By Kirsty Lemare North @honestlylifecoaching
Kirsty is a mum of three, Digital Director and Psychotherapist.
I love being a Mum. I love seeing my babies grow and feeling the weight of their cuddles. I love hearing about their day, and I love sharing my time with them.
However, I also love my work. I love the feeling of success, achievement and accomplishment it gives me.
Like lots of millennial Mums, I’m a multi-hyphenate, which is a fancy way of saying I do more than one thing. I’m a Digital Director/Psychotherapist. I like variety, I like people and I like learning, so the long hours and challenging days are rewarding to me, rather than depleting.
The question I’m asked the most is ‘how I do it all’. Firstly, it’s more than a little annoying that we’re still being asked that. It’s 2021 people; nobody asks Men how they balance family responsibilities with work.
When women ask that though, we’re not really asking how someone is doing it ‘all’. We’re asking each other how to do any of it. Because if most of us are honest, not only are we not doing it all, but we’re also not even sure we want to anymore.
We just don’t want to admit it, in case other parents think we’re letting the side down.
I have three children, ranging in age from 16 to 3. When my first son was born, I was 22 and single. I went back to work when he was just eight weeks old; partially through necessity, I was broke.
And because I liked my job. It’s how I define my identity. I’ve never been comfortable with ‘Mum’ as my reason for existence. I’m not good enough at it for a start.
For two years, by hook or by crook I made it work. Sick days, loss of income, childcare hell. I was determined to build a life for my son and I that absolutely showed I could have it all.
I enrolled at night school to get my degree. I devoted weekends to my son, and evenings to study. It was hard, but from the outside at least it worked. And I was certainly doing it ‘all’.
The wheels came off shortly after his second birthday. I had fired my previous childminder for her assertions that I cared more about my career than my son. She'd told me that when I had to take a third week in three months off work for illness and I’d questioned the necessity.
The fact that if I didn’t go to work and didn’t get paid, so the loss of income had led to a three-week period in the winter with no gas to heat the house had not occurred to her. I was just selfish.
In the meantime, it was becoming apparent that my son had other things going on. He struggled to focus, couldn’t sit for any length of time and got upset by the tiniest of things. He couldn’t play and he certainly couldn’t sleep. I was awake most nights until the early hours just waiting for him to drop.
Over time, it became harder and harder to make it all fit. Child carers just couldn’t manage him. Work wanted more and more of my time. My son was struggling daily.
And like so many of us, I carried on publicly pretending it was fine. When it wasn’t. I was overwhelmed, split and unhappy.
In 2012, I gave it up and set up my own company. My son was diagnosed with ADHD and ASD and I accepted that I couldn’t be both an employee and his mum.
It was the best thing I ever did. It might not work for everyone; but my slightly unconventional life allows freedom to be a parent and a boss.
I still don’t have it all though. My house looks like a squat, I struggle to manage all of our schedules and I’ll never get my body back. And I’m kind of OK with it.
I’ve worked with entrepreneurs and celebrities. Those insanely successful women’s lives might look like they HAVE it all, but I can tell you now, they most certainly are not DOING it all. They delegate, hire help and regularly struggle with the same guilt as the rest of us.
We need to stop with the pressure we put on ourselves. Nobody can single-handedly do ‘all’ the things. Out of the whole career/parenting/social life/relationship/housework/health equation, pick two and let the rest go. Or hire someone if you can (or beg a parent or spouse to help if you’re lucky).
But accept that having it all is a myth. Let’s call time on it, and instead shoot for ‘having enough’. Having enough time to rest, to enjoy our kids, to have a bath in peace.
And having ‘enough’ of outdated ideals that no woman will ever manage, which make us all feel like less.