Is it really possible or is it in the same realm as rainbow unicorns?
I truly believe we can have it all, but the question we have to ask is what does ‘all’ look like for us? Because our ‘all’ is as unique as we are.
In the beginning my version of ‘all’ was the universal one that we can so easily buy in to. You know the perfect mum we see portrayed on TV, in the movies, and especially in adverts. Not only can she do it all, but she looks amazing too!
I found myself as a new mum in my mid 30s who had, I’m embarrassed to say, put on a full 3 stone of baby weight (that wasn’t baby!), not feeling my most attractive. And on returning to work I also discovered the burden of ‘mummy guilt’ as well as feeling exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed.
All of these negative emotions could be attributed to the bought in version I had of ‘having it all’ and being the perfect mum. For example;
- Because I thought the perfect mum would always cook organic vegetables and puree them into perfect ice cube morsels, whenever I was short on time and bought a jar of baby food from the supermarket, I felt guilty.
- Because I thought the perfect mum would always know intuitively what her baby needed and how to give it, I felt stressed when Fin would cry and I couldn’t settle him and I didn’t have the answers.
- Because I thought the perfect mum would do finger painting at the weekend, make cakes for the school fete, attend baby swimming, baby massage and baby yoga, I felt overwhelm when I couldn’t do it all.
Once I realized that it was my own perception of perfection that was causing me so much grief I was able to make two changes that set me free and allowed me to ‘have it all’ the Emily way.
Firstly I recognized that I had a series of rules for being the perfect mum. We all have rules for pretty much everything in life. For example, some people have very strict rules about tardiness and to be even 5 minutes late is a sin, whereas someone else would consider being 20 minutes late quite acceptable.
The problem I find is that most of our rules are rigged to make it hard for us to be happy. Many mums have the subconscious rule that ‘To be a good mum and show my child that I love them, I should read to them every night’ which means that every night that you don’t manage to read a bedtime story, you feel lousy!
Another example ‘I should always put my children’s needs ahead of my own’. So when you try to do something for yourself and enjoy some me-time, you feel guilty and can’t enjoy it. Every mum I have ever met is doing a brilliant job but more often than not they are beating themselves up for not living up to the universal perfect mother.
So the first step in ‘having it all’ is to rewrite the rules in a way that is kind and loving to yourself. So that could be ‘Every time I smile at my children I am showing them I love them’ or ‘Every time I replenish my cup by doing something just for me, I am recharging my batteries so I can be an epic mum’
The second step is to work out what ‘all’ means to you. This applies across the board in all areas of your life, but for now I will focus on the time you spend with your children.
We have established that the fictitious perfect mum loves and excels in every activity possible, but lets get back to reality- what do you love to do with your kids?
Are you a baking mum? Do you love going for walks? Does painting make you smile? Maybe your thing is to snuggle up on the sofa watching a movie or reading a book.
When you do what you love with your kids they will feel it. They will know you are enjoying yourself and feel that enthusiasm. Contrast this with doing something you dislike. If the thought of glitter all over the dining room table brings you out in a cold sweat, you can imagine the tension in the air as you sit down to an hour of art and crafts.
I’m not a baker, I don’t do cakes, biscuits or even chocolate crispy cakes, but my sister does, so my children get to bake when we visit her. Having play dates is a great way to let your children have a go at activities you’re not keen on. I have a very musical friend Catherine, and I was both surprised and amazed when I picked up Fin from a play date at her house, to find the three boys standing around the piano singing together with Catherine accompanying them.
Being authentic in choosing your ‘all’ is also modeling to your children how much pleasure can be experienced doing the things you love, often the things you’re good at.
Yes, it’s good to try new things but it’s also a great feeling to know what makes you smile and be able to do it.
So to summarize, ‘having it all’ is available to everyone. But you need to be kind to yourself and make your rules easy wins, that way every day is a success. Secondly you need to know what floats your boat. Do more of what you love and ditch the stuff that you don’t. And if you’re thinking ‘Well some stuff I don’t like has to be done’ then I would recommend one of my favourite words in the world – delegate, but that’s a whole new topic for another day.
Emily Thorpe is a working mother of two boys. Having initially found motherhood to be a far cry from the ‘Mary Poppins’ version she had imagined, she has since found the perfect balance between work and motherhood, whilst also finding time to pursue her own dreams and be a role model to her children.
Emily is a qualified and dedicated coach and an inspirational speaker, who is passionate about transforming the lives of working women, helping them go from tired, stressed, overwhelmed and feeling guilty to relaxed, calm, balanced and in control.
Author of The working Mums 5-step Solution To Having It All, Emily offers talks, transformational workshops, online programmes and one to one coaching. She also runs programmes and workshops for companies, helping them to nurture and retain female staff with families, within their organisation.