Family Matters writes thought provokingly on a subject close to mothers’ hearts – the great Having It All debate. She – pertinently – questions what the It is – and, she wonders, can a single mum to three, as she is, ever have It All?
I don’t think you can Have It All.
None of my children are homefulltime anymore – they’re working, at university, incarcerated in English boarding schools, but just because I am not subsumed by their constant, relentless, glorious (wait until they flee nests if you don’t believe me!) demanding presence, does not mean they are absent. Not when there’s Skype and email, text messaging and BBM; our conversations are announced like virtual birdcall – tweets and chirps and insistent whirring that indicate they need me and NOW. When’s my flight?; Gah I feel sick!; What shall I get dad for his birthday?; I’ve had my passport nicked!!!!; What’s Granny’s telephone number; I’ve lost it; I got a D in Physics; I got a First! and, inevitably, I’ve run out of money.
For the first time in years I AM working full time – full time for somebody else – I have been dragged squealing from the comfortably muddled life of freelance writer and glass artist that I cosily inhabited in pajamas until lunchtime to one where I must accommodate not just the predictable and understandable demands of my children and husband, but of a whole other element that comes with VAT and tax, marketing, accounts, spreadsheets and bedsheets, stocking taking and resupplies and dozens of people I had never met and will be unlikely to meet again despite being responsible for their happiness during our brief acquaintaince. And I know that I’m not Giving any of It my All because there’s too much to get to grips with at once, it’s as if I’m trying to grab fistfuls of marbles from a table top; I never hang onto as many as I want to. And so the things I could have done – would have done – when not working Full Time for a proper boss – are sidelined, bottom-drawered, ignored: a letter of encouragement to Mum; my own wretched accounts; an email to a friend; the bloody filing. Life feels scrambled. And it didn’t use to.
Part of it, of course, is that it’s a long time since I was obliged to use all my cerebral muscle at once. Part of it is that I’m badly prepared for the change. Part of it is that there is more to come. But most of it is that there just isn’t enough time to do all the things I aspire to do, need to do, as well as I want to.
Having It All suggests an accomplished and satisfying, confident and complete scenario, a sort of Having Your Cake and Eating It satiation, no clutching at those runaway marbles, and I’m not sure that any woman – any person – can Do It All whilst Giving It their All, without going mad.
Giving your All to whatever, whomever, it is you’re responsible for – children, partners, friends, a job, YOU – whilst retaining a sense of self and sanity, is all that matters for it is that which will imbue a necessary and sustaining, warm and reassuring, sense of achievement. It suggests the journey is ongoing, evolving, not yet done (for how can it be?), Having It All hints at an arrival.
And I know I’m certainly not there yet!