Having It All

02 Jul

Last year in Britain, just over 66% of mothers worked. This could be due to policy changes that have helped women return to work over the past 15 years as well as employment laws that have introduced much improved parental leave, pay and the right to flexible working arrangements.

currently, I am a bi-product of such flexible work arrangements and whilst I would prefer to be a work-at-home-mum, my circumstances, at the moment, don’t allow for that.  I was intrigued therefore when I read about a Working Mother’s seminar being held in my local area.  With Cherry Blair slamming stay at home mum’s recently claiming that “yummy mummies” hinder the child’s independence, I wanted to hear what other women thought of their work/family ethic.

I just got home from the seminar which by and large concentrated on the women of today and how we can have it all! What I came away with was a confused understanding of what “all” actually means. After thinking about it for a millisecond I came to the conclusion that my interpretation of “all” suits me just fine.

Having watched Sarah Jessica Parker run herself into the ground as city slicker Kate Reddy I Don’t Know How She Does It, I felt half sane for having felt a few times like I can’t cope. There are times when the “W” word gets too much, when the washing pile is so huge that it doesn’t fit in the basket anymore, when I don’t have time (or money) to go food shopping and for that last week of the month we are eating all the not so yummy things in the cupboards.

The truth is, I’m a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend and an employee. I often feel the pressure to be all things at once and end up feeling that I haven’t delivered on any of them. This is because sometimes I forget to dedicate time to being ME. Which, if I did, would make all of the above so much easier to balance.

Not wanting to dwell too much on my job other than the fact that I have one and I do it full-time, I do it more out of necessity than choice. My choice , if it were that easy, would be to work for myself part-time and work as a mother the rest if the time. That would be my choice. However, my current circumstances don’t allow me that benefit.  Does this mean that I don’t have it all? Is my cup half empty?

At the seminar I was surrounded by women who think that they do “have it all“; nannies, tutors, home helps, gardeners, cooks. One lady referred to it being difficult to organize the “staff” let alone the children! Her and others meaning of “all” is having everyone else to manage the daily living whilst they climb the professional ladder. This is fine, for them. I’m sure that if/when my circumstances are different, I too could afford “help” and may find myself falling into that trap.  I honestly think that life is not for me but still, there is some kind of competitiveness to send your child/ren to the ‘right’ school, shop in the ‘right’ shops, work hard and play harder.  I’m not convinced that women, other than Kate Reddy (and that’s debatable) manage it.  Surely we all buckle under the pressure of balancing work and family responsibilities? The seminar led me to believe it was just me, everyone else seemed to cope and balance perfectly fine!

However, as I sat there I listened to the humdrum of not there for homework, “had” to hire a tutor for Benedict, the nanny didn’t have the dinner ready, I mean, ugh. I felt gifted. Simply gifted.

I am there to play with my daughter when she wakes up in the morning. I am there to play with her in the evening. I am there to bathe her, read her a story, every night, and kiss her tiny lips before settling her to bed. I am there.  I don’t work late, I don’t work weekends and I appear to have managed a good balance without the help of nannies or housekeepers (oh to afford them!).  What I do have is an amazing husband who juggles just as much as I do and although the stress of it all takes its toll on him sometimes, we manage.  Together.

I cook all of Bambina’s food, a shop bought ready-made meal has never passed her lips. I iron the clothes that require it. I sing to her. I teach her animal noises. I make her laugh.

I cook. I clean. I shop. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter. I don’t see my mother or my friends half as much as I would like to. Sometimes that’s lack of effort or money on my part, sometimes theirs; life happens and before you know it, it got in the way.

Sometimes I feel a bit frayed at the edges, grumpy, over tired and suffering from a serious case of CBA (Can’t Be Arsed, to coin my mothers phrase!). The reality is that instead of complaining about it, I get on with it. I don’t blame the nanny or housekeeper, I don’t ‘get someone in’ to fix the problem.  I get on with it.

These women today live in a totally different world to me and I’m not sure that world suits my requirements. I want to be home for my daughter, to take her to school, pick her up, drop her off at ballet lessons.

My mum had three jobs when I was growing up and she has beaten herself up ever since because she feels like she wasn’t there for me enough. She was! I always remember her there to do homework with me, studying for exams, having mother and daughter time. We spent a lot of time shopping together, going out for lunch to china town and to the movies. Other children where I grew up had never tasted Chinese food let alone went to lunch in restaurants. My mum was amazing to me, she is still amazing to me. She did the best job she could with what we had.

I am university educated to Master level. I had one parent. I didn’t have a nanny, or a home help, or a cook. My mother held all of those jobs, brilliantly.

She is my role model. A mother who affords time with her child/ren. Time is the one thing we claim not to have, that we can’t buy, but it’s the most precious gift we can give. I want to make time for my child. In doing that, I can have it “all”.

What do you consider to be your “all”? How do you juggle the fine art of work and family?

I’m glad I went to the seminar. I didn’t agree with a lot of what was said but it got me thinking. Thinking about how lucky I am to have a supportive employer, how lucky I am to have time with my daughter and how lucky I am that I can afford to be a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend – I just need to remind myself to be a bit more often to remember to be ME!

Do you have it “all“? I’d love to know.


Related Article:

The Guardian: Working Mothers

Forbes: Working Mother Magazine



Posted by on July 2, 2012 in London


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8 responses to “Having It All

  1. mummyglitzer

    July 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I know what I want. I want to work 3-4 days a week, I would happily do a condensed working week for an extra day or two with H. I definitely couldn’t work from home, not for someone else at least who required standard office hours and I don’t have the creativity, money, contacts etc to set up at home. I hated working FT when I went back after mat leave but I loved my temp job in April, which was FT with an hour commute but I had a superbly supportive husband who took a risk (which didn’t pay off financially) and he became a SAHD. For that month, I did think I had it all, a good job, a happy family; isn’t that all any working parent wants? Now, I am not working, neither is the husband, we are living in each other’s pockets and at each other’s throats. On the whole our training and circumstances are such that there is no way we can both work and feel like we have it all. But whoever gets a job first gets to dictate how the next few months/years will pan out.

    • Tea&Biscotti

      July 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      It really is a hard juggling act. The Italian is also a SAHD. He’d rather not be but for now that’s how things are. At times it has put a tremendous pressure on us but we just have to remind ourselves that our situation won’t always be like this. Same for you too – great things are around the corner! 🙂

  2. Mummy | Stealing Mummy's Mascara

    July 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Such a good post!! It’s so difficult for women to balance work and motherhood. If you don’t work people look down on you for “JUST being a mum” and if you do climb the career ladder people look down on you for not being a GOOD mum! Hopefully new tenchnology will allow more mothers to at least work from home to help make their lives more flexible xx

    • Tea&Biscotti

      July 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      Damned if you, damned if you don’t! I think the best option is to decide what’s best for you and sod everyone else. We would all go mad if we constantly compared ourselves to other people. Not forgetting, that usually those other people are not satisfied with their lot either! 🙂

  3. Becky

    July 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Hmmm. Having it ‘all’ to me means that the happy/sad scale tips slightly more on the side of happy than sad. There is no such thing as ‘having it all’ because it basically implies that ‘all’ is a material thing – which it is not. Do people with enough wealth to employ others to help run their life have it all? Not if they’re not happy they don’t. Does the working full time busy Mum have it all? She does if she’s happy with her lot. Happiness is a state of mind and in my belief it’s about accepting that.

    As for this whole debate, I’m a bit sick of the constant focus on ‘mums’ instead of parents. Mums are parents and so are Dads. It’s as much up to them to put in 50% as it is for mums. So if both parents work full time then the domestic and parenting duties need to be split 50/50. But what often happens is that the woman works full time and then picks up all of the domestic chores. Hence she feels frazzled.

    We also all need to learn what matters and what doesn’t. If you want to have a day to yourself and see some friends but there’s a pile or ironing to be done as well as the shopping, what should take priority? Sod the ironing I say – when you’re on your deathbed you won’t be wishing you spent more time sorting out the house!

    My final point is that many of us have more choices than we actually think we have. It’s very very easy to trap yourself into a life of conformity. Yes bills have to be paid and all that stuff and we all need to balance our responsibilities with our happiness. But as someone who chucked in the full time day job to do my own thing for less money and more time, I’d like to say that it can be done but sometimes it involves taking a big leap of faith.

    • Tea&Biscotti

      July 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Absolutely agree that “all” doesn’t exist. You have to be happy with your lot and if you’re not then change it. The latter may take time but as long as you have goal, the happy medium is achievable.

      There is a lot of focus on stay at home mums and you’re right to point out that dads are involved too. Some choose to be but for others circumstances dictate their role.

      Either way, we (mothers & fathers) shouldn’t be forced to think that “all” means having a 23hour a day job, nannies, cooks and cleaners.

      “All” is what you make it.

  4. tracie p

    July 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    well said everybody! i think this issue will be a hot one for women until the end of time. for me, having it all means being a SAHM. maybe not forever, but for a while. i do feel judged at times though. a family member of mine was clearly disappointed in me, which surprised me.

    i am thankful for the opportunity and wouldn’t want it any other way. cheers to all of the different choices we make and how we make it work!

  5. amummysview

    July 16, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    well said! I made a decision when pregnant to turn down a job opportunity and go part time, knowing it would mean tighter finances but knowing that I would have the work life balance I wanted and time with my child. I don’t feel I have it “all” but I feel I have a good balance and that’s what counts x


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