Something came to me today like a thunderbolt. I never thought I’d write those words because I’ve always thought things can’t just happen like a thunderbolt and who says that anyway? But this, this did. And now I know it I want you to know it too.
We can’t have it all.
We can’t do it all, we can’t have it all. It doesn’t exist this person that can do everything on their own. It is a lie.
I cannot work the way that I do and try and be a mum to a nine month old and a four year old with no childcare sorted. I can’t do that and also have a social life and hair that is not a birds nest and nails that are not bitten to the bone and a diet which is less Lean in 15 and more Deliveroo in 30 (except it’s never fucking 30 minutes is it Deliveroo you lying shitbags).
Crucially I can’t do all of this and not break. I am one person. One person recently diagnosed with Anxiety, so, even more chance of breakage.
Behind everyone you see that is juggling being a mum and running a business or working full or part time (except it’s never really part time is it, you lying shitbags), there are people in the wings supporting that person. There’s family, maybe a granny or an auntie picking up the slack. There’s a partner taking days off to deal with the pick ups and drop offs and the sick days. There’s official childcare- nurseries, childminders, babysitters, nannies.
And that is why we can’t have it all. Because no one can. It’s impossible. Being a mum is a full time job. It doesn’t stop. It’s unpredictable. They get sick and everything stops.
And if I was going to put on my social anthropologist hat on for a second I would say that the way our society is structured – with people moving away from home for example – contributes to this. I’d say that in other countries where families live together, that support for the mother and child is there and then allows the mother (and father) to have a life outside the home in a relatively straightforward way. Someone will always watch the baby.
The way we are, the way we move away for work, for study, for friends, for economic reasons (because maybe there’s no room or indeed no family home and you need somewhere to live and there’s no council housing in your town so you’re shunted off to somewhere you know no one) isolates us. It makes it harder to have anything at all, let alone have it all.
And what about single mothers, what about working class single mothers who have been socially cleansed from the towns and cities they grew up in? How can they prosper without this network? They can’t. The system keeps them down.
Speaking of economics, the cost of childcare means that you essentially have to not earn while working full time just in order to maintain your pre-child role. The conversation between partners becomes less about who loves their job more and who earns the most. If whomever earns the most can’t take time off work when the kids are sick then you don’t have that support. You don’t. You can’t count on it. And it’s frustrating and belittling because you start to think: is my job not as important as yours? And truthfully, it’s not. Not in an economic sense anyway. In a we-want-a-better-planet-and-society-and-mental-health way of course it is. But in a food on the table way, no.
If this sounds like depressing diatribe that’s not my intention and I’m sorry for bringing you down. For me it was a revelation. The balance I have been striving for does not exist. It means I am going to ask for help more, cut myself some slack. Push back more. I have the network I’ve been pointing out others do not. I need to use it more.
It’s taken me four years but I get it now. Being a parent is a more than full time job. I can’t try and do another job on top of that without having some support. No one can work two jobs at the same time without something giving.
I have the seeds of an idea, some sort of reciprocal babysitting at a moments notice idea, which seeks to empower parents. It’s an idea at the moment and I’m not sure it has legs even, but watch this space. I’m pretty sure I can’t run anything at the moment – it’s taken two days just to write this post which would have normally been banged out in half an hour – but I’d like to see if there’s traction in this.
And then maybe we can work towards something resembling a balance. Not having it all, but close.