All or Nothing

June 25, 2012 at 8:57 am 4 comments

I’m working hard to create a little more elbow room in my schedule these days. Giving a little bit to myself is crucial to being able to give to everyone else. After dropping off ESS at school, I usually go straight into the office, which means I have a few hours to work quietly before anyone else comes in. It also means I’m working about 10 hours a day. That’s not really working for me, pun intended, at least on a daily basis. So I’ve started taking back my mornings and spending that extra time at a cafe, either writing or reading (hello, last book of The Hunger Games series!) or having conversations with amazingly smart and inspiring people like Meg Tripp and Georgy Cohen.

This morning I was reading and having coffee when, out of nowhere, I suddenly missed my son. Hard. I felt like I’d tried to swallow a beach ball whole and it was lodged in my chest. Tears spilled onto my face and my muscles twitched with the urge to get up and go back home, and hold my baby. Everything hurt. Suddenly the day that lay ahead of me, and the day after it, and the one after that, felt wrong. So wrong. I took some deep breaths and texted my husband and, while the feeling didn’t pass, I was able to hold it together enough to keep moving forward as planned.

Yes I read The Atlantic article, but I’ve largely ignored reading the kerfuffle over it whether in agreement or otherwise. Because for me that article articulated very accurately the struggle I manage every day. The voices that scream from the back of my head. I don’t think I could read anything more about it without taking it personally.

That said, trying to have it all isn’t particularly a mom problem or even a woman problem. Many of us are struggling with it, with striking the balance between want and need, dreams and reality, and how hard it can be to realize the difference between the two, or why they have to be different at all.

And this morning, trying to have it all felt very much instead like I had absolutely nothing.

What does having it all mean to you? How do you ease the tension between wanting more and not being able to have it?


Entry filed under: baby, career, family, health, personal, stress, work.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Meg Fowler Tripp (@megtripp)  |  June 25, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Long comment alert!

    I think I have a very fluid understanding of what “having it all” means, probably by necessity.

    When I see a woman with a high-paying job, the marriage, the kids, the house, the cars, the vacations, the personal style, and the workout routine, I’m still very conscious that what it looks like to me may not be what it’s actually like on the inside, and that people with “everything” can still end up depressed and exhausted and frustrated and unfulfilled.

    On the other hand, I look at people who are struggling to make ends meet and who have a lot of unexpected bumps in the road, and I have to force myself not to assume that they are unhappy or feeling out of control. They could have an incredibly close family, or love what they do enough to do it for less, or they could be the kind of person who works to live, and doesn’t give it much thought (or stress) when they leave at the end of the day.

    My parents worked stupidly long hours and never had much money, and they were on call constantly — like, 24 hours a day — for church people. But they had and still have an incredible marriage, and they’re best friends. They have friends who are multimillionaires, and who have traveled and eaten in all the best restaurants and who have kids and grandkids and a big house in the country… and they don’t even really like or know each other. And they still stress about finances — I think people who make lots of money often feel like they can’t stop pushing.

    My round shape made relationships with men complicated, so I didn’t marry early like all of my friends. My infertility made the kid thing out of reach, and adoption stopped being an option in part because of my health. Now it’s really not an option, since I’m not a citizen of the country where I’m married, and won’t be for eons. I also took a lower paying, longer-hours job (7:30 to 7:30 five days a week, plus freelance) and left my support system behind to join G here.

    I’m pretty far from “having it all”, but I’m in love, I have my instafamily, we have a bigger apt. than we used to, and I’m learning stuff every day at this job. I’m no Pollyanna, but I think I’m predisposed to finding what’s good in any given moment, and deciding that it’s enough, right then.

    Do I wish I made more money? Do I wish we could afford a house? Do I wish I’d had babies? Do I wish I’d found G before I was 34? Do I wish I was in better shape? Sure. I do. But I can’t let my “ideal” take the fun out of what I have now, either.

    • 2. Jennifer Spencer  |  June 25, 2012 at 11:33 am

      I think you make an important point at the start, Meg, about keeping up with the Joneses and how that might influence what we consider to be “having it all” in our own lives. You and I have talked extensively about how phrases like that or like “finding balance” are and should be incredibly personal, but as many people advise on how to find “it” as there are people looking for answers.

      Your point about relationships makes me think, at least in my own case, much of the tension in this issue comes not from the not having but the not having right now. I remember the days of my 20s when I would pine for a love I didn’t have but imagined so clearly that I felt I could reach out and touch it. And now I have it, in a time and with a person that makes much more sense than it would have back when I ached for it.

      I don’t know that we ever get to a point in our lives where we sit back and say, “Ah. Well, all done. Now I just sort of chillax and live.” Our human drive to want bigger better faster more is what got us to where we are as a civilization (for better or worse.) Maybe those of us who truly do have it all are the ones who find all the joy in the things they have.

  • 3. Davina Fankhauser  |  June 25, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Oh, I can relate! For so long I have struggled to do all, be all, and have it all. This created stress, sorrow, and a constant feeling of failure. I may have been able to do it all, but I did nothing to my satisfaction.

    How did I overcome? I changed my expectations and altered my plans. I’m more strict with honoring work time and family time. My emphasis is creating quality moments when I don’t have the quantity I desire. That helps a lot!

    You are exactly right, this is not a woman’s issue. As my husband struggles with going to work when all he wants to do is be home with his family and soak in the love.

    Good luck to us all!

    • 4. Jennifer Spencer  |  June 25, 2012 at 11:37 am

      Nathan and I have similar ideas of what it means to have it all – it’s part of what drew us so close together in the first place. What’s interesting is that it drives us to act very differently. Nathan tends to focus on work, figuring out how he can do the most now so we can have the most later. And I work on figuring out how to integrate some of what we want later into the right now.

      Davina, how did you change your expectations? The phrase implies a quick turnaround or simple mechanism to make it happen, but I know better than that! Was it slowly changing how you allotted your time and adjusting until it felt right in your gut? Or was it more about doing something new and developing a new mantra?


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