It’s been a long time — over six months — since I’ve blogged. I could say that I’ve been busy, and that would be true, but it would also be an understatement. Every second of every day is allotted to something. If I’m not at home with my toddler, I’m out with her, running errands, eternally at Target with a shopping list that’s always incomplete because I always forget something. (Damn, we needed more dish soap, she says to herself as she pulls out of the parking lot, knowing we’ll be back the next day.) If I’m not making a lunch or a snack, I’m mentally preparing for the next. And if I’m not in mom mode, I’m in work mode, sitting at my laptop, writing one story, doing edits for another, tweeting out a third. The only time I stop moving is to sit in the rocking chair with Izzy at the end of the day, or to sleep. That’s it.
There’s a lot of noise out there — there being the world, the internet, a conversation at a party — about working moms “having it all.” The notion itself has become a throwaway catchphrase, something people say in the abstract, conjuring up a fantasy of a woman who breezily schedules meetings and playdates, dressed in snappy work clothes while dropping the kids off at school. She makes cupcakes for the entire class, she gets a raise, she goes to brunch with her friends, she has date nights with her husband. She’s not real, FYI, cause no one is actually like this; it’s physically and metaphysically impossible.
We only have 24 hours in a day, and if anyone tries to tell you that being a parent isn’t a full-time job that often demands every second of those 24 hours, they are lying lying lying. Even when I’m working, I’m still a mom; that role doesn’t just slip away because my daughter is out of sight. But when I add actual work on top of the work that is motherhood, it easily feels like I’m not giving 100% anywhere, like I’m always one step behind where I need to be. Nothing is ever done, there’s always more on the to-do list. It feels a little like treading water; it’s perpetually one second shy of drowning.
I understand why a lot of women decide to put their work on hold for a few years, at least until their children are in school. I really get it. And while the idea of shaving off a huge chunk of responsibility is appealing, I also can’t abandon that part of myself. I’ve never felt more like myself in a job than I do now; being a writer has been in my blood since I was a kid, and now I’m doing it. The other day, I filed a story about Boy Meets World, and there’s a notebook on my desk filled with scratchings about Pretty Little Liars. I get to write about things I care about, things I’ve cared about for a huge chunk of my life; that’s not something I could easily give up.
I’ve written a lot in here about motherhood and identity, and I think I’ve said a lot of the same things over and over, most notably: Motherhood doesn’t erase who you were, it actually adds onto it — but that can sometimes feel like erasure. You get buried underneath all of the things you are, all of the things you’ve been, and you feel like you just don’t have enough time or energy for any of it. Time flies. The days are also excruciatingly long. It’s exhausting, it’s draining, and at the same time, there’s so, so much love. I can’t imagine a world without my daughter; it’s hard to even believe I existed this much of my life without her. I feel like I’ve known her forever.
I wish more people were honest about the complexities of motherhood; there’s a lot of “real talk” on the internet about the hard parts, but we don’t talk enough about the contradictions. The stark contrast of the worst emotions existing simultaneously with the best ones. Being so wildly in love and also at war with yourself, feeling like a failure and a mess, but getting shit done anyway.
The truth? Sure, we can have it all. There’s daycare, there’s part-time jobs, there’s 24 hours in a day to carve and slice and divide any which way you want. But make no mistake; there’s a cost, an expense that has absolutely no monetary value, but you will feel it with your heart, your mind, your soul, every second of every minute.
But at the end of the day, there’s also love. It doesn’t cancel out the things that are hard, but it exists, quietly, right alongside the painful parts. It’s not a solution, and it’s not an answer, but it’s something. It’s something.