What it means to have it all

What it means to have it all

Essentially, it means doing it all.

You want to be a mom and “have it all?” I’ll tell you what. You can do it. You can have it all. You can also have an ulcer while you’re at it.

I’ve had it all. I had a lucrative career working full-time at salary level pay working from home, while attending a state university full-time, while being a full-time mom who never used a sitter. Pretty impressive, right? I even published a novella during this time.

Of course, I didn’t read much. If you know me, you know reading makes my soul breathe. For two years, the only books I read were textbooks for chemistry and other courses and picture books to my infant. I didn’t sleep much, either. In fact, I slept so little that I sometimes hallucinated; I saw things like giant bugs climbing the walls. I fell a couple of times, too, just walking around my apartment. I slept so little that my doctor told me it was the equivalent of doing drugs.

But I had it all! I had the marriage and child, the school and career, the money and—um, yeah, blood poisoning, heart issues, and a three-day hospital stay by the age of 26 from stress, lack of sleep, weight gain (staying up all those nights took a whole lotta sugar and caffeine, know what I mean? It also didn’t allow for any time to exercise) and rapid weight loss from crash dieting, and probably sheer desperation.

I was also miserable. I took care of my poor baby—who had special needs, so you can throw in the fact that I also did a couple of hours of physical and developmental therapy with her each day to that impressive list above, both with and without her team of therapists and psychologist! Not to mention, of course, the housework I did, as well as the care for an elderly relative we lived with for several years—in a zombie-like, always-exhausted state.

This means that I recall very little of those first three years, something I will never, ever get back. My job began as something creative and remarkable—my dream come true—but rapidly evolved into a weekendless, joyless litany of minutia. My flowing creativity and love for the nonprofit work I did was gradually warped into gasping, striving to stay afloat, sometimes crying in the shower, always being behind chaos.

My marriage was strained. I had no time for family; they began to all resent me when I said no, I can’t attend again, I have to work. And when I did attend an event, I was so exhausted and in need of plain rest time that no one wanted to be around me anyway. I wish I could go back in time and give this me a smack in the face—or at least a daily “cut off” time after which I would not work, would only rest, and would take two days off a week—minimum.

“Having it all” really means just doing it all—being the domestic caregiver and cleaner and organizer, the person who plans the doctor visits and the holidays and gifts and laundry and everything, the person who cares for the children and spouse but never the self, as well as having a career and bringing in half of the income. In short, I’m not so sure we achieved “women’s liberation,” but perhaps simply an additional job on top of the one that was always so charitably bestowed upon us.

We need to change “having it all” to simply “having what we want.” If every human, male and female, could simply achieve this goal, I think we could have equality and happiness—which are really the elusive states here—while we abandon some misconstrued notion of “it all.”