"BRB. Just trying to excel in my career, maintain a social life, drink enough water, exercise, text people back, stay sane and be happy."
It’s a real balancing act and that doesn’t even take into account keeping your kids alive! So here is my shout-out to the tired mamas! To the working mamas, the stay-at-home mamas, the single mamas, the mama hustlers. There has never been a better time to be a woman. The sky is the limit and it’s our time to shine.
But the pressure to do it all while maintaining our role as a primary caregiver is not easy. The juggle is real. Can we do it all? Do we really want it all? As I write this in a hotel room on the second night away from my family, I guess my personal answer is "yes, we can", but not necessarily at the same time.
I love what I do. I’m so grateful and proud of the work life I have created, but I’m also overwhelmed most of the time. I feel guilty, I feel pulled and I feel stretched. I struggle to fulfil the competing roles as a mum, wife and aspiring boss lady.
Just having a family is a juggle. Add a career, side hustle, friends, fitness and something to satisfy our soul—it’s easy to burn out. High-achieving women everywhere are maxed out and overwhelmed—and a lot of the pressure comes from ourselves. We live in a culture of comparison. One that glorifies "busy". Are we doing enough? Are we doing it well?
Ironically, I even put pressure on myself to "slow down and be present". I fantasise about being the #slowliving mama who shops at the farmers’ market and bakes superfood brownies, but in reality (in this season, anyway) I am that mum burning around the supermarket on a time trial, apologising as my toddler pegs linguini, my school boy begs for (highly processed, definitely not vegan) treats and I skim read (but rarely answer) texts and emails pinging on my phone.
Somehow I think I’ve become addicted to this fast-paced life. I want to grab on to the opportunities. They fulfil me and give me an identity outside of "Mum", but other days I want to throw it all away and just be Mum. The push–pull is real. So is the pressure to attain the elusive "balance". I think it’s much more attainable to work on a "blend"—a fluid one at that, which changes with different seasons. What is important to me is that family is always my priority.
Even if my daughter knows the Uber Eats bag means "num" and I’m not cooking as much as I used to because of my current workload, I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m doing the best that I can for my family in the current circumstances. Our children will love us regardless. I’m sure most mamas can relate to the meme that goes: "It’s either me or the house who are going to look tidy today. Not both. Never both."
I’m very passionate about the idea that having kids can enhance your opportunities or capabilities, rather than limit them, but there is absolutely a limit on how much we can juggle at the same time. We have an incredible ability to multitask, but we have to understand that one or more of the things we’re trying to juggle probably won’t be done to a great standard. If I’m full steam ahead on the work front, my house will look like it’s been robbed, dinner has been delivered on a motorbike and I won’t have responded to any texts for a week.
If I’m living my best "mum life" by cooking dinner every night, helping out at school and getting to tutoring, soccer and ballet sessions on time, then work emails will get missed and I won’t have time to exercise.
For me, the key has been to drop "perfection". Done is better than perfect. Some things will be done at 50 per cent and that’s OK.
Images and text from Not So Mumsy by Marcia Leone, photography by Carmen Yeates. Murdoch Books RRP $35.00.