On Not Having It All

not having it all
I get to call this lovely lot my family, how lucky am I?!

My wonderful friend, the hugely talented and uber successful pro-blogger Vicki of Honest Mum wrote a great piece last week about Having It All. She is a beacon of inspiration to many, and I can imagine lots of women felt moved after reading this. Fired up even. It might just have been the catalyst they were waiting for to start planning their version of world domination. I know under different circumstances I certainly would have been.

I felt moved, but in a different way.

If you are in my situation, with multiple children (all young and needy) and no family help or excess cash to pay for it, then you might feel the same as I do when told that you can ‘have it all’. The career, the family, the success, the glory.

No I can’t!

Even with an amazingly supportive husband on my side, we have three young children and autism to contend with (not a small thing). Hubby works full time to keep a roof over our heads and pay the bills. I don’t have anyone helping me with the kids day to day. How on earth can I have it all?

We hear lots about the sacrifices that have to be made. We hear about making a choice to either be at home with the kids or having a successful traditional career. We hear about not being able to have them both without one or the other suffering.

For a woman I guess I’m a little controversial in my thinking on this one, because I would have to agree

Having lived the juggle of modern day motherhood for five years, working for an investment bank in the City part time, something usually did suffer. Either the kids weren’t happy in childcare which consumed me with guilt, or I was dropping balls left right and centre at work. My old boss was exceptionally sympathetic to my plight, thank goodness, but it still felt less than ideal more often than not. Which is why when a tiny glimmer of an opportunity for redundancy presented itself to me earlier this year, I jumped at the chance. Even though it meant forgoing my sizeable salary.

Don’t get me wrong, like many other women out there I could not dedicate myself entirely to the cause of looking after my children and running the house. It’s one of the main reasons I started this blog, to keep me sane and give me an outlet for brain dumping. It’s also why I pushed on, largely in the early hours of the morning, to get my book written. I need other things in my life outside of the family unit.

not having it all

Now that my blog has become my part job though, I’m having to step it up in all directions. Which is bloody hard to achieve, because (I’ll say it again!) I have three small children, and no childcare.

I have to write snippets here and there, often on the toilet (yay for multi tasking). I rarely get to go to events, unless the kids can come with me, and I have zero social life. That is fine though, because I had a little bit of an epiphany recently when I realised that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence.

It’s too easy to look at others doing all the things that we want to be doing, and get a little despondent about not being able to.

There is much said about having it all, but not a huge amount said on how you get to have it all

The fact is that most of us aspire to be like Vicki. I have a monumental amount of respect and admiration for her for switching careers and achieving what she does with Honest Mum, even though she has a young family. She herself has spoken in the past though, about how she is able to do what she does. That (in her own words) she is not superwomanand has a team of helpers facilitating her career. How amazing is that? No-one is suffering, her kids and hubby are happy, as is she, and everyone wins.

If like me you are the main carer for your children, who is also running the house, keeping everyone alive and still managing to make a little bit of extra cash any way you can, that is absolutely more than fine. In fact it’s pretty damn incredible.

You don’t need to have it all. You’re doing just marvellous as you are





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40 thoughts on “On Not Having It All

  1. Fabulous post Reneé and I love your reminder that we don’t have to have it all, that we are doing just marvellously as we are. I’ve always felt that concept of being able to “have it all” is a negative thing in many ways – yes, it’s great to be empowered to try and achieve but the flip side is that there can be so much pressure to excel in all areas, and that so easily leads to guilt when we don’t manage it. I always knew that I wanted to step off the career ladder when my children arrived and to be able to focus on being a full-time mum and I know that I am very lucky to be able to do that. For me, trying to juggle motherhood and a career at the same time would have made me miserable. As far as I’m concerned, I have it all right now – two beautiful children, a lovely hubby and my little blog to give me an outlet for my thoughts x

  2. Just to clarify…I didn’t read for 36 hours straight, just dedicated my spare time over that period to reading your story! The good thing is that now I can keep up by reading as you post, so won’t be getting eye strain any time soon…xx

  3. “Having it all” is a pernicious, nasty myth designed to increase your blood pressure and make you ill! It’s basically why I gave up my rather well paid job to become a stay at home dad. Yes, that’s right, a dad giving up his career because he realised that either the family or the job had to give…and morally it had to be the job.

    I don’t have any family living near me to rely on for child support. In my position I also don’t have a network of mummy friends for support (or rather, a tiny number). I get a grand total of 12 hours a week without children when the youngest attends nursery. The rest of the time I’m having to keep them entertained. It’s hard, very hard indeed.

    My blog has become a source of income but there will be limits to what I can do before the youngest starts school (and even then I will face certain limitations). I’ve come to accept that fact…but also accept the fact it’s one of those sacrifices you make as a parent.

    I also think there’s a general lack of awareness that men have been trying to have it all for years and the pressure on them to be hands on dads, devoted husbands and good employees has never been greater.

    Have it all? Pah. Enjoy what you have and live in an untidy house. That’s my uncompromising mantra!

  4. I wish I could have written this. I feel like I try so hard and fail at so many. Confidence is where I lack. I work full time hours, try to blog as much as I can and wish I could build it up and writing my book. You are my inspiration, with three kids and writing your own book, this is where I want to be. You are write, the grass isn’t always greener. I felt that if I wasn’t working I’d have more time, yada yada, but I am not sure I work. I just do what I can. And you are doing a great job. Thanks for posting and we can try to have it all xx

  5. This is a really great post, I think the thing that jumps out at me is that so many of us do so much that we regularly feel completely overwhelmed.

    I think its important not to look at other people and think ‘how do they do it’ as that can completely demotivate me and feel completely overwhelmed (there’s that word again!)

    It’s important that all these brilliant multi tasking, juggling mums and dads have faith that someone out there will be looking at them and saying wow that’s amazing, how do you do it!! Keep on going!

  6. I completely agree with your last paragraph Reneé – it is just important for us all to recognise and remember that. I have four children, each two years apart. Once they are at school things do get easier. They are in their teens now but I have worked part time throughout. I always felt until relatively recently that I was failing at both – employment and being a mother. I love your blog and find it so inspirational. I have particularly enjoyed hearing you reading your own posts and poems on other people’s blogs – so powerful. Having it all is possible if we are content and happy with what we have – sometimes it’s our mindset that can stop us from having it all. Being happy with who we are and appreciating the everyday things goes a long way to achieving it – not always easy by any means!

  7. Well said and I agree the pressure to have it all can become overwhelming. I think we are all too hard on ourselves and I do think women generally give themselves a harder time than men. I know that is a vast generalisation but I know Mrs B agrees with me on this so I hope i’m not going to get shot down in flames! Everyone’s life is different, different pressures and different aspirations and standards of what constitutes ‘enough’. I think that’s the key – deciding what your picture of having it looks like and aiming for that, not anyone else’s version. You’ve taken several steps toward a different life, swapping money for time with your family and a new career as a writer. That’s a brave leap but it’s also one that i expect makes some people envious. The counter would be, as you say, that it’s tough. But I think if you take a step back you’ll see how far you’ve come and the exciting possibilities to come. 🙂 #sundaystars

  8. Hi Harriet, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m actually blown away that you spent all that time reading my blog, and it truly means a lot to get such a lovely compliment. All the very best xxx

  9. I think acceptance is a really important part of the equation, otherwise we just end up torturing ourselves over the things we aren’t doing/can’t have rather than celebrating all the wonderful things we are achieving in the face of adversity xxx

  10. I’d love a teeny little bit of a help day to day. My in-laws are having the kids overnight for the first time ever on Saturday, and hubby & I are going to have a night out on the town and stay in a hotel. Can. Not. Wait!!! xxx

  11. I think what you say at the very end has a universal truth to it, Renee. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have it all but we shouldn’t be disconsolate if we don’t achieve it for whatever combination of reasons. If we’re striving to be the best we can or at least becoming a better version of ourselves – hmm, I’m sure I’ve seen a book along those lines – and we can remember that we already have a lot to be happy about, then all’s good. Focus on what we have, not what we don’t.

  12. I didn’t realise that was a famous Oprah quote, now I know why so many people are saying it. Makes perfect sense though right, you CAN have it all, just NOT at the same time 😉

  13. I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re doing really well honey. Against so many odds (no sleep being a massive factor) we are still achieving lots in the midst of raising small kids. So lucky to call you my friend xx

  14. I loved this post, Reneé. You know it really resonates with me, having no family or help around either. It is hugely empowering to be able to work from home, but it also means working when the children are in bed and everything is done around the house. Turning on the laptop way past 9 p.m. every night is not always easy, but it means still working. I think we’re lucky we are determined, full of energy and have brains that still function despite crazy sleep-deprivation. xx

  15. There are just so many factors that have to come together, and for those of us without help it becomes significantly harder. I think doing most things most of the time is a good motto to live by xx

  16. Great post. I’ve come to many of the same conclusions myself. I struggled when I started freelancing initially because I took on too much which meant nothing (work or parenting or any of the other roles) was done well. I felt massive pressure to get everything spot on but it wasn’t possible. I decided to look at my priorities and, of course, Freya came first. I think (as Oprah said) you can have it all, just not all at once. And I’m fine with that.

  17. I agree with you renee and struggle to think how it really is possible to have it all… if you do have as much help as the lovely Vicki does then I can see how that would make a big difference … but for those of us who don’t I think a choice has to be made somewhere along the line!! Xx

  18. Compromise, juggle, compromise, juggle, compromise! So true Reneé! Too familiar! What a wonderful and honest account on how things really are. X

  19. Hi Renee, I came here via Leigh at Headspace Perspective and over the past 36 hours have read your entire Mummytries blog…it is a massive achievement, even without the minor details of your having also written a book and blogged in parallel about GAPS. You are so honest and open, ready to be critical and reflective about your life – I am blown away! Will definitely be following in future xx

  20. Absolutely. After many years of trying to do it all I realised that we can have it all, just not all at the same time and we have to compromise, all the time. As Sam says, the planets have to align to come even close to managing it all, all at the same time. But, even doing most things, most of the time (which I would say is closer to reality for most of us!) is pretty damned impressive x

  21. Thanks so much for stopping by Maria. I’ve often wondered how different things might be with the help of grand parents. Glad you have a childcare solution that works for you xx

  22. Thanks honey, your story is truly amazing, but I’m not under any illusion that it hasn’t been damn hard work! There’s a brilliant quote that I adore “there is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs”. It sums up so much for me, because people often want the stuff (whatever the stuff is) yet don’t want to put in the hard yards to get it xx

  23. The planets really do have to align Sam, and as you say you also have to be of a certain personality to work for yourself, etc, in the first place. It’s definitely not for everyone xx

  24. Thanks so much Denise, so kind of you as always! I know for me that accepting it has to be this way has been a huge help. It’s rubbish always having to miss out, but I still manage some cool stuff every now and then which keeps me ticking over 🙂

  25. Wishing you lots of luck for the coming months Claire. The nine months I worked after having my third, before redundancy, will remain forever etched into my brain as some of the toughest days of my entire life. Hope you find your way and work it all out x

  26. This is such a brilliant post lovely and one that I really needed to read. I often struggle. Thinking I don’t do enough because I don’t have it all. But you are right. We are all marvellous in whatever we are doing and sometimes having it all just isn’t possible and that is okay. Hugs Mrs H xxxx

  27. I love this post – you are so very right. It’s so easy to look at how well others are doing and compare yourself.

    We are very lucky that we have my MIL helping us two days a week. Without her we would have to pay for childcare and the money I earn from my job would go towards that with not much left over. I enjoy working and like to have good balance between that and my boys but I still find it hard to juggle everything. We can most probably have it all – just not at the same time and not how we imagine it either. As you say – the grass is not always greener! xx

  28. Thanks for mentioning me and the kind words, you are a constant source of inspiration to me too. I know I would find it much harder to do what I do without the support of my family and my husband too. I do love that blogging enables all us women to monetise our blogs if we choose to though, even if it means writing on the toilet (I also do this). Also I wasn’t helped financially to start my blog, that’s the other great thing about blogging, you need no overheads to being and grow a business nor do you need to fit my ‘model’ of working either. I know many bloggers who blog once a week (as I do on my style blog) and earn without the same pressures. I think in life it’s always about compromise and no one ever has it all, the purpose of my post is to hopefully inspire women that you still follow your career dreams and be a good parent. Something you have proved yourself with your book. The arts have always had limitations, time, money and they find a way. That’s not to say it’s easy or quick but it’s important, I feel to keep a sense of self -to try not to limit themselves. Of course kids come first, when children are unwell or need support, business takes a back burner but I do feel being freelance is empowering. My eldest is at school too and my youngest is at nursery, that helps hugely. x

  29. I haven’t read Vicki’s post yet but I can imagine what it might say and you’re right – she *is* inspirational – but for me it’s a kind of fictional inspiration because, as you say, the circumstances have to fit first – the planets have to align. Not only do you need to have a *lot* of support both practical and financial (and a positive vibe from the significant others in your life), but I think you also have to be a certain kind of personality in the first place. I know it is possible to break your own mould if you put your mind to it but that is just another obstacle some of us have that others don’t and when the other pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are all mixed up or missing it just feels ‘too much right now’. I am a dreadful one for “mañana, mañana” – but the small children element of all this *does* have a huge impact. At least we know that probably the ‘Having it All’s’ are far outweighed by the rest of us! Xx

  30. Oh gosh I agree. I have three kids aged 5, 3 and 1, I have recently returned to work, part time, in a relatively demanding legal role. I feel like I don’t do either my job or my role as a mum properly. I firmly believe you can have it all, just not at the same time. Great to read your post, visiting from Sundays Stars.

  31. Totally! Maybe it doesn’t help much for me to say this, but when you are caught up in the pressure of life thinking you are getting nowhere, you are still an amazing inspiration to me and no doubt countless others who read your blog, and let’s not forget the inspiration and source of strength you will be to your kids throughout their lives.

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