When I was younger, I used to ask myself (much like Carrie Bradshaw): Can we have it all?
Today, from an outside perspective, I probably seem like I have it all.
I am the mother of a gorgeous baby girl, married to my best friend and the best partner I could wish for myself. I am the proud daughter of two amazing people. I’m someone who holds down a job she could only have dreamed of in college, with a mortgage on her dream house, a cat that gives the best snuggles, and a dog who makes us all laugh on the daily.
What I also have is anxiety, borderline panic attacks, a severe case of exhaustion, both mentally and physically, and a not-yet-diagnosed case of sleep deprivation.
In other words – you probably can have it all. But it will cost you.
A case for feeling anything less than fine
As mothers and as partners, I feel we are all guilty of expecting the impossible from ourselves sometimes. We want to feel great all the time, and we treat every feeling of sadness, of anger, of anything other than joy, as failure.
However, all this leads to is further feelings of inadequacy, which will not do anything to help us get back to the joyful state we so crave.
We need to teach ourselves that not being perky and cheerful all the time is normal, and just as it should be. We need to learn to accept the less-than-okay days, and embrace them for what they are – bad days.
I believe that a lot of the stress we, as women, feel in our lives comes from our own warped sense of what we should be doing, and the norms we have yet to shake off, imposed by society.
After all, this life we live is our own – and we shouldn’t keep making ourselves feel bad about anything.
Practicing the art of forgiveness
About six months ago, I promised myself I would stop telling myself off every time I didn’t make it to the washing machine in time to shut it up. It’s set to beep for 3 minutes once the cycle is done, and it’s rather annoying – but it is a way to remind us we need to attend to it, so I don’t change the sound.
But every time I let it beep for three minutes, I would berate myself for not dropping what I was doing (the cat, the dog, the child) and rushing to it.
And why should I? When has three minutes of beeping become powerful enough to ruin my mood completely?
Instead of holding on to the self-imposed (or even imposed by others) views on what needs to be done when and how, we need to learn how to forgive ourselves for not living up to this constructed image of the superwoman. After all, we are all only human.
Practicing practicality as a lifestyle
When we juggle more than one thing at a time (and who doesn’t), the most beneficial thing we can do is find a system that works and stick to it. Whatever that system is for you, look for it, and once you find it, work hard to return to it when things slip out of your control.
For me, that system involves doing what I can do to make life easier for my parents. I can’t always be there for them, but I’ve invested a lot of time in finding the right nurse, talking to the neighbors, and installing a panic system in their home.
It also means using a family calendar we all have access to, where we add in anything and everything, from whose turn it is to take out the trash, to when I need to stay in the office longer. It took us a while to remember to update it every day, but now it’s a lifesaver. Yes, we also divide between us the dog walking and cat’s litter box cleaning.
And probably the most important practice I have in my arsenal is Wednesday Night. This is exclusive me-time, and it cannot be encroached on unless a level 5 emergency occurs. This is my time to read, exfoliate, drink gin and tonics, and basically do whatever I need to do (like watch Season 2 of You).
Having it all comes with a price – no doubt about it. If you are ready to pay it, do make sure you also allow yourself to be yourself: human, fallible, vulnerable, and utterly amazing.