“Having it all” actually feels pretty sh!t

Having it all feels like shitThe past few weeks I’ve been slammed at work, slammed at home and slammed in general. It reminds me that I do too much, that life is all rush, rush, rush. Busy, I crave; rushed, I loathe. Living a hurried life is not the dream.

Last year I had a major health scare that landed me in hospital for the better part of a week. It was a stress-related condition and the fact that I might be stressed was news to me. “But I’m really not a stressful person,” I bleated at the surgeon.

“Talk me through a typical day in the life,” he requested.

I made it to 9:05 am before he stopped me. “Look, it sounds to me like you are lucky enough to mentally be very good at managing stress,” he said. I confess I beamed; I’ve always been so weirdly proud of my ability to take on a heavy workload, even a crisis, and remain calm and focused. “But,” he added. “That doesn’t mean your body isn’t under constant stress. Mentally you’re sunshine and roses, but physically you are a very stressed person indeed. Anyone trying to do everything you’re trying to do is forcing their body to do more than bodies should. You can’t meditate your way around that, I’m afraid.”

This was more than a wake up call for me. This was a full-on throw a bucket of ice at the sleeping person while the concert band plays Hallelujah moment. I’d just never thought of stress as a physical thing before. I’ve spent my whole life learning to manage it on a mental and emotional level that the reality of stress just passed me straight by: Just because you don’t feel stressed, doesn’t mean you’re not stressed. Our bodies are under pressure when we do too much, no matter how calm we tell ourselves we are.

I’d go so far as to say that if, like me and the next gal, you’re trying to ‘have it all’ you are probably physically stressed – never mind the emotional/ mental side of things. I’m not talking about the ‘have it all, just not all at the same time’ kind of thing, either. Whoever dreamed up that pithy line is clearly not living with a mortgage, a few kids, a ticking clock and, hell yes, a dream. How exactly are we supposed to divvy up our lives so that we can have it all on a non-overlapping time line? Such bollocks. I’m a 1980’s girl and I was raised to believe I could be a working mother and that’s exactly what I became.

So, yeah, let’s talk about the reality of being a working mother.

Being a full-time working woman and a mother is all it really takes to be trying to fit more into a day than we’re physically capable of. I know that now. I believe it is actually impossible to sustain the pace that so many of us are running at just to get from one day to the next. The kids come first, but work is work and it demands and deserves our time whether we like it or not. And so do the kids – they demand and deserve our time too.

That’s a lot of demanding and deserving happening at the same time. Every working mum will be familiar with the push, pull, push, push, push of daily life, but still we give everything we’ve got to work, social, family and home life. I know I need to compromise, I know I need to prioritise, but how and where do I make those changes?

Last week, in the middle of a very, very busy week (as opposed to simply very busy, which is standard), one of the school mums asked me why I volunteer at the school when I am so squeezed for time. “Because I like it,” I said. “And because I think it’s my duty to be involved at my kids’ school. Why should I rely on other people stepping up if I’m not prepared to step up myself?”

I believe this to be wholeheartedly true which is why I’m grateful I like it. I love being around the kids in the classroom; I love helping the school make decisions; I love the school canteen, with it’s ancient ways. You can still buy something for 10c at our canteen and that matters to me. I want to be around that.

The kids do way too many extra-curricular activities – I know this. Fact is, it’s helpful for me that they go to Cubs, Scouts, Junior Rangers, Band, Acrobatics, Parkour, Cheerleading, Bass Lessons, Hip Hop and Jazz. While they’re occupied at classes, I’m able to keep working. I pick them up from school, I drop them at their class, I work. It’s what we do. Our day starts getting the kids ready for school and most nights we’re home by about 6:30 pm and dinner is hopefully half-way made if I’m lucky.

Now, I realise I could subscribe to the ‘breakfast for dinner’ kind of thing. Every now and then I don’t doubt that that should happen – but how often and when did it become acceptable to be so rushed that we don’t even have time to make a proper meal? If I’m doing the scraped-together meal thing more than once a month or so, I know something isn’t working. I genuinely believe that if I don’t have time to put decent food on the table, something is very wrong indeed. It’s a deal-breaker for me. Which is why I work my arse off to make three squares a day from scratch the majority of the time. Food just isn’t something I’m prepared to compromise on.

Which brings me back to the physical stress thing, because it would appear that while I’m busy up there on my high horse, I’m failing to realise that it’s no good offering good food if I’m neglecting the very basics of health. Stress makes you sick; it’s a horrendous killer. If I’m not prepared to compromise on volunteering, ex-curric activities or food preparation, just what exactly am I prepared to compromise on?

I’ve spent the last eight months trying to figure that one out and I still don’t know. I don’t want to give up my job – financially it would change our lives and… I’m good at what I do and I love it, I really do. I work hard, but I barely notice the time passing because I’m engrossd in something I love. The fact that I work from home as well has made me say many times to other mums, “hell, if I can’t make working from home in a job I adore work, what hope is there for anyone else!?”

Working from home allows me to be a stay-at-home mum too. I’m a mum, I’m at home, ergo I’m a stay-at-home mum. Most of the time I’m pretty much in my kids’ lives as much as a stay-at-home mum, and I know that makes me very lucky indeed. I do feel lucky. Even though I’m very, very tired, I can see how lucky I am. Everything I do is made even remotely possible because of the love and support of a good man, who is pioneering the concept of the ‘working father’. So yes, I love everything about my life from top to bottom except… except… except.

Rushing, because it seems to me that that’s what ‘having it all’ and ‘being a modern woman’ feels like. Rush, rush, rush. Never enjoying the moment because the next moment needs planning, strategising, scheduling and worrying over. Having it all is realising that you don’t do ‘me time’ because ‘me time’ is just another thing you need to fit into your over-burdened schedule. The thought of a relaxing hot bath actually makes me feel mildly panicked.

Instead, I take comfort in the moments each and every day where time is forced to slow down and let some air out. I slide around on adrenaline day to day, but many times in those days I find myself noticing the small details, enjoying the ride, even taking my foot off the pedal before the rush starts up again and I feel my calm slipping away from me as the wind pulses me forward. This is what it is then: catching and keeping moments because the minutes, the hours, the days are all too fast.

So, there you have it. No happy solutions, no 10-step plan to come back from the edge. The edge is sharp: modern women are completely, totally stuck having it all, all at the same time, whether we like it or not. That’s all I know, I’ve got nothing in the way of a solution or a new pithy statement to override the stupid ‘not all at the same time’ malarkey. I just wanted to share my view from the corner we have backed ourselves into.  It’s pretty dark back here. I can’t see a way out. Can you?

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Comments

  1. says

    I have one suggestion – get some paid help around the home. Someone to help with the school pickups/making of dinner/doing of laundry. It’s just too much to expect of ourselves to work a full time job and manage a household. It really is too much. And I feel in pushing on trying to do those two full time jobs ourselves, in choosing to not get help – we are all doing each other a great disservice because we are making the working full time/managing a household thing ‘normal’ and it shouldn’t be

    • Maxabella says

      100% agree, Kel. It’s partly a financial thing and it’s partly a stubborn thing. I don’t know which is worse…

      • Chloe says

        What about even getting help from other mums? For eg, I know a mum at my school religiously details her car once a week. She says she just loves it. Well I hate it and can’t think of a bigger waste of my time. Therefore my car constantly looks like a terrible hot mess. So I bit the bullet and asked her if she would like to do mine. She beamed. We agreed on a very small fee, which was very little more than what I would have paid to do it myself at those self serve things and a good half hour. I am going to think about this type of thing more often for sure.

  2. says

    Oh I could have written this myself (cept I don’t think I could squeeze out an hour to have written it!). Someone asked me this afternoon if I was going to schedule in a nervous breakdown soon? I KNOW I do too much but I adore what I do. I adore my kids AND I adore all my
    work and volunteer commitments…Tis just the way it is. And therefore chaos reigns…organised chaos I like to think.

    • Maxabella says

      Snap. This is me. And there is a madness to me wanting to do everything myself – I just enjoy it so much. Until I don’t. I haven’t crashed again like I did eight months ago. I think being AWARE has helped me enormously (and I hope that in writing this I help someone else too), but I haven’t changed much yet and I need to. x

  3. says

    Wow, I’m overwhelmed just listening to you! One of my best friends had a heart attack recently. Her doctors blamed stress & anxiety which my pal violently denied. Months later she’s agreed something has to change. She’s a single Mum, working 2 jobs, studying, renovating, 2 busy kids & they’ve all got fantastic social lives surrounded by family & friends. She loves all this stuff too. She didn’t want to give any of it up. She has switched things around a bit & attempted to pace things out a bit more, but like you say, we’re busy modern women & this is just who she is. Now she just has to tell that to her heart!! Hang in there Bron, I’m certain we wouldn’t be who we are without all our “stuff” xx

    • Maxabella says

      A wake up call for sure, Shan. But even then it is so difficult to make the changes we know we have to. We just are the way we are, as you say. Thanks so much for your support. x

  4. says

    I tell you what Bron, you’re doing amazingly if that’s what you fit in but do look after yourself, oK?

    I only have one child and work part-time at home and often I find that difficult. God help me when this baby arrives!

    But I get what you mean about working from home and loving what you do and how time can pass by so quickly. That’s exactly how it is for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, I live and breathe on being busy, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Strangely, I’m secretly looking forward to the challenge of juggling a 4 year old, baby and business…it sort of excites me. Strange, I know.

    I definitely agree, there’s no way we can have it all, something has to give.

    Take care xx

    • Maxabella says

      I do get that strange ‘excitement’ at taking on the challenge, Eva. It’s obviously in us to want to push ourselves to do well. I know you’ll do a great job when the new baby comes – you won’t let yourself NOT do a great job. I understand that completely! I am struggling with the internal changes I need to make in order to be able to make the external changes. x

  5. Elisha says

    Woah!! Hats off to you! Love the honesty in your post and I sure don’t have an answer. Just a thought, Perhaps we really just can’t have it all! Sorry! Stress sure is a bugger in all its forms. Xx

    • Maxabella says

      It is! The whole stress thing is new to me – which is about as ridiculous as it sounds – but I am working on recognising it first and foremost and making changes when I’m ready. I have a lot of internal change to make first, quite clearly. x

  6. says

    WHOA. This: “Having it all is realising that you don’t do ‘me time’ because ‘me time’ is just another thing you need to fit into your over-burdened schedule.” That was me last time husband said to head out for a bit while he stayed home with the kids. But I could… or I could… but what about… yay, I can catch up on… NO. Just grab a book and go, he said.
    And my balance isn’t with a full-time job, just with freelancing. (Although little man’s not in kinder yet, let alone school, so I guess he’s my full-time job?) So I hear you, and I also present no solutions, and I wallow in grumpiness when something else needs to be done and then SOMETHING ELSE needs to be done and it’s not fair because there are already all these other things that need to be done and that I actually want to get done and…
    x

    • says

      It’s a control thing, partly. At least, I think it is for me. And, honestly Em, it’s only gotten busier as the kids have grown BUT yes, mothering when the kids are pre-school is definitely your full time job. x

  7. Kerri Sackville says

    I relate to this so much. I had to force myself to make some life changes recently, because – whilst I didn’t end up in hospital like you – I was having almost constant stress headaches and then a giant fucking migraine that lasted two days. I’ve now become very aware of the role of stress. I don’t meditate. I don’t exercise much. But I do stop and I do rest and I do look after myself because I just couldn’t keep functioning like that. You have to get to your own personal breaking point and I got to mine. It sounds like you had yours last year. Don’t have another. Get help around the house. Maybe cook ahead of time. I don’t know. Just don’t let it get that bad again. You’re too important.

    • says

      I know, I know, I know. I salute you for making the changes you needed to so quickly, Kerri. I’m still working on it, but I do think that my being aware of things has already made a difference. I will get there (I have to!). I love that women like you are in my corner. We got this. x

  8. says

    Oh this could be me, I’m exhausted. I’ve started taking 3 different vitamins lately and that still hasn’t kept the sickness at bay. Over the last couple of months I’ve had eye infections, flu, tonsillitis and perimenopause is kicking my butt. On top of that with the 4 girls, I’m working full time and now doing it all on my own! I hear you! It’s so hard! What I wouldn’t give to work from home, that sounds like heaven!

  9. says

    Oh… I always wanted to have a family (kids and -ideally- a partner) but perhaps I’m the lucky one after all and aloneness isn’t such a bad thing!

    Deb

  10. says

    I’m sitting here trying to think of something to write that is as bloody brilliantly honest, refreshing, and heartbreakingly real as this post Bron. I have nothing.
    I’m going to do the old ‘I don’t know how she does it line’ because really, I don’t know how full-time working mums do it. As a stay-at-home slash work-at-home mum, I’ve been totally overwhelmed by my own wanting it all attitude, and more so the ‘look at me! I can do it all’ attitude. I’ve taken a step back. I can’t do it all, and I’ve been so far under that rock bottom yelled down to me ‘you alright down there?’
    I’m pulling back, I’m no longer sucking it up. I’m waving at failure, but realising that’s okay, cause I’ve hit re-boot, and I know me and my family will be better off for it. Life. A series of never ending trial and error. Yep.

    • says

      I loved that expression, Jodi. Rock bottom has waved at me yet, but I reckon I can see it from here. You know what – I’ve never really cared what others thought of my “doing it all”. Never really thought about it. BUT I have been prideful of my calm amongst the chaos and I guess I still am. But it doesn’t help one iota. I’m still rushed, still wondering. x

  11. says

    Wow. It is so tempting, isn’t it, to squeeze as much out of life, but I think you know life’s not a competition, or a test in which you’ve got to do it all. But when you WANT to − well, that’s hard.

    I’m ‘lucky’ – I tried to and had a breakdown about three years ago (I think – no concentration, severe weight loss, emotions all over the place, extended time off work and a lot of therapy and medication, lasted over six months). Now I can’t do it all – I try and something falls over (I forget pick-ups, I burn dinner, I forget meetings, I collect speeding tickets) and I think it’s my mind going ‘nup – you can’t be on that committee, and don’t even think of joining another bookclub. And if you are going to try for that new job, great, but be aware that you’re going to have to give something else up as well’.

    But I agree with the others about employing someone (if you can afford it). It’s not ‘help’ – like you’re helpless – it’s common sense, given you’re already doing more than a full-time job. You probably wouldn’t blink if you saw someone in the same situation seeking external assistance, would you? You need to make sure you’re as kind on yourself as you are to others (and I mean that with lots of love – we all want you to be thriving, not surviving!) xx

    • says

      I’m just not sure what I’d employ someone to DO. Even if the financial factor wasn’t an issue. I don’t feel like I want to outsource my kids. Or something. I don’t even know.

      And yes, you definitely had a breakdown. How dreadful. It must have been the ‘big reveal’ for your mental health issues too. Bam! x

      • says

        Yes, I think it was. Or precipitated by them. One or the other – either way, I’m starting to accept that maybe these mental health issues are actually positive (much as I hate them at times).

        I’ve been thinking of what you’ve written today, and realised how easy it is to look at someone else and think we know the solution – and want to help by giving the answer. But I was wondering – do you want an answer (because there are heaps of options), or understanding? (I think a lot of us do get where you are coming from, even if not all of us are quite managing the scale of activities you are trying to squeeze into every day!) For instance, for me, it’s been the thorough cleaning was for me, thanks to a cleaner – plus slowly trusting my husband with more of the day to day management, which he is perfectly capable of doing, but I felt like it needed to be ‘my thing’. That’s taking a while, but I am prising my hands away from having to control as much. Of course, I then replaced them with additional extra activities (of course I can volunteer for this – of course I can be on that committee – of course I can host ‘insert’ at home. You know the drill). But I am trying to learn, and extract myself a bit more. Plus learn not to advise, but support – which can also free up some space (and you are such a caring person that maybe that’s part of it too??)

        I guess I’m saying only you will know the approach that will work best for you – what you can let go of, if you allow yourself to let go. Hopefully, the addition of your blogging friends, in addition to your wonderful husband, family and friends, and your own confidence in yourself, will help you to trust yourself to let go – of some of the things that, in the end, you’ll hopefully find weren’t as important for you to do as you thought. And mostly – take care!!! xxx

        • says

          Understanding, I think Helen. Because the answers can really only come from me. But what I truly want is a CONVERSATION. I want to talk about this so we might affect some change. Otherwise our girls are going to be having the same major problems that we are having and, just as our mums fought for choice for us, I want better than that for them. x

      • Mrs P says

        We pay a beautiful cleaning fairy to come and clean our home once a fortnight. We pay a lovely gentleman to wash our dog and another nice gentleman to mow our lawns. Of course I still clean and tidy the house and hubby still works on the yards with me, but now we have help. Getting help with the house was a HUGE step for me. Releasing control of something was challenging and oh so rewarding. The kids are only allowed one extracurricular activity a week so hubby and I can schedule in time to fill our own cups, with activities that we like to do.
        I am not as good a worker as I used to be. I used to be over dedicated to my job. Juggling that with parenting and being present in my marriage was incredibly difficult. Sometimes I miss that old me. The woman who had all the balls in the air and felt like she was kicking butt in all areas of life. But the truth is, that woman was beyond stressed and exhausted. She was so crippled with anxiety that a speed bump hit her like a mountain.
        I’m still busy, but our weeks are planned with quiet family time scheduled, for a whole day, every week. I’m still exhausted but I think that will improve when I don’t have three young children and I can sleep through the night and maybe not start my day sometime between 4am and 5am.
        I sometimes feel like I’m not doing a good enough job, and when I do, I do an honest assessment of WHY I feel this way and if there is anything that needs to change.
        Two years of weekly psychotherapy and the best advice I can give you is as cliche as it comes…
        Just do it.
        Schedule time for you.
        Add a cleaner into your budget.
        Schedule a quiet afternoon or day, every week and don’t compromise on it. Don’t make excuses, just do it.
        Instead of figuring out what to cut out first, figure out what needs to be included that isn’t yet. Then work around that. If grandparents don’t work full time, perhaps they can help with reading or the school canteen? Your family will still be stepping up for the school and your kids, and you’ll give your parents or in-laws the chance to give back as well.
        Asking for help gets easier with practice. You might even find out that sometimes, it’s a gift to others, who take great joy in helping you.
        Just my two cents based entirely on my own personal experiences. Thank-you for sharing your experiences. I’m so glad I clicked on your link. X

        • says

          Thank you so much for sharing, Mrs P and nice to meet you. I loved your story and I can relate in unexpected ways. We have a weekly cleaner, a monthly gardener and I’m actually really, really good at asking for help and accepting it. What I’m not good at is prioritising. I want to do all the things. I’m stubborn and silly, but I’m also in love with all that I have in life and want to be INVOLVED. Ironically, I think it’s my own “helpfulness” that lets me down. That plus being a big, fat martyr. Either way, I’m jays so happy to be talking about this with women from all kinds of situations. It matters to us and it’s going to matter to our own girls even more. x

  12. says

    I’ve been you in many respects. What I learned from my life’s experiences is this: we back ourselves into the corners. No-one else does it. ‘I’ was the one who said ‘I’ couldn’t afford to stop and have a break from a role that I was severely overworked in but my health ended up ”making me’ do it. Personally I’d rather I’d admitted where I needed help and had been prepared to either accept it or the advice. Hindsight is my lesson to you. Take care Bron! We are apparently only here once.. D xx

    • says

      Good insight, as always, Denyse. I am lucky in that my health scare was rather minor — only made major due to my allergy of penicillin… but I am probably just making excuses again – I am so good at that. I’ve made some big changes health-wise but I haven’t made even a dent in the lifestyle changes I know I need to make. I just haven’t figured out HOW and WHAT and part of me rallies against the WHY. Fool that I am. x

      • says

        Actually not a fool at all. I know exactly what you mean. We actually ‘overthink’ the whole thing and the one lesson I am slowly, slowly learning is to be an ‘observer’ of yourself ..like you are talking to yourself in a kindly way as someone who . more detached…It works… and takes lots of time and practice. D xx

  13. says

    Bron, I hear you loud and clear and thank you for being so honest about where you are at. I have found myself in a similar situation and have got some help making necessary changes because I just wasn’t doing it on my own & something had to give. “Help” is something I never thought I needed (stubborn) other than with cleaning the house, but I’ve now got a “coach” who I have been working with for about 6 weeks and it has made an amazing difference. She is gently but firmly challenging me about how and why I do things and has been fantastic about helping me prioritise & letting go of somethings but also to be kinder to myself. I too find the thought of a relaxing bath stressful just another thing to factor into the day but am learning that taking some time out for “self care” in whatever shape or form isn’t a luxury but a neccessity for both myself and the family. I’ve got so many things that I want to do but none of them will succeed if I don’t make some changes. I could discuss this with you for hours! wine time I think!!! xx

    • Maxabella says

      I can’t even imagine doing something like that, Vicki, but that is quite possibly the reason why I take on too much myself. I am the world’s worst delegator and I know it. I need to learn to ask for help more often. Good on you for making such a big decisions and making it work for you so well. I deeply admire anyone who can affect change in their own life on their path to contentment. x

  14. says

    This is/was me. I say that because I flit between both. It is nothing for me to be up at 4.30 am working in my business to free me up for when the kids wake up, same again for late at night. But with 5 kids, I realised they still were not getting the attention they deserved, so we made a dramatic move. We now live close to school, that cut out 2 hours drive time a day. We cut down sport to school sport, which they do at school or there is a bus for and one club sport. So the kids are still fulfilled but my workload decreased. The added bonus being, we are teaching our kids that they need downtime in life too, hopefully helping them to learn how to relax a little reach day. Big hugs Bron, you are doing a sensational job. Xxx

    • Maxabella says

      Thank you Nicole, and well done for making such big changes. I know I need to cut back on the kids’ extra-curricular activities. They love them, but I know it’s too much. They do get lots of down time though – we are a family that made a decision a long time ago to say no to a lot of things so we have lots of time together. We get that and we love it. It’s what keeps me sane and happy. x

  15. says

    A great and honest post Bron. I have been doing some work on a concept I’m calling reYINvention. Because you are right, there is no quick and simple approach (but in our rushed lives we want that do – to feel less stress – in a hurry)! reYINvention means a softer, yin approach and I believe it manifests in lots of ways – slower being one of them, and also creativity, connection etc. It sounds to me like working from home for you is both a gift and a burden. If you were showing up in an office most days you would have to compromise on being the SAHM because WAHM and SAHM are really very different, it is only that you are being so efficient and determined that you are trying to make them into the same thing. And stress is definitely a physical thing, entirely measurable in the biochemistry of the body. Take care of yourself. X

    • Maxabella says

      I will look forward to seeing more about your ReYINvention project, Kathy. I love what you do and how you do it – you are a good reminder to me to stop and enjoy all that I’m creating. You are 100% right about the WFH thing, but I wouldn’t change it. I don’t want to change it because it’s the only way to get the working and the family time I feel like I need. You see – you see how silly I am, how inflexible really? I do need to change my attitude, but in the meantime, I am trying to remain conscious of the moments and breathe, breathe, breathe. Yoga in the mornings helps me a lot. x

  16. says

    There is always a trade off – that’s why I don’t believe anyone can ‘have it all’. When my Mum died suddenly I spent a long time thinking about her life – she had always worked, raised seven children (who all did at least 2 activities on the weekend and after school). I thought (and still think) about the quality of her life, she loved us and did what she did because she wanted us to be happy but it came at a great cost to her. Her total commitment to us meant there was no time for herself or her relationship with my Dad (which ended in divorce when we were all grown up) – her health suffered enormously because she was sad and tired by the time we didn’t need her anymore. Significant loss (such as losing a parent) really makes you look closely at the type of life you want for yourself and at the lessons you want to teach your children. Reducing my work hours means we have less disposable income, but it’s ‘disposable’ so it’s not that big a deal – we have enough to pay our mortgage, put good food on the table and a few treats in between. But I still work and love my work, and I can be present in my children’s lives, without being absent because I’m rushing around thinking about the next place I need to be. Small changes make a BIG difference – I bet there are some small changes you could make, that will release the valve a little. Taking care of your health is so important. Good luck.

    • Maxabella says

      Thanks for your words, Collette. I agree that it is often a loss or hitting rock bottom that makes us examine our lives. I am trying to not let that happen – to be conscious NOW rather than when it all falls apart. You are right that I can (AND WILL) find things that I can change to release the valve. I plan to write about my findings as I go in the hope that other mums can join me in our quest to ‘have it all’ and by ALL, I mean contentment, quiet, peace and joy. x

  17. says

    One of the reasons my long term goal is to work from home (ideally) or at least in my local area is that it would save me nearly FIFTEEN hours a week of travel.
    That’s a whole second job. One I don’t get paid for!
    I have a goal next week of not having ANYTHING on after work, because I can feel my exhaustion coming. All week. Nothing.

    • Maxabella says

      That’s a LOT of travel time, Vanessa. Working from home does give me back time, but ironically one of the things I miss most about my city job was the commute! I never in a million years would have thought that, but there you go. That ‘down time’ made a difference. Of course FIFTEEN HOURS of down time in traffic is bloody ridiculous, but you get my meaning. WFH is fabulous, but there is NO BUFFER. None at all. x

  18. says

    Sometimes I wish we could go back in time to when women weren’t expected to do all the things all the time. I keep adding new things to my plate even though I know I can’t fit anything more in. Why? Why do I do that? Why do we all do that? It doesn’t help anyone. Everyone just ends up getting a ‘less-than’ version of us because we are too hurried and stressed to give them our best.

    • Maxabella says

      Yes, ‘less than’ is definitely what I offer some weeks. It depends on how high up the wave I am on any given week. Some weeks I’m all present, others I barely have time to wee. You know how it goes. Would I go back in time? Very possibly… but I suspect I would miss my job very much. What rankles me dearly is that choice changed for women but NOTHING ELSE DID. Society did not rise to meet us. Men didn’t come on board and culturally nothing much changed. You only need to look at my dear school system to see that. Nothing has changed at school for decades – there is still the same burden on a mother there always was: volunteeering time, supervising homework, being on the P+C. It’s bizarre really!! x

  19. says

    The ‘You Can Have It All’ mantra I’ve long thought does women today a dis-service. Usually in an effort to ‘have it all’ to keep all those ‘balls juggling’, something has to give, and the something we as women often see as the dispensable is our self-care, our health. That’s where we often cut corners.
    When it all boils down the most important, the reason for all, is relationships; with your husband, with your children being first and foremost.

    Bron, can you take a couple of days for ‘mental health’? A day to pamper and ponder by yourself, then a day with Bart to talk over and discern what ‘strings to your bow’ are the most important and what aren’t necessary.
    My dear friend big hugs and prayers. xx

    • Maxabella says

      Always, ALWAYS my family comes first. We are rock solid and always will be. I’ve made so many changes to make sure they are #1, but I realise that some of those changes have come at the expense of ME. Now I just need to work back a bit and figure out what to do about that. Thank you for your friendship and prayers, Erin. x

  20. says

    I can so relate Bron. It took a back injury that confined me to home and a Buddhist monk that coincidentally turned up on my door step at the same time (and stayed for 3 months) for me to finally let go of having it all. I ignored far too many health scares before that (including one that was very close to causing me to lose Liv a few months before she was due to be born. Yet i still didn’t make the depth of change needed).

    For me it took a good deep look at what exactly i’m trying to achieve with my life – and fully believing in the “not all at the same time malarkey”. I have to. Because i can’t do it all. Nobody can. Life is long. Sure – there’s a “ticking clock” – but we have to learn to be patient. And we have to clearly see what our “all” is.

    We made some pretty major lifestyle changes (like living in a tiny home and working quickly towards being mortgage free) to allow me to walk away from paid work for a while. But the changes are worth it a trillion times over. My career isn’t dead. Its just on hold for a while. Good luck finding your solution Bron. We need to be around for our kids as long as possible. Every bit of stress takes away time with our kids and grandkids. Literally. xx

    • Maxabella says

      You’re definitely a ‘soft place’ for me and have been for years, Tricia. I didn’t know you had such a massive scare that changed everything for you. I am hoping to make the changes I need before something like that happens. I haven’t hit rock bottom yet – I can’t even see it from here – but there’s no doubt that I’ll be falling if I don’t do something different. I do wonder if it’s the house we need to give up… but oh, that is so hard to think about. Instead, we are just starting into a massive reno that the house needs. See, crazy. x

      • says

        And you are adding reno!? Yes crazy Bron. We were in depth of major renos plus full time work when i nearly lost Liv. We ended up with a beautiful home (my dream sustainable home with all the eco features) – but we’re very happy to eventually sell it and live in a shed once i woke up to what truly mattered. I do wonder what our life would be like if we’d skipped the renos/extension and simply lived in our home as a simple small two bedroom cottage. Am looking forward to your writings on this topic Bron. Its one i devote a lot of thinking time to. Being trapped in big mortgages is a big part of the problem. xx

  21. Anon says

    May I ask the symptoms that landed you in hospital please? As a person who needs another 48 hours in each and every day, and even then I probably wouldn’t catch up on my outstanding pile…….
    Just curious as to the signs we really can’t ignore and continue to push shit up hill through.

    • Maxabella says

      I would suggest that the signs we can’t ignore are a constant feeling a tightness in our chest and bellies – that’s existing on adrenaline. If adrenaline is constantly high, every system in our body is being overworked. I’ve learned to calm my adrenaline down and be aware when it’s rising. It will be different for everyone, I’m sure. x

  22. says

    I know the crazy rush, rush of my life is so overwhelming and some times feel grateful that the cost of day care means my working would be a pointless endeavor. You are amazing but I hope you will find a way to look after yourself because you and your family deserve a well mumma.

    • Maxabella says

      Indeed my family does, Becky. I’m a classic case of forgetting to put the oxygen mask on myself first… x

  23. says

    Argh. No answers from me here either. I’ve taken six months leave to slow down, but instead I’ve taken on so much to fill in my ‘spare time’ that I sometimes feel I’m back where I started. Sending hugs from my overwhelmed space to yours.

  24. says

    I don’t know how working mothers do it. You work all day, then come home and still need to do washing, cleaning, ironing, cooking and parenting (and all that entails)!

    I agree with Kelly. You may need some help around the house. Years ago, when my kids were much younger and I was feeling a little overwhelmed with getting everything done, my GP recommended I put a notice up at the local Girls’ school to ask for some paid help after school for a couple of hours. She said, ‘Even if you get her to chop up the veggies for dinner, or just sit and play with the kids while you get some stuff done, it’ll help.’ Of course, I never did get around to doing it, but I should have! That really would have been perfect. Maybe you could do something similar?

    xox

  25. says

    Bron, you have two choices: surrender gracefully or have your life turned upside down when a nervous breakdown broadsides you.

    Trust me, I know of what I speak. *

    You cannot sustain this way of life forever. Work is fantastic, yes it is, but when I see you still answering people on your blog at 10.30 at night, then I know you have it all arse about. You’re doing nothing to delegate, nothing to work smarter not harder, nothing to prioritise yourself into the mix.

    Nothing towards working on a part time basis either.

    I know what I’m saying is tough to read, but I’ve been there. I ignored the warning signs for years and years and then when I finally hit my wall my life was dismantled before my eyes. Marriage, work, house and home, all gone within 18 months, and much of that was in my control, was within me to save and prioritise, but I didn’t because I couldn’t step away from the roller coaster I was riding.

    You do have choices Bron. Begin with the choice to be real about it. Nothing is worth the damage to your health, your work least of all.

    *And I’m sorry for the tough love approach, but it upsets me to see people passively approaching the abyss and thinking they can control the damage of the fall.

    • Maxabella says

      I do love your tough love, Sandra and I know you know what you’re talking about. I am listening and I’m making small changes as I go. A couple of things I do know for certain is that my marriage and family are rock solid – my husband and I and even the kids are in this together – and that I think this is a discussion for ALL working mothers, I know it’s not really about me. It’s a work in progress. x

  26. says

    Oh Bron, you took the words right out of my mouth! I was about to comment last night when I read it, but realised I needed to actually get a couple of hours sleep in because I keep thinking I’m juggling it all quite well, but I’m sure I’m actually not. My skin breaks out into this weird rash thinger, has done for years and no one can tell me why or how. But anecdotally I notice it comes when my plate is way too full. Which is every day these days. I’ve had to start back working (from home) when each of my babies have been 6 weeks old, and then I just continue to add on additional jobs from there as they get older and head to daycare for a few days a week. Paid help isn’t an option because we simply cannot afford it. Dialing back on work isn’t an option because I’m the breadwinner, and at least I can earn money while juggling the kids at home for part of the time. I’m trying to do more writing so I can have some more flexibility to work from home, but as you know that’s a huge hustle and it’s quite variable. So in a nutshell I don’t have an answer either! Because we know things aren’t about to change anytime soon. It is what it is, and sometimes grappling with the injustice of it all just serves to make us feel more distraught and stressed. I just try to enjoy the quieter moments when they come, focus on the long term path, and know that we’re not alone. And drink wine by the bucket. 😉 x

    • Maxabella says

      I’m the same, Sash. I feel sometimes that raging against the machine is just that: raging. But lately… well, lately I want to give voice to my frustrations. I do ‘have it all’ and by that I mean a fulfilling career, a beautiful partner, crazy kids and the big house on the hill… but, more importantly, I have love in abundance, a seemingly irrepressible sense of humour and kindness in every corner. That’s the real meaning of ‘having it all’ and I try to remember that every day. x

  27. says

    I hear you. I am incredibly busy with client work — too much really. But as soon as there is something I can help with at school, my hand shoots right into the air. Because I figure that’s why I have elected to work from home and freelance rather than going for a big corporate gig. So I’m pretty sure I’m busier than ever. I suppose we all just need to learn to let go a little and say no a bit more.

    • Maxabella says

      We do. And I think we need to keep knocking on the door of society saying, “not good enough”. Not good enough. x

  28. says

    Great post Bron, thankyou for just being honest. It’s bloody hard and I have no brilliant answers for you, I think it’s something that each of us have to work through in our own way and find our own answers. Take care x

    • Maxabella says

      Agree, Sarah. The more I think about it, the more I am going to fight this as much as I can because if we don’t – our daughter will be having this exact same conversation 20 years from now. You can be sure of that. x

  29. says

    You are definitely in my brain this week I swear! So beautifully articulated as always!
    I’ve just decided to scale back the time I spend on the blog. Something had to give as the rushing women’s syndrome is a real thing lately and is only getting more intense as work picks up at this time of year.

    I wish I had read this before I had a conversation with my manager recently (50, single, childfree) who is pressuring me to possibly take on extra days next year. I just can’t see how I can physically do it all and still be the mum I always wanted to be! The comment you made about about not wanting to outsource your kids nails it for me! xx

    • Maxabella says

      Don’t take on the extra work! Back away slowly….!!!

      I’ve never really scaled up the blog, so scaling back never had to happen. I just blog when I can and don’t worry when I can’t. Weeks of radio silence followed by eight posts in a row. What do I care? I just love being here when I can. x

  30. says

    I hate not doing what I want to do…I don’t know if I am just stubborn or if, like you said, that 1980’s girl power mantra has been drilled into me.
    But if I want to be a mother, work, run the cake stall, run a small business, go back to uni, cook, garden, do yoga…I don’t see why I can’t do all of those things. And do them all at once.
    It isn’t a saying no thing either. I am happy to say no to things I don’t want to do. The issue is more I legitimately want to do everything!
    I have felt myself stepping back recently though. This is really woo-woo but I got a psychic reading and she said something that really struck me..she said I have all the puzzle pieces to my life and these puzzle pieces can go together in a multitude of ways, instead of feeling like I have to figure out how they all fit together now, I would be better off sitting with them and ensuring I create the puzzle I want to create, no one is going to take my puzzle pieces, I have all the time I need. I think just hearing someone tell me to slow down and to think was enough to make me…well…slow down and think. I would say I am just as busy as ever but perhaps less rushed? I feel like there is less pressure behind the business? I am no longer striving, rushing through one thing to get to the next, but enjoying the process more? Maybe I am just having a good run.
    Anyway, I don’t think there is an answer…well there is but I think it involves a huge societal shift and I don’t know if that will occur during our lifetime.

    • Maxabella says

      Stubborn, raised to believe… I don’t know what it is but I just want to do all the things because I love all the things. And I liked your psychic. She makes a lot of sense. I honestly stopped the striving years ago and it helped me so much. Lately, it’s just the physical rush that is overwhelming me, the emotional rush I let pass me by years ago. x

  31. Ana Leonor says

    I have an office full-time job, meaning that I work around 8/9/10 hours a day, 5/days a week, plus 45 minutes in the morning and end of the day for commuting. I have a 7 years old daughter and she goes to all her extra activities inside her school because they have a lot of options there, meaning I do not have to carry her around to places, wasting time for both of us (she attends a private school, at a 1 minute walking distance from our house, it’s a fact). I exercise everyday for about 45/60 minutes every morning (at 6 am) and that keeps me sane (and fit!). What I found is that I could not manage (sainly) if i did not have housework help (cleaning, laundry, etc). It would be impossible for me to live without that help and that makes all the difference, because when I’m home I am not rushing to do the housework, or stressed for seeing everything out of place, laundry pilling, etc (I do not deal well with messiness around the house, I’ve learned that at my own costs!). In my opinion, it is the best worth money spending I make every month (besides the basics of course!). Piece of advice: if financially possible, redefine your priorities and DO get some housework help!

    • says

      Oh I have housework help, Ana. I’m rushed, but not crazy! We actually have a weekly cleaner and a monthly gardener AND I have my husband who is the best housework help going. There are actually lots of things I do to reduce the burden of full time working and mothering, but my point in this post is that it’s not really ENOUGH. There’s really nothing that I can do except stop being stubborn. But I’m working on it. x

  32. says

    I learned this lesson nearly two years ago now when I suffered a stress incident (mini stroke) that landed me in hospital too. I later took a redundancy and have been working from home ever since. I’m still busy but it’s a different busy and I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for help and to have a messy house and to say no to things. That’s my worst bad habit – i find it nearly impossible to say no!

    • says

      I’m good at saying no, just not good at stopping myself from doing all the things I love so much. And goodness – a stroke. There is definitely a repeating pattern here and it’s not a good one at all. I hope you are taking care of yourself and I thank you for your warning. x

  33. says

    Well that was a long scroll to get to the comment box. Obviously this sentiment is being felt far and wide by ALL the women! I have no answers only a nod in agreement to everything you said. The only thing I wonder as a work at home mum is do we make things harder for ourselves by merging both lives in the one space? Is an office or workplace a physical representation of “work time” and then the arrival at home after a long day signals time to switch off? I must admit I also harbour great jealousy of my husband’s hour long train ride to the city each day. Could you imagine how many un-interrupted thoughts you could have in that time???

    • says

      I do think not having that “buffer” means it’s hard to switch off the work thing… but I relish the integration of it all for the most part. I’m never not working, but I’m never not mothering either. That’s important to me. x

  34. says

    And here I thought it would get easier once the kids go to school. I don’t have any answers, but I do know that our bodies can’t be put through so much stress. I’ve had health scares too this year and after getting tests done, all was fine, but when my doctor told me to list what I did each day he told me my health issues were related to my lifestyle. The thing is I can’t change my lifestyle. It’s busy and chaotic, but it works for me because I can be the stay-at-home mum I want to be for my girls. I don’t have any answers. But I admire you Bron. I love your heart and please, when you do find the answer, tell us. xxx

  35. says

    This was me. I (or we) wanted it all. Long days and 6 day work work weeks. Looking back, we did have it all but at what cost? My husband got sick and fell into a deep depression. Everything came crashing down.

    I guess if you can maintain it and enjoy it, where’s the harm? But you have to be honest with yourself.
    Hope you can get yourself out of that corner.

  36. Kellie says

    So relatable! This is such a relevant article with the pace of today’s world. Having had a very similar experience in 2013 after trying to do too much I burnt myself out and have spent the last 2 and a half years trying to rebuild my health after burnout and the onset of fatigue and thyroid problems. Rushing and trying to do too much does take its toll on health, it’s stressful for your body whether you realise it or not… I have enjoyed taking a step back from the rush, learning to say no and taking better care of myself. After feeling like I lost the last 2 and a half years of my life I can honestly say I am now starting to feel like I am slowly getting my health back. Sometimes it takes a health crisis to put things in perspective and to allow us to focus on what is really important and what’s not. In the end health is the single most important thing to me because without it I find it’s hard to enjoy everything else around me. Thanks for putting this out there : )

  37. says

    I pay a cleaner 1.5hrs a week. I come home at the end of the week to clean floors & house, unload 1 dishwasher. It feels good. Once a fortnight I pay someone 1hr to do a dump run because we have to bring our rubbish to the dump. Also when I cook meals on weekends I make enough for work during the week. For meals during the week, I make double so I cook every second day. Weekends are gold.

    • Maxabella says

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion. It’s so nice to see you. You are very organised and lucky to be able to afford help, Maria. I’m the same: fortnightly cleaner, meal plan plus eat at my in-laws once a week, gardener once a month plus a husband that does his fair share, if not more… we do what we can to ease the load! I think it basically comes down to two things for me: not enough hours in the week to be the mum and worker that I want to be and I get so tired of ‘making do’ AND a society that has expectations on me for my homemaking skills but not my husband. We should be seen as equally responsible, but we are just not. x

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