Last week I was invited to an industry event that was a great opportunity to socialise and chat more informally about projects and the opportunities in the current market with both executives within my organisation and industry leaders at large. I was going to be cool and confident with my pre-canned talking points to guide the discussion towards how the project that I was working on could help everyone change the energy market for the better, and oh how didn’t they want to be a part of that? My partner was traveling that week so I booked in our babysitter.
Only, the day of the event arrives and my amazing project doesn’t get the funding we hoped for and my sitter texts with images of her curled up in the bathroom with a wicked case of gastro. I still want to go to the event, I want to go and hear about the product launch and play with the cool kids in the energy sector. But I also have a cool kid. A cool kid who isn’t capable of going to the toilet by herself let alone staying home without an adult for two hours. What am I going to do? How can I have my corporate cake and eat it with my daughter and her plastic tea set?
This isn’t about Mom guilt. This isn’t about not being the one to feed her organic brown rice and lamb with steamed veggies for dinner and tucking her in with a sweet bedtime story and a goodnight kiss. This is about being angry that I don’t have access to an infrastructure that allows me to choose when I want step into each role, mother and energy professional. This about my inability to reconcile that I cannot and will never be able to have it all.
This intense pressure that we put on ourselves to do everything well, be everywhere we think we need to be, and engage fully in every activity that we take on is unattainable and, frankly, maddening. No one has it all. Powerful people that we think of as successful don’t have work life balance. They do not have it all. They have broken marriages and stressful jobs and have to prioritise the personal and professional obligations of their employees above their own. They DO have financial security but that can just as easily translate into golden handcuffs and what’s the point of having access to excessive amounts of money if you don’t get to enjoy the life that comes with it?
I thought this debate was over and that we had accepted that having it all is a myth, but I guess not. The more I speak with people and more that I examine my own behaviour, the more I realise that we still want it all.
We need to change the conversation from what we think we want to achieve, to understanding what we need to be fulfilled. That isn’t something that anyone can tell you, it’s going to vary by individual.
I need to understand what makes me happy. I need to define what kind of family life my partner and I should create at home. I need to accept that I have to make hard choices about how I spend my time. I need prioritise my health. I need to call my mother. I need to be a realistic role model for my daughter on how she can find adventure and satisfaction in life on her own terms. These are the things that are going to create genuine value for me in my life. I encourage you to invest in understanding what is going to create value in yours.