Having It All; Doing It All, Giving It Your All

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.


I can’t.


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!

9 Responses to “Having It All; Doing It All, Giving It Your All”

  1. Family Affairs Says:

    Brilliantly written – glad I prompted those thoughts for you and you are so right – it suggests a certain type of smugness and maybe a lack to striving to do the next thing on the list if you are of the “have it all” brigade…..def not me. Lx

  2. CAN YOU HAVE IT ALL? | Family Affairs and other matters Says:

    […] Reluctant Memsahib has been prompted to write an interesting post about the concept – check her blog out. It’s brilliant. If you enjoyed this post, please share it…. Cherie Blair, childcare, choices, Eleanor Mills, Having it all, work/life balance […]

  3. Sabine Says:

    Thank you for this! Well, there are so many forms and types of The All that I could get quite dizzy with it. The hard job is to filter out the non-all and to accept that there is that thing called life that gets in the way and before we know it…
    Admitting “defeat” can be an act of grace, but it’s not easy.
    And most of the having it all brigade are show offs and pretenders anyway
    Take care and take it easy..

  4. Addy Says:

    It’s funny how you never hear about MEN having it all. Probably because they work and don’t have the housework and dealing with the children like we do, even though supposedly we live in the age of equality. Lots of good wishes that the “job” goes well.

  5. Carol Says:

    Very well said! Some folk seem to believe that others ‘have it all’ – but probably only because they seem to have more of it than they do. But you never really know whay someone has/how great or mediocre their life is because it is not YOUR life. I sometimes think I’d like to be where you are (in terms of location etc), but know that after a week or so it would drive me potty. I love my job (but probably only saying that as at very end of academic year so have fuzzy feelings of success, relief and know that I’m on holiday for next 7 weeks!) Take care – and best of luck with it all. Carol

  6. usgal Says:

    Once you have children you are distracted. You can no longer devote yourself to one single project. You always have an ear out for their cries, whatever their age. Also, going back to work after not working for ten years or so (as I did) is a rude shock. Having a boss is weird, you feel like storming off when she tells you to polish your shoes (plus she’s 12 years younger than you) but because you need the money you stay and take it. You polish your shoes. But you’re 50 years old and think you should be beyond this, but you’re not.

  7. doglover Says:

    Isn’t the first question to ask: what sort of life do I want (as I shall have only one)? Do I want to be highly stressed or do I want a more relaxed life? OK, financial pressures may narrow one’s choice, but even so one can try to have the life one wants.

    Doglover – a mere man who apparently can’t multi-task!

  8. iota Says:

    You’re so right about the journey not the arrival. I’ve never known quite why that phrase “having it all” bothers me, and you’ve nailed it. It’s the smugness of it, the “I’ve arrived, look at me” feel to it.

    I like Doglover’s comment. Yes, what is “it all” to which we’re all meant to be aspiring?

  9. Fi Smith Says:

    Reading your account left me exhausted. You have a choice, you can make boundaries, you can decide how much you want to take on each day. You can prioritise and you can take time out to to recharge your batteries. The latter will make you more effective in everything you do. Remember to take exercise, eat healthily, relax, chat to your friends and BREATHE. Fi xxx

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