“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, You get what you need” - Rolling Stones
As a working mom, I devour all of the articles about whether we can "have it all." I am frustrated with the debate because I think its asking the wrong question -- I don't know what "having it all" would even look like. And if its meant to mean, can you do all of the thinngs that a stay at home mom does (be the room parent, help with all of the homework, arrange and take the kids to all of the playdates) and also do all of the things that a top partner does (bill 80 hours a week, take clients out regularly, participate in the firm in a meaningful way), then the answer is no. Combining those things would take up more time than exists in a day and no amount of multi-tasking, intelligence and ambition can create enough time to do all of that.
But who cares? The question for me is not can I have it all, the question for me is, can I have what I need? Can I structure my life in a way that I am happy and fulfilled; in a way that allows me to be the mother I want to be and also to contribute to the world in a way that is meaningful and right for me?
That you can do. Or at least that, I have done, and I am happy to share how.
I am a mom of twin 8-year old girls. I was an attorney at Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP for the first 6 years of their life and I am now the Los Angeles Director of Children Now, a statewide nonprofit child advocacy organization, and also a candidate for School Board in LAUSD District No. 4.
I have never had it "all," and often my life has lost the balance I seek, but on a pretty regular basis, I find myself really happy with who I am and what I am doing. I did not feel that way when I first had my girls -- at first I found myself feeling constantly guilty about not being able to fulfill my expectations for myself in both of the realms that mattered to me.
And then two things happened. First, I accepted that there really are only 24 hours in the day and I can't create more. All I can do is use them as efficiently and as wisely as possible and that this limitation means that there will necessarily be trade-offs. That helped me stop feeling guilty for not being able to do everything I might want to do.
Second, I figured out what was important to me and accepted that my priorities are going to be different from others. This part is really important and I think its where many fall down -- I looked at the stay at home moms and felt guilty not doing what they did, and then I'd look at the hard-charging professionals and feel guilty not doing what they did. And then I stopped.
See, I figured out, and accepted, that I wanted to contribute significantly in the world so that meant I was going to work a lot, but that I needed a pretty good amount of time with my girls and my husband -- and for myself -- to be happy, so I was not going to be an 80-hour/weeker.
That meant I went back as a part-time attorney after maternity leave. That allowed me to be home most nights for dinner and bedtime but that I'd often work after they went to bed and put a couple of hours (at least) in every weekend. That is the balance that is right for me. And I should say, this balance I have achieved is more like a sine-wave than a straight line, which is to say that there are periods of time when one sphere goes way up and the other way down.
For instance, I am campaigning really hard right now. The girls know that they are not going to see much of mama for the next few months -- I will miss most dinners and bedtimes for this period of time. But I have prepared them for it, and they know that when the campaign is done, they will get to see a lot more of me (and I of them). And that is okay too -- for me its the larger balance, not the daily balance, that matters most.
That's my recipe and its not the same for others. Some people do not need as much time with their kids to be happy and that's okay. Others need a lot more time to feel good, and that's okay too. Others need consistency as opposed to a sine wave, and that is okay too.
The trick is to figure out the right mix for yourself and then be okay with it. Recognize that this all exists on a continuum and that no choice is the wrong choice as long as its the choice that feels right to you.