Can Working Parents ‘Have It All’?

posted by Andrea | 02/6/2013

working mom

This topic has been on my mind for well over a year — since just before Nora was born. And now, almost 15 months later, I’ll be the first to admit that I grossly underestimated how difficult it would be to manage a full-time at-home job, all our home renovations, Dave’s busy schedule, and a baby… all while trying to have some semblance of a life!

So can working parents ‘have it all’?

Obviously, I think part of the answer depends on your own definition of ‘having it all.’

For me ‘having it all’ means a happy family, a healthy baby, a growing business, the ability to support Dave as a teacher and coach, a clean & organized home, a smart financial plan, and a little time left over for fun.

Whew!

As many of you know all too well, I like being productive, crossing things off my to-do list, and planning ahead.  So you can probably imagine how Nora’s arrival stopped me dead in my ultra-productive tracks.

Yes, I politely smiled every time someone told me “your life will never be the same after your baby is born,” but I also rolled my eyes the second those people walked away. After all, one baby really wouldn’t be that much extra work. I could totally ‘have it all’ and then some!

Feel free to laugh, point your finger, and say “I told you so”.

Nora is darling, and of course, we wouldn’t trade her for the world… but as I mentioned yesterday, our current daily schedule is less perfect – especially for someone like me who likes to be productive from the moment my feet touch the floor.

I want order and a set-in-stone daily schedule with no hiccups or mishaps. However, I’ve come to realize that as a work-from-home-parent, there is absolutely no way my daily and weekly schedule can be anywhere close to as structured as it was before I had Nora!

So does this mean I can’t ‘have it all’?

Not exactly, it just means that I have to make a few sacrifices and change my priorities a bit.

Some of these changes include:

  • hiring a babysitter to watch Nora for a few hours each week so I can work
  • relying more on family and friends for help (yes, we really do know how lucky we are to have family all around us)
  • lowering my standards for how clean our house really “needs” to be
  • making simpler meals
  • only doing home renovation projects during the summer when Dave is out of school
  • quitting almost all my extra-curricular and evening commitments (at least for a while)
  • being even more focused during my working hours
  • saying no to some very fun and exciting business opportunities
  • only doing tasks that are absolutely necessary
  • getting less sleep :)

Motherhood has taken its toll on me mentally, emotionally, and physically. Some days I feel like I’ve successfully balanced family, home, work, and life. Then the very next day, I’ll crawl into bed (much too late) feeling totally defeated by the number of items left on my to-do list.

No, my life isn’t picture-perfect, and I certainly don’t have all the answers. Dave and I have BOTH made many sacrifices in attempts to find a healthy balance between work, home, family, and life. Some of the sacrifices have been well worth it, others have been opportunities for learning and growth (to put it nicely).

However, I think we do ‘have it all’ — or at least ALL of what is important to us at this point in life. 

I don’t say this to brag, I say this as encouragement for all the parents who might feel totally defeated in their attempts to balance the busyness of life on a daily and weekly basis. There was a long period of time when I thought I’d never be able to ‘have it all’ ever again — I know how frustrating that feels.

If my super type-A personality can make it through to the other side… so can you! 

If you’re a working parent struggling to find that balance between work, home, family, and life, I’d encourage you to take a good look at all the tasks you do each day and ruthlessly eliminate EVERYTHING you don’t absolutely need to do.

So can we ‘have it all’?

Again, this depends on your definition of ‘having it all’.

For me, the answer is YES (most of the time!) Even though I’ve had to prioritize and make many sacrifices this past year, I’ve still managed to hold on to all the things that are most important to me.

I can live with that!

What do you think… can we ‘have it all’?

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18 comments

  1. Kristen

    02/06/2013

    Andrea, I really love your blog. All of it.

    I’ve often sat on my sofa on Sunday nights, after lunches have been packed, outfits have been picked out, week’s menu is finished, keys and coats by the door…. if I can have it all. But then the dog needs to go out and the baby wakes up crying and I find myself hustling until ten o’clock at night. Some nights, amid my exhaustion, I feel something very strange. Fulfillment. Those nights, I’m reminded that I do “have it all.”

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  2. Carolyn

    02/06/2013

    It does get easier as the children get older. Time is fleeting.

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  3. Katy

    02/06/2013

    I really like your point about having it all…means having your version of “all.” I have three kids…two of them under 2, and sometimes it seems like others don’t understand when you say, “sorry, we can’t make it.” But they forget that bringing two babies to a social event is a lot of work, and frankly makes it difficult to enjoy time with friends when you’re constantly chasing little ones. I cherish this time with my kiddos, and as have said in several of your blog posts, we have to do what is best for our family…and hope that friends will understand. Thanks for all your inspiring posts!

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  4. Five4FiveMeals

    02/06/2013

    You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time.

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    Debby Reply:

    Well Said Five4Five. I heard Oprah say that once.

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  5. Mare

    02/06/2013

    It’s amazing when we figure out what “having it all” really means. There is nothing like a beautiful little face smiling up at you in thanks (at 3 am!) when you have come in to comfort her instead of letting her cry it out. In my world (which may or may not be someone else’s world!), that is truly “having it all”. =)

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  6. Rachel

    02/06/2013

    Having it all is a perspective, an attitude. One needs to realize they have it all instead of feeling resentful of the things they are missing out. When I read your “schedule” post yesterday, I thought what a great attitude and perspective to your family, work, and life in general. Today’s post confirms it.

    To answer your question: of course parents can “have it all” as long as they know what they want, what is most important, and what they are willing to give up in exchange for their present priorities.Then again that applies to everyone. People who have it all are people who gave up things in order to get there.

    Thanks for a great blog!

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  7. Tara

    02/06/2013

    I would say my level of fulfillment in life is about 200% higher than it was pre-kids. Am I running ragged and feeling defeated 50% of that time? Yeah, many days I am. But I never feel insignificant or that all of my hard work has been wasted. It’s not about perfection. It’s about finding joy in the journey, always learning and growing, and gratitude for every season of life we are granted. Once you’ve mastered that you find you do have it all…whether or not your house and schedule are falling down around your ears. Of course it sure is nice when they aren’t.

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  8. Terri

    02/07/2013

    Define “having it all”. All of WHAT exactly? Even your current definition will change a year from now. That happens when you have kids. It’s a continous journey of changing and learning–for all of you. Before you know it, the highchair disappears, the bottles and diapers go, she’s learning to read and count and color inside the lines, the dance and music lessons start, and then she’ll be in school all day. Next thing you know, the toys are all gone and she’ll be talking about boyfriends, college, driving, and working that first job. All while you’re approaching 50. That’s where I am. So why waste those early years with her by trying to be superwoman, or living up to a concept of “all”. Isn’t that why this country is in the mess it’s in. You’re already making necessary changes. Do what you can to keep the business going if it’s important to you and your goal. Why have kids if: 1) you can’t afford to, and 2) you’re not willing to make sacrifices to make them a priority before their school years. Talking in general, not to you personally. Relax and take a deep breath. Thoughts need organized too. Check out Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I’m wondering if you misinterpreted the point of my post Terri. I’m most definitely NOT trying be superwomen! I’m simply trying to figure out what’s most important to me, and make time for those people/things/activities.
    As I mentioned in my post, Dave and I have both sacrificed so many things over the past several months… and we knew we would have to make sacrifices once we started our family. Sacrifices are one thing, but don’t think that we have to stop doing everything that we enjoy and everything we get fulfillment from just because we now have a child. Even though MOST of our life revolves around Nora’s schedule, we shouldn’t need to pur our own lives completely on hold while our children are young. I don’t think that is healthy at all,
    Also, as I mentioned in my post, one of the reasons Dave and I stay up so late is because we both enjoy the quite hours after Nora is in bed. Yes we are often working, but that’s the time when we think about the next day, clear our brain, and “organize our thoughts” as you put it.
    So to answer you question, we CAN afford to have kids, we DO make sacrifices… but we DON’T stop living or doing everything we enjoy. We’re doing our best to make time for all the things that are important to use at this point in life. Yes, those important things will continue to change and morph… and we will do our best to respond those changes when they arrise.

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  9. Amy

    02/07/2013

    Hi Andrea! My husband and I love to daydream about one day having it all…….the dream home, all the money we need and then some, being able to travel, ect. But we know that now all those things aren’t possible because of sacrifices we have made in order for me to once again be a stay at home mom. I stayed at home with our daughter for 3 1/2 years and went back to work full time for almost 5 years. She is 10 now and I have now been home again for over 2 years. We knew that this decision would mean major financial changes, but it makes things easier in other ways since we do not have any family close by to help at a moments notice. We also felt that the school /daycare day was way too long (nearly 11 hours from the time she was dropped off to picked up in the evening) Now I am there to pick her up in the afternoon, be with her for summer, Christmas and Spring break ect. We are all benefiting from our decision to not be able to “have it all”. It is financially stessful at times but seeing my daughter run happily to the car when she sees me waiting for her in the car line makes it all worth it!

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  10. Stephanie

    02/07/2013

    It is interesting to read the perspectives of those who have commented, as well as your own perspective, Andrea. I am a school teacher, and have been since graduating college. With 4 children (oldest 13, youngest 5), I have at times been conflicted about working outside the home, yet I haven’t felt clear to leave the school (Chrstian day school). Having a special situation (meaning I could take my little ones to work with me) made all of the difference for me, but obviously it still meant that my kids were up and out of the house every day, didn’t always get my optimal attention, and ate way too many french fries. :-)
    Over the last thirteen years, I have come to the realization that I can’t have it all (and I’m not really talking about materially), yet I do my best to make peace with every stage of life. My kids have been wonderful, and I feel that raising them with more flexibility has helped them to be adaptable. We are careful to always eat dinner together, and we rarely spend any part of an evening apart.
    At this point in life, it is frustrating to me that the house is always loud and I rarely have time alone; however, I know that all too quickly this season will be gone and I will be surrounded by quiet whether or not I want it.
    Moms in our culture have so much to live up to – the pressure can be unbearable. I agree that it is important to closely analyze commitments, etc., and be sure that the family unit is protected.

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  11. Kathy

    02/08/2013

    Yes I was one of those people that laughed when you thought that when Nora came a,one things wouldn’t change however it was not in a nasty way it’s more in the way that you can’t schedule things the way you can when dealing with adults. Babies and brand new babies are a beautiful thing that don’t come with manuals. Ie if you want your baby to sleep from 12-2pm there is no manual and instructions for that to happen. I do believe that you can have a healthy balance of things that are important to you and once you have a baby being on a committee in the evenings are not what’s important to you at this time in your life. I do also believe in the Oprah comment that you can have it all just not at the same time. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

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  12. Heart and Haven

    02/08/2013

    I enjoyed this post. So true about saying it depends on your definition of “having it all”!

    When my husband and I were first married, we were both high-wage earners working outside of the home. We bought our “big house” with travertine floors throughout, gourmet kitchen w/granite countertops & stainless steel appliances, backyard with salt-water pebble tec pool, built-in bbq….all the bells & whistles.

    I had mentioned once about “having it all”, and he made a comment about thinking his sister and brother-in-law being “rich” (financially, they were barely treading water…but they had 4 children, which is what I knew my husband was referring to).

    Since then, we sold our “big house”, moved back to our 3 bd. 1200 sq ft house, had 3 more children, I am now home with the kids (and manage our rental properties, which I really enjoy). My husband does not work overtime unless absolutely necessary to meet a deadline, so he’s homeevery evening to spend time with the family instead. We are truly blessed :-) And yes, it is all about one’s definition of “having it all” :-)

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  13. Tami

    02/09/2013

    It’s not possible to have it “all,” but I think we’re misguided if we think that’s the goal. Prioritize and forget about the rest. If there are even some days when you feel like you’ve managed well, that’s fantastic! (And worth celebrating – preferably with some extra sleep! :)

    In my WAHM experience, the toddler years were by far the most difficult. I ended too many days curled up on the floor sobbing from sheer exhaustion and frustration. Continue to take advantage of the help you have, and don’t cut back in your own sleep too much!

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  14. Kerry

    02/25/2013

    I love your attitude, and I think that perhaps sets the tone for “having it all.” I am very Type A myself, so I am constantly struggling with wanting to do more. I feel like I am in the prime working years and so I want to snatch up certain opportunities and keep expanding on side projects. Yet, there is only so many hours in a day. I have 3 kids, and sometimes I feel like life has become even more crazy. Now we are juggling homework and sports and various activities. At least when my kids were babies, they were relatively portable. I would say I am doing OK on my quest, but I miss having “me” time and couple time. There is a lot to juggle, but my family seems happy and content. I usually am content, but I want more … I just need to be patient.

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  15. Lynda

    11/12/2013

    Andrea, I am new to your blog and have really enjoyed reading your posts! So thank you for the time you put into it because I have found many great ideas and have just found enjoyment in reading it! I enjoyed reading this post…. I feel i have it all when i take the time to appreciate what i have in my life. Some days I am more successful at this than others ;) I feel as I have gotten older and am now married with three children my idea of having it all is much simpler. Thanks, Lynda

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Lynda — and welcome aboard :)

    I love the way you phrased that — “I feel I have it all when I take the time to appreciate what I have in my life” SOOO true!

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