Can you have it all?


One thing I’ve learnt is you can’t really ‘have it all’ but you can create a realistic version of ‘all’ which you can live with. It’s taken me a long time to come to that conclusion, and a lot of trying to have more than I can…which left me feeling exhausted, stressed and a failure.

On my journey to ‘having it all’ I took a long, hard, look at my life; to see what I needed and what I wanted. I came to accept that I’m not cut out to be a full-time parent seven days-a-week. I’m a much nicer human-being when I work three days, and have four with the family. I found when I had no light and shade on maternity leave, I started to resent the kids and my husband. I was becoming bitter, focussed on one-upmanship and jealous of his commute – seeing it as ‘me time’ (nobody who travels on Thameslink trains would call it this). Not good.

It took me a long time to realise that I missed the appreciation of clients and colleagues when I’d done a good job. Funnily enough my kids didn’t pat me on the back and say ‘thanks for keeping us alive today’. I also found the cyclical nature of being a housewife – laundry, dishwasher, lunch, scrape lunch off the floor and the kids, put lunch in the bin, start on dinner – zapped me of any ‘job satisfaction’. I’m slightly ashamed to admit I need someone to say ‘well done’ in order to feel happy with my day’s work.

My non-negotiables

Your version of ‘having it all’ won’t be the same as your friend, your partner, your parents. It will be a totally bespoke version, just for you.

For my version of ‘all’ I had to first decide what was on my ‘non-negotiable’ list… working three days-a-week but still having the same salary as when I worked full time; I’d like not to commute but still be able to see my friends; take the occasional girls holiday plus a couple with the family each year. I want to be intellectually and creatively stimulated by my job, but work around nursery while they’re still little and school hours in future. I want the time and headspace to cook in the evening, to spend quality time with my husband and to get the odd weekend away with him too.

To me, this was ‘having it all’.

Sounds greedy and unrealistic. But I’m making it happen. It certainly isn’t easy, and I’m only ever one tantrum away from losing my shit most days but it’s the closest I think I’ll ever get to my own personal version of ‘all’.

The price to pay

A year ago, I started a word-of-mouth marketing agency, Grapeviners, to help me meet my demanding expectations. There’s always a risk a client won’t pay or the work dries up and we won’t make enough for the rent. We don’t own a home and that dream is getting further away as the St Albans property market continues to inflate, so we’ve had to shelve those plans in exchange for trying for a third child.

The kids go to nursery three days a week, I tell myself they love it, but I know they’d prefer to be at home most of the time. I fall asleep on the sofa at 9pm most evenings and I increasingly see less of my friends, especially the ones that aren’t local. I think one of my biggest sacrifices is time on my own, but I’m not someone who needs lots of that so I’ve been prepared to lose it.

I’ve realised that ‘having it all’ is a misnomer really. It’s more a negotiation in life. For me ‘all’ is having the things that are most important to me and that comes with some compromises.

It’s [mostly] working

What I’m getting at is ‘having it all’ is a myth. You need to write your own ‘non-negotiables’ list and find a way to make it happen without losing too much else. That’s about as good as it gets.

It wasn’t until writing this now that I realised how long my ‘non-negotiables’ list was. But having articulated exactly what I wanted and created a strategy to help me achieve it, I’m finally there. For now anyway.

I’m sure more ‘wants’ will sneak in and I’ll have to keep reminding myself that ‘scope-creep’ is my worst enemy. I know that I’m prone to over-doing it and burning out. I also know I’m less laid-back and fun than I was before I had my version of ‘all’ – so maybe my list is still too full and I need to set more realistic goals.

But, I do believe anything is possible…you can have your version of ‘all’ – if it’s realistic.

Post written by Jane B, one of our Women Aloud members. Do you have something you’d like to get off your chest? We’d love to hear from you >


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