Sunday, December 4, 2011


I know it has been discussed to death. There’s even been a movie made about it, after a book was written about it. I’m talking about having it all as a working mother. Is it possible?  Is it possible to work, raise children, stay happily married and not completely lose your mind in the process? Short Answer  – No. Long answer – No. 

But what does ALL mean?  Isn't that like defining Normal? By all, do people mean being happy and successful in your chosen field of work, bringing up smart, emotionally stable and healthy children whilst keeping the house clean and husband satisfied? Because if that is having it all then I fail daily – on all levels. Do I still continue to give it a red hot go?  Sure.

But often it is to the detriment of some aspect of my life.  In short, something has to give.

First to Give:

Sex on tap.  When you have an exhausting day at work, the dog has shat on the carpet as a basic fuck you for leaving him alone all day at home and the middle child has roundhouse spewed green bile all over the lounge room rug as you walk in the door, for some reason your ‘come hither’ eyes, have turned into ‘come near me with your penis and I will find a new function for your Swiss Army Knife’ eyes.  Often a consequence is that the bedroom action slides a little. Or a lot.

Next to Give:

Parental supervision. Once upon a time, I believed I would NEVER be one of those parents who would give their child a device to keep them quiet in public. No damn it, if we were going out, we would be that family sitting serenely sipping tea and telling funny anecdotes. Yeah, no. Trying to make sure all time is quality time, puts major pressure on not only you but the children as well. Hence the equipment comes out. Portable DVD players. DS, phones etc etc. Whatever keeps them amused and allows us, as a couple, time to actually speak to each other has been embraced. Judge as you see fit. 

Not long after:

The general housework and cleaning gets put on the backburner. No seriously. My car hasn’t been cleaned out in a year.  Minimum. I found a power Ranger stuck up the Air conditioner vent just yesterday. That and a petrified french-fry. It seriously is the last thing I feel like doing when I get home. Easy solution is to hire a cleaner. But we all know people just clean for the cleaner. So perhaps my answer is just for someone to threaten me with a cleaner.. 


Stuff might slip past you that you’d normally notice. Like producing  a child who begins to love Nickelback inappropriately.


You may start to notice your daily alcohol units start to increase more than is generally acceptable.  You get home, you have a wine. You have dinner, you have a wine. You watch telly (while not cleaning or reading your child a bedtime story) and have a wine. You tell yourself you deserve it because you’ve had the kind of day that deserves a wine.  


This is why I know, as a working Mum, who is there 5 days a week, that when I become more worried about pacifying the boss, I have lost the having it all battle. It generally starts with some kind of concert. One where your child is a potato, or a gnome or something hideously unimportant to anyone other than yourself. And you are desperate to see it.  But on occasions, you will fail at making an appearance at these.  And your child will file this kind of behaviour under ‘stuff  to throw back in my mother’s face at my best opportunity’.  Guilt comes hand in hand with being a working parent. It chokes you at times. None more so then when your child is at the front of an assembly, receiving an award, searching the crowd for the familiar face of their parent so they can show off their award.  To hear  the words “Mum, I looked for you, but I couldn’t find you” breaks your heart into a few million pieces. And also earns you the shittest parent in the world award.

So above a few examples of what gives in my world.  What has to give probably. I used to smugly think I was doing it all. That I had it under control.  But now I realise, it doesn't matter whether I do or I don't. It matters whether it feels right. For you, for the family unit as a whole and most importantly, the kids. I think I'm operating at about 70%. With room for improvement. Always room for improvement.

What do you think? Can it all be done? Can you have it all? What does having it all even mean? 


Ms Styling You said...

Nup. Something always gives - the only surprise is finding out each day what that something will be.

Smudgeblurr said...

Great post Bern, love your honesty! I totally agree - I recently had 7 weeks full time work and the housework definitely slipped during this time - as did some other things on the list and we don't even have kids yet!!
I think as long as you can keep smiling and laughing then all is going to be ok.

Mum on the Run said...

I think you do have it all - perspective, dreams, wit, honesty, well-loved family...
All that matters, anyway.

Diminishing Lucy said...

Bern, I could only ever dream of having it all if I had a wife as well as a husband.

I am working from home and studing at the same time, in some vain hope to have it all - but the sex has already fucked off.

We can have it all. Just not all at the same time.


Maxabella said...

In a word: no.

As a mother of three little ones, a 4 day a week corporate job and an addiction to helping... that's all I can really say about that. x

Dorothy Krajewski said...

I think you've summed it up by saying "does it feel right?". The "all" has different meanings for different people, my "all" is not going to be your "all". Decided on what the things are you really, really want and if you have them "all", they you're right.

For me, it's having a roof over my head, food in the fridge and pantry and being moderately sane. Oh, and kids that are mostly OK...

whatsinemmasbrain said...

I love this post.
You can't have it all... I work on the principal notion that, I can't have it all, so I just try not to f anything up too badly, this works, in part, most of the time. Wine any one?..

Romina Garcia said...

Having it ALL is very subjective. To me at the moment "having it all" means a full night sleep. In two months when I go back to work, lord knows what that is going to entail with the four little ones. At the end of the day I honestly believe that if you smile more than you frown in your day, then you have it all. The rest of it is just stuff you have to do in order to make it through to the next smile x

bigwords is... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jaz'hiaran said...

Awesome post, Bern. I think you're working as hard to be the "perfect woman" tv makes us believe we have to be - and although I don't have children, I can totally relate to most of that, through having several painful injuries and working through it and dealing with prejudice at work (and getting fired for being injured) and studying at the same time -whilst looking after two cats, one of which is mentally retarded and throws me a "fuck you" by shitting, throwing up, or pissing on my carpet in the same place all the time, saying a big "good bye" to the $2600 in bond we have in this apartment. Sure, I live with my ex- but we are more like a married couple who have to make sure each other is happy, tread on egg shells when one has worked 80 hours in a week, or just comes home from a shitty day, and we were still having "it" until last year when everything just became too much for me, with the prejudice, the pain, the workload, everything: and now I'm here failing uni, failing to tidy the house except for the shower, toilet and dishes in the dishwasher and the peed on carpet (although now I just tip a glass full of biozet in water onto the carpet and let it sit. I fail!!!), and have developed other body issue such as 30kg of FAT and a complete lack of libido, plus stabbing pain when you I try and start up the libido. SO, in saying: I think a person can only do what they can do. Give it a good shot... but what tv tells us we SHOULD be is a total misrepresentation. You're doing an awesome job, you're slim and beautiful after all that and you have a husband and family who loves you. And hey... you're not doing crack to keep up. So, I'd say you're pretty awesome. :-)

Giving Back Girl said...

I'm perpetually in a state of guilt, always feel I'm failing (I write this with the echoes of the tv and the image of my 3 kids watching it - priorities?), and have my husband saying to me - "you're a smart woman, how can you be doing this so badly". Truth is, he's hit the nail on the head. Can you please follow this post up with a "how to" sort our shite out and feel less crap about ourselves. Thanks so much

Jodi @ Lipgloss Mumma said...

Hi Bern, great post. I used to think I could have it all and that it was possible. More fool me. It's not and I am now okay with that which I think is the hardest part. Just give in to it, know its not possible and try to get by on a daily basis.
I think bits and pieces are inevitable to unravel, lets just hope not all at the same time.
Keep on keeping on.
Jodi x

katesinmelbourne said...

I've only been a working mum for seven months and I'm going to go with a resounding NO.

I think I have just about as close to I'll ever get to 'all' right now, but I only have one child.

I keep telling myself I'll be living the dream in my 40's when I have adult children and an amazing career and a boat. And a full passport. And a cellar full of wine.

Yep, it's going to happen.

katesinmelbourne said...

Wow. I need more sleep.

*I think I am just about as close to 'All' as I'll ever be right now, but I only have one child.

Yay grammar!

disydoit said...

Awesome post Bern :)
I have worked full time since my son was 5 months old. What gives for us is a social life with our single friends to some extent - just not a priority to spend more time away from him than I do already. The next is the housework. As he is only 3 I have not had to experience the guilt etc of missing out on an event but that will come I am sure!
I observe some high powered women in the workplace that also overcommitt with their childrens activities etc to relieve their guilt and ensure that everyone 'has it ALL'! How misguided, just spend some quality time with your kids instead of running off to the next function activity!!

Gemma @ My Big Nutshell said...

I really enjoyed this post Bern. For me I know I can't work and have three kids and keep to the good side of the edge. I'm resigning shortly after two years of mat leave. I can't do what is required and I already feel that I am at my limit. When my work asked if I was coming back in January, all I thought was 'shit, someone else wants something from me'. The answer was right there.

I don't want it all. I just want to be happy, in a nice house that works for my family life of course and the 3.59pm wine. I can't be across everything at the moment, but as time moves on space will be made for things as the kids grow older, and that for me has to be hopeful.

MsKymOG said...

Aah, Bern, once again it's like you read my mind. I once read a quote - I think it was from Quentin Bryce, but of course, I could be WAAAAY off there - and it was "you CAN have it all, just not at the same time".

And that about sums it up for me.

The house can be clean; the kids loved-up and happy; the hubby feeling loved and appreciated; work going well; exercise every day; "me"-time and to-do lists being ticked off - just not at the same time, all the time.

At best, I'm managing 2 from that list at once.

So generally that means the kids get first priority and, let's be honest, work probably gets the next-best attention. But the house is a pigsty, the to-do list just keeps growing, and I haven't exercised in God knows how long.

Still looking for the magic solution, but I think it might be to just be satisfied with the way things are now. At least that way I won't waste energy being pissed off or frustrated and that might, just might, free up some energy to attack one of the other things on the list.

Bill Chant said...

makes me feel better about never managing to have a family.

boomerang jane said...

Love this post. This is so what real life looks like and this is so what we all need to hear.

For far too long there was too much pressure for us all to try to have the perfect everything, try to be the perfect everything and act like we were the perfect everything. When realty was far from perfect.

I rejoice in our imperfection. And I rejoice in the open conversation we are all now happy to have. Saving future generations from themselves. Perfectly imperfect.

Amanda Moving said...

Well, yes it can be done but very hard and I doubt it can if you don't have proper help or if you don't work part time. It is just very hard to balance with so many things, you should share responsibility!

Magnolia said...

Well as a full time working single mum I concur however I don't have to worry about sex - lucky... At least you don't turn up to school and have the other mums say "oh - you are the kids mum! We thought it was that other lady!" Um no - that would be the woman the kids dad is screwing!

Shelley @ My Shoebox Life said...

Hearing you. I never wanted to have it all, but I never expected that the real stress would come from being a nanny/housekeeper/cook for another family in the hope that they can have it all. I try my best every day for them. Then I come home at night and collapse. Something's Gotta Give. And I did so love that movie. PS Have I told you there's a Morley St in Port Melbourne? Now there's a family Christmas photo opp just waiting to happen! :) xx

MultipleMum said...

Great post Bern. I am one step further from it having it all than most, I have given up trying! I do what I can. Noone is completely fulfilled but at least I am not busting a gut trying to do the impossible! I love your perspective and I think Mum on the Run nailed it x

Lauren aka Barbie said...

We're living parallel lives. And wine is cheaper than therapy. That. Is. All.

kim at allconsuming said...

I can't even begin to reply, such is the rawness, pain, guilt, self-doubt, chagrin and any other adjective you'd like to throw at it, that I feel on this subject.

In a nutshell, the modern life we have created, that we strive for, is totally unsustainable. The end.

I have no idea how to resolve that reality.

In Real Life said...

This is such an awesome post! I just love how you phrase things! :) I can totally relate!

kurrabikid said...

A damn fine post on something just about all of us struggle with...

Wanderlust said...

Oh Bern, I so get it. FT working single mom here. Yes, I miss concerts or other school functions, or I go and feel like I'm skating on thin ice with all my absences from work. Push pull.

I hate it. If I could quit my job I would in a nanosecond.

Faybian said...

This is why I work part time even though my youngest is 8 now. I realised years ago that I would never adequately do it all and that I didn't want to try. Thank god I haven't produced a nickel back lover. Although the older 2 love/like techno and the like much to my Metallica loving self.
A psychologist at work says that you only have to nail it 30% of the time for your kids to grow up reasonably well adjusted. I love that and frequently remind myself of it.

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