I recently went in for an annual physical (six months late, of course) during which my doctor, asked, as they are apt to do, about exercising. I replied that I exercised two to three times a week. (Six or seven times a week would be fantastic—I know I’ll look and feel better—but it’s just not feasible.) When the doctor then annoyingly asked me why I couldn’t exercise more often, my retort was a snarky, “Sure, I can, if you can get me more hours in the day.”
After apologizing, I started thinking about time. How long that wait in the doctor’s office was and how fast the years slip by. How the commute to pick up the kids from day care is the longest hour of the day and how my free time disappears with only a minor dent in my to do list.
The inevitable reflection on where I am in my life and where I’m going followed. Am I allocating my time correctly? Am I providing the space for my priorities to flourish? Do I “have it all?”
So, in honor of today’s post, number 500, I’m exploring the elusive having it all issue again. What does it really mean to me?That last question is the clincher, of course. As you may recall (and as I noted in yesterday), a few weeks ago, I wrote a guest post over at Busy Since Birth as part of the Having it All Project. As someone who is constantly running the how-to-get-everything-done-in-24-hours marathon, the post was a way to think about how I define and manage my life. But, I found it surprisingly difficult to write. And, so, I ended up writing a post that was practical—the 1-2-3’s of my life—not nearly as reflective as I had hoped it would be.
I should start by saying that I don’t think we can have it “all.” Life has way too much to offer, and we’re limited in our resources. For me, having it all, therefore, is the chance to examine those numerous possibilities and prioritize what I want and need, and focus on that. Define my “all.” Chose what I need to reach that goal. Craft the life I want. My “all” will be different from the next person’s, and that’s fine—great, even—as the diversity of choices affords us new lenses through which to view the world. Perhaps that autonomy is what having it all is really about: the power to chose and the power to be who I want to be.
Importantly, though, I recognize that the ability to make choices is true for some of us. Some have the means—financial and otherwise—to decide how to spend our lives. Others do not because of too many reasons to list here—from politics to geography, from money to health—and we are all lesser as a result. I’m grateful to be able to make these choices and recognize the magnitude luck and fortunate circumstances have in shaping a life.
I chose to work and to raise a family. And, it’s hard. Hard because I need more of everything to adequately and appropriately fulfill the obligations I have made. But there’s joy in that process, in my own “all.” And, that’s why I stay at it.
Once I make the choice (or choices), though, there’s the inevitable struggle to make sure I’m succeeding. There are times when I take on too much. Sometimes the stuff I think will be easy is really hard. Unexpected events come up. Life happens.
What I find most interesting is that, when I mention to my mother, the struggles and challenges of getting everything done and of finding work-life balance, she, who came up during a generation of far fewer choices, explains that this was her plan. She raised to me to be an independent, strong woman who had options—and who took advantage of them. She wanted this for me. And, she started early: I was the kid who never had a Ken doll; instead, I had a Barbie who ran the house, took care of the kids, and went to work (in a cool, yellow Corvette). Barbie, in my house, was a pioneer of the having it all movement.
I find myself doing the same for my daughter. I tell her she can do anything she wants. I edit books if the story makes the girl out to be too passive. I marvel at the choices ahead of her and see myself as a caretaker of her journey until she is ready to make her own way.
So, that’s where I am now. My reality as a working parent is different than what I thought it was going to be when I signed up for this nearly six years ago. Some days, it’s tough and I question everything. Other days, my “all” is ok. There are even moments of bliss when I clearly see everything falling in place.
Mostly, I just want more time. Oh, for more time.
Maybe my new “all” should be a 28-hour day.