out of the grocery store way back in 2012, I vividly remember a magazine cover. The image immediately drew my attention. A little child sat in a mom’s work briefcase looking up longingly with big, brown eyes. The bold black title that hung over head took my breathe away, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” My response was shock. Yes, the work-life balance routine is hard. But, I thought I had it all. In 2012, I felt alive in my feminism, my career, my marriage, my community, and balked at that article. I didn’t even read it, because it did not resonate with me and my life.
But I never forgot that magazine cover. It weirdly haunted me.
Two years later, I became a mom. It continues to be the most amazing, rewarding, and enriching life experience that I have the privilege to share in with David. Our hearts grew when we added a second little boy 20 months later. But, then that article made total and utter sense! It haunted me all those years because I knew the message rang true. Raising a little human(s) is demanding. Not only because they have needs that their caregiver must provide, but also because ,as a parent, I had needs too. I wanted to be with these little creations. Sitting on the floor and cuddling them and playing with them was so important to David and me. They change so quickly that it is hard to leave them because my world shifted inward towards them. As they become more independent and interesting the desire to experience the world alongside of them continues to deepen. These three relationships are primary in my life because of biological and emotional connection. At the same the time, the house needs up-keep. Food needs to be bought, made, stored, cleaned-up as does the laundry, and so many other household “chores.” When do you do these? In front of them cutting down on your time together to enjoy each other? When they go to sleep cutting down your time to rest and restart? It is a balancing act to do all the necessary tasks while also giving your love and attention to them. The layering of these two demands is heavy. Then add full-time work. This layer removes you from your primary loves for 8+ hours every Monday through Friday. Now your time together as a family is cut significantly during the week and the house piece of life gets squeezed into these odd pockets of time. Late nights folding laundry at 11PM means waking up groggy trying to be engaged in morning play at 5AM but also who is going to make breakfast? The weekends follow a similar balancing routine. With teaching, I bring home work nightly. This adds to the time crunch. Family, house, work compete incessantly in my mind for the limited hours of the day. Then friends and fun become even harder to shift forward in the long-wait line.
A friend shared this comic with me a little while back and it reminded me of that article in the Atlantic. It visualizes so beautifully and precisely the inner turmoil of trying to have it all, do it all, and be all things to all the relationships you want to engage in and feel obligated, at times, to maintain despite knowing that unless you stop time you will fail at some or all of this often. Motherhood is the most humbling experience of my life because it forces me everyday to be give of myself as completely as I can to my family, work, and other relationships, to be efficient, to fail, and to try again at the same balancing game every day.
So why am I writing about this now? None of this new or likely different from the stories of other working moms. Obviously, women and moms, in particular, face this dilemma. But, for me, the transition from life as a “stay at home mom” in the summers always brings back into focus the intense shift of the school year. From having the time to focus on family, friends, travel, and interests and enough time to get the basic maintenance of the house in order, to being back to the grind of the school year and the game of work-life balance is such a hard transition for me. The craziness of it all because normal and lived and by June my “trying to make it all work” muscles are pretty good at it. But then the 12 weeks off, reminds me of that article in the Atlantic and I just wish there was another way….