How I Outline ‘Having It All’ as a Working Mother—And How You Can Too
“Thank God that is over,” you sigh as you fall face first on your bed after the day out of absolute hell. Any scraps of energy you woke up that morning have been soaked up by the Oscar-worthy performance you just dished out.
Everyone got what they expected. They always did. Because that is the person you always show: the polished, happy and energetic person who today is completely “made up” in their outfit, maybe even with mascara and lipstick.
You had everything in her eyes. In your heart you know you didn’t. And damn it, being someone you aren’t is exhausting.
In a recent podcast interview I was asked if I believe women can “have it all”. This came after the journalist read the popular quote in my book My Beautiful Mess: “You can have everything, just not at the same time. ”
“It all depends on our definition of everything,” I replied.
Google’s top definition of having it all is “finding career success, raising a child, maintaining solid relationships, and still finding time to take care of yourself and look and feel good.” I’m already exhausted just reading it – and I’ll bet every working mom who reads this is too.
Oh, and the definition of “everything” is “everything without exception”. Apparently we can have everything without exception. Google, you have to think that you are officially preparing humanity for disappointment and failure.
Today I think of it all as a state of fulfillment and contentment rather than a goal to be achieved. Let’s call the stated goal, Summit “Best” (Google’s words). If having everything is a goal, what happens when you achieve it? You are 38 and then life is over? Will you never have it all again? Crikey, that would be a sad story.
Each of us is licensed to write our own definition of “having everything” that only matters to us. It starts with understanding who we are and accepting that everything is a fluid state that is constantly evolving with changing circumstances.
While in the past we could look at life in bigger chunks, today it feels like we all need to get to the heart of it. Many of us can’t look much further than the 24 hours ahead of us or the end of the school day. And that’s fine.
Deliberately letting our inner happiness shine seems more important than ever today.
As the late Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi beautifully articulates in his bestseller Flow, there is no happiness.
“Happiness is indeed a condition that must be prepared, maintained, and privately defended by each person. People who learn to control their inner experience will be able to determine the quality of happiness in their life that is as close to happiness as any of us can achieve. “
The only person who can judge our happiness is us. And what makes us happy today may not be any more next week. It is a state that depends on what these three small but mighty words mean at that time.
Today we need a quick check-in that enables us to dance with the surging time and to nourish our state of happiness from one day to the next. Even if our cup is only a quarter full, it is always better than three quarters empty.
Here are eight questions I sometimes use on a monthly basis. Other times, weekly. Damn it, some days it’s hourly if I’m being completely honest:
- What is most important to me and how will I prioritize that today?
- What do I have to meet today and are these expectations realistic?
- What can I be curious about today?
- How do I want to feel at the end of today?
- What do I have to do to make me feel this way?
- What is one small thing I can do today to achieve a bigger goal that is on the back burner?
- Who can I connect with who is important to me today?
- How do I feed my values today?
I wrote in My Beautiful Mess that my happiness used to be superficial and expensive just because I didn’t understand who I was. I hadn’t delved into my shifts to understand what made me happy or what I stood for when the job title was removed and the accolades stopped. I did not understand that I am enough.
Since then I have learned that happiness is cheap and depends on a few precious gifts from me: kindness to soften my heart, eyes and smile; an honest eye to see through the filters; Patience for the pace that is out of my control; Self-compassion for all crushed hopes; To explore curiosity, because that’s what drives me, regardless of speed; and finally gratitude. Gratitude for waking up in the morning with a smile because sometimes, Google, that’s really all.
Peta was forced to take a break from living in the relentless world of medical device sales after a 14 year career with Melbourne’s spinal surgeon. The following year was her lovely mess. Today, as a consultant, speaker and coach, Peta inspires teams and builds companies and is always committed to more sustainable professional practices that minimize burnout. She recently published a book about her experiences in the distribution of medical devices and their subsequent personal transformation: My Beautiful Mess – Life through Burnout & Rediscovery. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.