This morning I was waiting in a Starbucks to meet up with Liz and Carrie and their kids, and as I sat there with my overpriced cup of tea, I did the thing I love to do at coffee shops. I eavesdropped on someone else’s conversation. (Hey, I don’t claim to be the best person in the world.) A few seats down from me, two twenty-something women were discussing a mutual acquaintance.
“She lets her dishes sit for, like, two days before she washes them. And then she, like, gets a house cleaner,” said the first brunette.
“Ugh,” said the second. “You know, when you have children, you have to put what you want out of the way. It’s not about you anymore, you know?”
The first brunette agreed.
Now, on the one hand, there isn’t anything these two women said that was untrue. Still, I wanted to run my pen over their expensive pea coats or maybe pull out a clump of their pretty, coiffed hair from their heads. Just a tiny bit, enough to sting but not enough to look bad. Because, you know, moms do have to put themselves second. But….does that mean that we can’t have what we want, too?
Becoming a mother was the single most transformative life experience for me. It made me from a sulky, depressive woman who wasn’t disciplined or focused into…you know, me. Because suddenly there was someone else who totally ruled my life, around whom everything revolved, and it was great. It was wonderful to not think about myself all the time, to get a break from all that twenty-something angst and replace it with buying tiny little jars of organic baby food and wiping butts with tiny little organic wipes and fretting over tiny little organic runny noses. It was so nice to not think about me so much of the time.
Until, you know, it wasn’t.
I think I can unequivocally say that I would like to think about myself more often now. I want to have a successful career, and I want to have a nice body, and I want to live in a nice house. BUT? I also want to be home and help with homework and drive the boys to swim lessons and take them to art classes and bake chocolate chip cookies and make a homemade meal every night. I want the best for my children, but now I also want the best for myself, TOO.
And I know that saying that Oprah has, “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time.” That’s true, but…should I actually want it all? Do I have unrealistic expectations for myself as both an individual and a mother? After all, according to the brunettes, now that I’ve spawned, what I want doesn’t matter. (What a great way to teach love to my babies: CHILDREN WILL RUIN YOUR LIVES FOREEEVVEEEEEEEEEERRR.)
So, yes: I want to be the best mom, and I also want to be the most successful writer. Also, I’d like my marriage to not fall apart nor live under a pile of dust bunnies. Clearly I have to do it all, or give up what’s unnecessary. And the things that are unnecessary are always MY needs, because I’d never consider the children’s or husband’s needs as anything else but the pinnacle of importance.
Huh, I guess those brunettes were on to something.
Yet, here’s the thing: do men do this? Do we ask men to work outside of the house for 10-12 hours a day, and then come home, bake a homemade meal, sit down and do homework with the kids, clean up the dishes, file the taxes, walk the dog, make love to their spouses, and watch Downton Abbey, and then go to the gym for an to maintain their eight pack abs? Do we? Or do we just accept that women will pick up the slack so that the men can do only the most important things (those things being work, homework, and Downton).
This idea that women can have it all? Is a farce. The idea that women should WANT it all? Is an even bigger farce.
I, for one, need to stop juggling absolutely everything and focus on what I actually want. And sure, I want to be the super woman who can do it all, but I don’t have a Time Turner (isn’t it interesting that Hermione was the one who wanted to do it all, but none of the boys were ever so unrealistic?), and it turns out that having it all isn’t even a good thing. Not for me, anyhow.
So, from here on out, I’m trying to tell myself that I shouldn’t want it all, that it’s not the greatest thing in the world to juggle seven tasks at once and totally forget about myself. That’s not to say my kids will not be important. Instead, I’m taking other things that make me a “good mom” off the list so I can replace it with “good person that’s not cranky and overworked and can read books at night with the boys instead of stressing out.” Stuff like cooking from scratch every night and keeping the floors spotless and not sending my kids to daycare that they’d be perfectly happy to attend.
So I’m gonna put my younger kid in after school care for a few hours twice a week, eat frozen lasagna and take out pizza sometimes, and do fancy things like go to the doctor regularly, and write, and exercise. And be a better person. So that I can not have it all. So that I can focus on what I want and leave the silly competition to be perfect behind. So that I can tell my boys: having you made me a better person.
But not such a good person that I won’t still eavesdrop from time to time.