How much can we really have it all? I’ve been wondering about this over the past week, during which the January blues have crept in, luckily to since be chased away by a good night with friends on Saturday – hooray for Chinese food, silly films and sleepovers.
But I still find myself wondering, what do I think “having it all” would look like? So, based upon the expectations instilled in me by my parents, society, and other influences, here goes (in no particular order):
1. Having an optimistic disposition, emotional resilience, control over mental health, and the ability to always look on the bright side of life. Being one of those people who is deemed fun to be around rather than a moany cow.
2. Having lots of friends, some who are very close and there for life, and being able to be present in conversations at all times, not distracted by a small child..
3. Exercising 5 times a week, drinking 2 litres of water a day, getting 7-9 hours sleep a night, and drinking limited amounts of alcohol.
4. Having a BMI of 23, being physically fit, and being a size 10-12.
5. Being the kind of Mother who invents games, or actually does the games suggested by BabyCentre etc. Who is cheerful and patient. Who makes homemade playdough, bakes, collects leaves for arty exercises with child, helps her paint and draw, and generally invents developmental activities, rather than leaving her to play on her own with her toys or watch Peppa Pig. (Though in my defence, TV does get limited and she is often quite happy playing make-believe with her toys, it’s just that I feel guilty for wanting to browse the net or read, instead of doing more good-parenty things).
6. Having a successful, well paid career. I have a 2:2 BSc in Physics with Photonics, Graduate Certificate & Graduate Diploma in Psychology, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Psychology, and I’m qualified for NOTHING. I’m ruled out of any graduate trainee positions by having a degree lower than a 2:1. In my NHS work I am described as “unqualified” or not deemed to be a “trained” member of staff because I’m not a Nurse, Doctor, or Social Worker. Therefore deemed incapable of conducting therapy/risk assessments/making decisions. It’s irritating. Sometimes I wonder why I bothered retraining. If I’d forced myself to continue with physics I’d probably have a more successful career at this point in time than I do currently. However, sometimes I can be more rational and accept the slog involved in trying to develop in psychology. But it’s not easy.
7. Being on the property ladder. Which we now are, but only after renting for years and years and struggling to save up a deposit. Then you’re ‘supposed’ to buy and sell over the years to build up to the dream family home. Though I don’t think it will happen like that in the way it did for previous generations.
8. Having a solid, loving relationship with my partner. Being able to be more than just a Mum, but also a friend, lover, champion of the family, meeting his needs and mine. Having energy for dates/sex/witty conversation in the evenings as opposed to collapsing under a blanket on the sofa.
9. Making time for hobbies – whether arts/crafts/sport.
10. Ditto having “me time”.
11. Following the mapped out life plan of School – uni – good job + partner – career – house – wedding – children……..
12. Bringing up said children whilst successfully balancing a high-flying career. I have friends who work for multi-national companies, get published in journals/newspapers/fly off to conferences and have big respect where they work. I feel inferior doing my little support work jobs, and I envy some of what they have – in terms of respect as well as getting to travel, develop, or have a broad range of work role.
13. Saving more for the future – therefore would need to be earning more than I do now.
14. Maintaining a “yummy Mummy” look ie. That of someone who removes body hair on a regular basis, ditto dresses nicely, does hair in some sort of style, and has beautiful skin, and somehow leaves the house without being covered in dirt/food/snot.
15. Being able to go on nice holidays.
16. Being well read, knowing about economics, politics, social debates.
17. Receiving the same treatment as a man would if he did my job. There’s still some sexism in this country.
18. Having had life experiences eg. Gone travelling round the world, done volunteering work, actually taken part in some activities I am now too old to ever do eg. Camp America, a Chalet Season etc.
19. Having time for self-development and reflection, mindfulness and so forth. 20. Getting involved in the local community. Being a good person – who maybe does more for others.
21. Getting around to writing the book about Brain Injury that’s been planned for the past decade, alongside something more fun. Being published too.
22. Being the best Mum that I can be, always there for my daughter, letting her know that she’s my priority. While of course balancing all the things listed above. I am sure there are more I haven’t written here.
Quite frankly, reading what I’ve written so far just leaves me with an urge to go to bed and have a lie down. It’s exhausting. No doubt a therapist would tell me that I need to assess my beliefs, learn to prioritise, and accept that achieving everything is not realistic. I just wish I didn’t look around and feel like I see more people doing it, and doing it better. But on the plus side, I got some lovely cuddles from ET this morning in bed, and we had a giggle on the train as we commuted to Southampton. She was eavesdropping on a group of 16-18 yr old male students. When we went to get off the train she was making them laugh by moving very slowly and grinning at them all. It was quite amusing. So that’s something.