I recently saw a television interview with Barnard College president, Debora Spahr, discussing how women strive to “have it all.” We must be perfectly coifed, have a sexy marriage, be the perfect mother and homemaker. Sphar says, “Only Wonder Woman can do it all, and all at once. And she isn’t real.”
So why do we hold ourselves to such a high standard? This got me thinking and helped me realize what it takes to find balance.
During pregnancy, we are told to focus on ourselves. I wanted to be the cute pregnant lady throughout my whole pregnancy. I had regular nail appointments (God forbid I went into labor with unkempt toes or nails), haircuts, waxes, cute outfits, daily workouts, etc. I became so accustomed to this that once Jude was born I was practically twitching to get back into the routine. Which, let’s be honest, becomes much more difficult once there’s a baby in the mix.
We see so many actresses, power women, etc. looking gorgeous and svelte weeks after having a baby. It’s in our heads that we too must look this way and maintain this lifestyle. We even see it as necessary for success. I read an article about the amount of time women spend on beauty versus men. It’s quite entertaining when you break it down. My beauty routine consists of 5-10 minutes on my makeup and 20-30 minutes on my hair daily. Every 2-3 weeks I get a manicure, every month a pedicure. I head to the salon for waxing every 3-4 weeks, hair cut/color every 6-8 weeks. I exercise 3-5 days a week. My hubby, on the other hand, washes his hair and shaves daily in less than 10 minutes. He gets a haircut every 3-4 weeks. He works out mostly at home, doing pushups, crunches and pull ups for about 15 minutes. I am spending 20-30 hours a month on my routine; he spends 20-30 hours A YEAR on his.
There’s a member of my gym that I lovingly nicknamed Donna Reed. She’s a stay at home mom with three boys, keeps an immaculate home, is always well dressed, and makes a home cooked meal daily. To top it off, she regularly makes extra food and brings it to our staff out of the kindness of her heart. How she does it is beyond me. I love cooking, but find it difficult to accomplish what was supposed to be a 30 minute meal (it always takes me 45 minutes or more!) when I often don’t get home until 6pm. While I would love to make a glamorous dinner every weeknight, it’s ok if we’re eating leftovers. On a side note, my favorite meal when pressed for time is breakfast. I can do an egg scramble in no time at all.
On Pinterest, I follow a board called the Dating Divas. They always have these super cute ideas with free printables to create the perfect date night. I save it for later and never end up doing it. Seemed like a good idea at the time. When we get a date night, we usually go all out and end up hungover and exhausted the next day. I’ve learned the hard way that connecting with my husband can be as simple as a candlelight dinner at home, a movie and reading a short passage from my Crossfire series to keep things spicy.
I may be partial, but I think my kid is super cute. Because of his ridiculous level of cuteness, he needs to look the part every day. I work so hard to keep his hair at a good length, his outfits nice, his face clean and scabs off his knees. Most of it I can do well, besides the scabs on his knees. A true boy, he’s into everything and often hurling himself off a piece of furniture. On top of all that, I am so focused on his milestones. Learning all this letters, potty training, colors and more. I know now that I can only do so much, and I thank God for my mom being a main caregiver to help me turn out the best child possible.
On top of all these things, if you’re a working mother you are expected to climb the corporate ladder. I’m blessed to own my own business and I spend so much energy on making it a success for the betterment of my family. I love what I do but sometimes I find myself at work wishing I could be home with my son. It made me think about Europeans ‘work to live’ whereas Americans we ‘live to work’. We have to drive the nicest cars, have the fancy houses, the designer purses, the expensive vacations, and the list goes on. I’m still trying to find balance in this department and remind myself that everything I do, I do for my family. The designer purse can wait. ‘Til Christmas at least.
So, how do we have it all?
Bottom line, you don’t. You learn not to sweat the small stuff and focus on doing what works best for you. Here are Spahr’s strategies for facing today’s standards:
- Wonder Woman doesn’t exist. She is fiction, you are real.
- Learn from the guys. Men know there’s only so much they can do at once. If a budget report is due, the lawn goes unmowed. Women try to keep everything going, all plates spinning. It’s ok to set down a plate, just choose which one.
- Stay close to home. If you can, having family around is a godsend. Living nearby family or close friends is great once life gets more complicated.
- Find the right partner. Marry someone you love and like. Finding someone who doesn’t care if you’re perfect is a good start.
- Banish guilt from your social life. You don’t have to accept every invitation. If it isn’t required for work, won’t help you professionally or intellectually, and you won’t enjoy it, don’t go. Obviously there are exceptions, but know when to apply this thinking.
- Commit to a workout regimen. Exercise is a stress reliever. It helps me sleep at night and not want to stab people in the eye when they drive me nuts. If you need some ideas, be sure to read my post with workouts for busy moms.
- Pick a job you love. If your career is satisfying, you’re more likely to stick with it after having kids.
At the end of the day, I’ve learned that I can only do so much. It’s ok if we are eating leftovers, my nail polish is chipped or laundry really needs to be done. Or, all of the above at the same time. My husband and my son love me unconditionally and I need to learn to do the same for myself.