The phrase “doing it all” gets thrown around a lot when it comes to motherhood.
Frequently, people will look at a woman balancing motherhood and work or hobbies, and proclaim, “I don’t know how she does it all.”
I’ve been on the receiving end of this comment many times since becoming a mother. I always appreciate the intentions behind the remark, and honestly, I’ve had similar thoughts about many of the women I know.
But while hearing it can be a nice self-confidence boost, especially on days when it feels like I’ve barely accomplished anything, it can also leave me feeling a bit fraudulent. Because the truth is, I don’t really do it all.
No one does it all.
This isn’t meant as a slight to anyone. I’m certainly not saying that you should not be proud of all the incredible things you do for your family, or that you don’t manage to accomplish 10,001 things each day. Mothers work harder than anyone.
But, if you sometimes feel struck by insecurity when looking at another mom who seems to have everything in her life impossibly together, don’t.
Because we all have our own hang-ups and insecurities, and we are all making different choices about how to best manage our many competing responsibilities.
Since becoming a mom almost three years ago, I’ve shifted roles many times. I’ve gone from being home full-time on maternity leave, to working in my firm’s office four days a week, to now working exclusively from home with my son.
And there were even more transitions that occurred during that time that are now lost to the haze of early motherhood.
Here’s the thing: no matter how many hours I spent in the office when I worked full-time, or how many hours I spend at home now, I have always felt that I’ve fallen short in some way.
No matter how much professional success I’ve found since becoming a mother, no matter how much quality time I spend with my son, and no matter how much time I devote to the hobbies I enjoy, I always feel that I’m not doing enough in one of these areas.
I don’t completely discredit myself. There have been many days where I’ve felt like the epitome of supermom, somehow checking off work tasks and household chores all while balancing the constant needs of a small child.
There are the days when I log my goal miles on the treadmill, manage a sensitive client matter, write legal briefs and articles, give my son the play and attention he needs, and still find time to whip up a healthy dinner by the time my husband gets home from work.
I walk away from those days feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment, struck by the thought that maybe I am one of those moms who can “do it all” after all.
Then there are other days when nothing goes my way and it feels like the entire universe is conspiring against me.
My toddler gets sick or refuses to nap, or a work problem explodes. Something will suck up so much of my time that everything else falls by the wayside.
That’s just life. Some days you’ll have it all together and some days you won’t.
It reminds me of a quote from “Wear Sunscreen,” the essay turned song you couldn’t escape from in the late 90’s: “Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.”
There have been times I’ve looked at my mom friends and acquaintances who work more hours or have more kids and have wondered how they do it.
How in the world do they manage? I don’t know their secrets, but I know this: not a single one of them is “doing it all,” at least not in the way we’ve come to define it as a society.
They are all making choices and navigating this journey as best they can just like the rest of us.
The time you spend in one area of your life is time not spent in another. That’s just a reality.
We all make sacrifices in one way or another. We’ve all decided that there’s a certain area of our life that could take a hit so other areas could thrive.
Or, there’s a task we’ve decided to outsource to make our lives more manageable.
And the amount of time we devote to these pieces of our lives will change from day-to-day and from year-to-year.
Nothing will get 100% of our attention 100% of the time.
But there’s nothing wrong with not doing it all. In fact, it would be crazy to try and do everything yourself.
Having help is a gift.
Having the support of your spouse, partner, family, friends, caregivers, and employer is a blessing.
Having the ability to make choices and to take ownership over those choices is a beautiful thing.
And you should never feel guilty for not doing whatever it is you think you’re “supposed to be doing.”
The pieces that shape your life are your own, and you are enough.