Having it all, and the Age of Contagion
Updated: Sep 27
"We could have had it all", as Adele sang, but let's face it, even pre-lockdown, the parents among us didn't really have a chance. In fact, many of us were spending our best years ( post procreation ) still straining for a bite of that golden apple, weighed down ( and blessed ) with our children as we endlessly hustled to reach the Holy Grail - having a successful career and a family. But, maybe it's time to re-evaluate? In the Age of Contagion let's just take a moment to audit the heck out of Having it all.
Let's start with the numbers. Research has shown that in two parent homes during lockdown, Women are bearing the burden of childcare and homeschooling but, didn't women always? Regardless of whether they worked or didn't. Women's careers rarely took priority in the calls from nursery to collect a sick toddler, the school trip crocodiles are more often than not policed by mothers not fathers, and the PTA might be better renamed Mothers To Avoid, rather than Parents.
It really is just relentless being a female parent.
There are always socks to pick up, many of which are adult sized, there's always a mouth ( or 12 ) to feed, a surface to dust, a library book to return, birthday present to buy, holiday to research. So many jobs to do. As well as dazzling the board in our glittering careers, like we're meant to. No wonder the camel's back is permenantly about to snap. The division of domestic work is wholly unfair, and only gets harder after children. It's wrong. And renders many women not just unpaid daily drudges for their loved ones, but also often financial second class citizens in their own homes. The weight of ( home ) work is a handicap not just to the pursuit of career fulfillment, but also personal happiness.
This is not an anti-feminist rant. Because this is about everyone ultimately. This is an anti Having it all rant for the masses. Men want more time at home with their children too. In an article on Linked in three years ago the headline screamed
If COVID has taught us anything, isn't it that it's time we reviewed the why? Why should we climb to the top of the career ladder? What is up there anyway? If it's a seat at the table, shouldn't we only want it if the other diners are going to play nice, and if we can still make it home for teatime? Maybe this is the final get out.
Personally, I found the see saw of mothering versus career, a pain in the backside. Juggling the demands I placed on myself in terms of what my career had to still be, left me exhausted. Not just by the mother guilt, but also the guilt I felt as a woman falling short, as I saw it, of having it all.
My life felt like one long rush from work to parenting, to bed, where I would fall unconscious before getting up, moments later, to scream in a panic 'get your school uniforms on we are leaving in FIVE MINUTES'.
Eventually, I chose a different way to work. I began by admitting to myself that the only way from the top of the ladder, is down. So why not step off now? It wasn't easy. I had to learn to let go of the person I thought I was, and find peace and acceptance around who I was now. Not defined by a career, but by my freedom to choose a life-balance that would work for me. I let go of my old expectations and saw them for what they were, just another choice I could take in my life. Like chicken or beef. It wasn't easy. But it was possible.
In 2020 we are all beginning to glimpse a different way to live beyond COVID. One in which rushing to anything is just not a healthy way to be. Long hours don't increase productivity, they just increase burn out and reduce your personal life ( and of course parenting ) to a remote role that's destined to blow up in your face. In this new age, it may actually be time to jam the pause button down on having it all, permanently.