Today, dear readers, I am going to talk about Having It All.
Because that is a topic that doesn’t get much airtime, oh no, no one writes about the Blessed Womanly Curse of Having It All.
For me, Having It All means working full time, parenting and then trying to blog in the evenings after the baby has gone to sleep. I’m not going to lie. I’m an amateur at this. I’m not leading a FTSE 100 company whilst simultaneously raising eight children and fitting in a spot of tennis at 5am to stay trim. I’ll leave that to Anna Wintour, Sheryl Sandberg and their ilk, for I am no superwoman, but it is still a tricky balancing act, and one where I feel that I am constantly on the brink and if I take my eye off the ball for just a minute I could sink without trace, leaving only my powerwalk-to-work orange trainers poking up out of the mud, adorned with an epitaph. She tried to Have It All, but she found she was rubbish at everything. She was Rubbish At It All.
Take my email inbox, for example. It is literally overflowing with things I need to do that always get shelved because something more urgent crops up. There is a constant dark cloud of work that is never done hanging over my head.
Do men worry like this, I wonder? Do they agonise over whether they can have a career, children, a fantastic social life and great hair? I strongly suspect that most do not. A quick glance over the Google results for “having it all” reveals a depressing litany of authors-almost invariably women-reflecting and hand-wringing over the classic dichotomy. We are expected to be all things to all people, supreme mothers and supreme career women, or we will be letting down Emmeline Pankhurst, Gloria Steinem, Wonder Woman and most of all, our own children.
Personally, I just feel exhausted. I work all the hours God sends but never have any money, and any money I do have seems to get eaten up by debt, coffee and pre-packaged sandwiches that I hate myself for buying. I sometimes feel as though Piglet barely recognises me, but still I have hope. I read in Caitlin Moran’s book How To Be A Woman that having children made her care more about her career. All of a sudden it wasn’t just her anymore, but she owed it to her children to be the best she could be. I didn’t understand it at the time. I thought that having children was a way out of the rat race and a shortcut to a life of leisure spent drinking frothy coffees, enjoying play dates with other mothers during lengthy maternity leaves, and possibly writing a novel or finally starting that import-export business selling cans of cherry-blossom flavoured Japanese alcopops you’d been planning since 2001. What I wasn’t expecting was barely being able to leave the house or wear anything other than a pair of leggings and a milk-stained T-shirt for weeks on end, and developing an unhealthy interest in watching Escape to the Country that at one point had me planning an Escape to the Country-themed drinking game to pass the time.
You wouldn’t get Anna Wintour playing the Escape to the Country drinking game. She would spurn Escape to the Country, and go and play a pre-dawn game of tennis, get her hair immaculately styled into the trademark power bob and freeze some interns to death with her icy gaze.
You wouldn’t get Sheryl Sandberg wearing a pair of leggings and a milk-stained T-shirt. She would put on a chic but business-appropriate structured dress, sit in a beanbag-strewn Silicon Valley ideas room with Mark Zuckerberg talking about charity projects, then go and take the patriarchy to task at Davos without so much as chipping a court shoe.
So I find myself saying, as I drag myself out of bed at 6am each day, and as my eyes start to close while I write this blog post, knowing that I have to be up at 7am on a SATURDAY to take Piglet to his swimming class, I must continue, I must prevail, I must HAVE IT ALL. The career, the being a great mother, the being a world-famous writer (ONE DAY. Baby steps, people, baby steps). I will make Piglet proud of his Mummy.