I’m writing this through bleary eyes, with an extra large coffee close at hand. I just got into the office and slumped into my desk chair, a few minutes to go before my first call of the day.
I didn’t sleep well because my kids didn’t sleep well – particularly my daughter, who wandered into my room sometime before 11pm. She eventually fell back asleep, only to awake every half hour or so complaining of her head hurting. Her three-year-old body got warm, but never hot, and I lay there cursing myself for being out of children’s Motrin and trying to get comfortable with a foot in my belly.
The alarm went off too early, as it always does, and the marathon of getting four children out the door began. Missing shoes, coats strewn outside on the trampoline, bagels without enough cream cheese, misplaced water bottles, and battles over the relative comfort level of various socks, fights over who picks the Spotify playlist. The typical start to the day.
If my morning sounds tough, it was. But what I want to share is what happened after that.
I texted our nanny, Cara, at 7am. She lives at my kids’ dad’s house, and I asked her to check if he had Motrin. She confirmed they did, and I told her I’d be dropping the kids off early both to get the littlest medicated and because of my early call. She gave me a thumbs up, eternally flexible to my ever-changing schedule. She’d get the kids to school up the street.
When I walked in, I handed off my finally sleeping daughter to a woman who loves her probably as much as anyone else on earth does. My baby girl wrapped her arms around her nanny’s neck, falling back to sleep in her arms. Cara hugged the boys and finished making a bagel with a much more acceptable amount of cream cheese for one of them. I kissed heads and rushed off to work.
When I got to my office, I texted her when I left to ask her to pick up my son’s prescription. And to remind her that she’d be meeting me at my house after taking the kids to taekwondo at 5pm. “Yep!” she responded cheerily. “Got it!”
If I’m honest, there are so many aspects of this morning that I feel embarrassed to share. Which is why I’m forcing myself to do just that.
I am extremely privileged. That’s probably an understatement.
I have at my disposal so many resources that make my life operate semi-functionally. Some of these come at no cost to me – such as grandparents who are almost always able to help in a real pinch – and some require heavy financial resources, which I’m so fortunate to have for these things.
I’ve also stopped feeling guilty for them.
Earlier in my life, I’d look at women with demanding jobs and families with admiration. They seemed to epitomize the concept of “having it all” that originated four or so decades ago, and being a driven person myself, I felt confident I could also have it all. And I sure wanted to.
What I wasn’t seeing back then, and came as somewhat demoralizing shock, was how far-flung the entire concept of having it all really was. The idea that a woman could manage her home and family as if she didn’t have an outside job and that she could work at a job as if she didn’t have a home and family was ludacris, I soon realized.
Others in my generation were recognizing this too, and we started to talk about it more openly. We began poking holes in the fantasy of being everything, and we also started to figure out what resources were actually going to be needed to run our lives the way we wanted. Some stopped working outside of the home. Some reduced their hours. Some worked in jobs that demanded less of their energy to preserve it for home. Some found a banger partner to help truly manage the domestic labor. Some gave up things that had always felt vital to do, like putting their kids in matching socks.
I’ve been fortunate to be in a profession that can earn a relatively high income. I’m not buying vacation homes or shopping at Whole Foods every week, but I have more economic security than I dreamed possible as a little girl. I also have a job I adore and that brings me joy and meaning. There are days that I want to hide in a closet, but most of the time I feel deeply satisfied.
This for me has meant that my “solutions” for staying in my career full time have mostly been using those financial resources to do so, as much as possible. It’s also meant letting go of perfectionism at home and work and accepting that there are certain things I’m just not going to be doing.
Here are some of the things that I outsource or don’t do in my own life:
- I have a full-time nanny that lives at my co-parent’s house. This means flexible, responsible, loving childcare, and is probably the most significant resource.
At Galia, we have a helper come once a week for our staff to run errands, and I’m able to have her make returns, run to Costco, or get my car an oil change.
I have a community that includes living and able-bodied grandparents and some wonderful friends for my children when other childcare falls through.
I spend money on prepared meals from a local service that, while my kids complain, nourish us any night I don’t have time to make something.
I live in a safe neighborhood where my kids can play outside without concern.
I haven’t baked a birthday cake in probably 8 or 9 years.
I stopped sending thank you notes.
I hire someone to clean my house biweekly.
I let emails and texts go that I just can’t respond to.
When I moved into my own house, I started hiring someone to cut the grass.
I hired someone the other day through TaskRabbit to put together an IKEA bookcase.
I don’t make my bed.
I shop on Amazon for most things even though my conscience yells at me.
I don’t hesitate to reach out to other parents for carpool help.
I stopped going to the PTO meetings.
If something gets lost or broken, I can usually replace it without much issue rather than trying to fix it or going without.
To be clear, there are plenty of things on this list I would really like to be doing myself or differently. I’m not saying I feel good or proud of all of these things. But I’ve worked to accept that this is what makes my life work right now. And I’ve worked to accept that my privilege is largely responsible for being able to keep things running.
These are the things I don’t think professional women talk about enough. We let our Instagram feeds reflect a false narrative – one that looks to outsiders like we’ve managed to bake our kid’s birthday cake, check in on our friends, open a new location for our business, and plan a romantic date night before the week’s out. We’re not showing the world how much money and help goes into any of these things being remotely possible. And I think it’s irresponsible.
We’ve let women believe that they just aren’t doing it right if they don’t feel like they have all their shit together. We’ve let men believe that these vital tasks just happen without their involvement.
If we want a more just world, one in which women aren’t filled with shame and isolation and men aren’t perpetuating outdated gender roles, then we have to start talking about the things that make our over-full lives work. We have to acknowledge the economic resources that requires and the privilege of having access to those resources. We need to debunk the idea that we can do it all or be it all or have it all, and give credit to the people that contribute to our lives’ work and satisfaction.