Having It All

For as long as I can remember I would wait in my bedroom, counting down the minutes each evening for the click of my mother's heels on the tile floor of our entry way. After a long day of work she still looked so stylish in her high heels, Legg's pantyhose and neatly bobby-pinned bun. I spent countless hours trying on her hose and heels, piling my long hair into a high bun, putting on my father's glasses, and walking back and forth in front of the floor length mirror with the determined look of a career woman.

Back then I was what you would call a latch key kid. Today I think our parents would be called felons for leaving their precious children alone to fend for themselves, if even for a minute. We were the kids that knew how to make our own snacks, do our own homework and play outdoors until it was dark. Paradoxically, my friends' moms were home all day, folding the entire household's laundry, vacuuming their carpets into perfect symmetry, sweating at the brow over the simmering Crock-Pot, all while the smell of fresh baked Tollhouse cookies wafted through the house. A big part of me was green with envy. Everything always seemed so blissfully domestic -- the house organized, snacks ready, dinner simmering.

A greater part of me, however, looked up to my mom; I knew I wanted to be just like her. My mom was the always-stylish, smart career woman that tossed her apron and ditched her Crock-Pot for a career. I wanted what my mother had; I wanted it all. Little did I know, back then, that wanting it all meant doing it all.

From the throws of feminism came a generation of women like me blindsided to the realities of raising a family and working just as hard as our male counterparts to have a successful career. The collision of these two worlds is a reality none of us could have ever expected or prepared for.

From the outside people view mine as a coveted life. I am healthy, athletic, have a supportive husband, a great business and beautiful children -- what more could anyone ask for? It is a picture-perfect life. I have days when I unexpectedly cut out of work early to pick up my children from school. Their faces light up seeing Mom waiting at the gates with their favorite treats in tow, a warm glow washes over me when they say "We're so excited it's you instead of the babysitter!" These are the days I feel like the luckiest woman on Earth. These are the days I pinch myself and wonder if this life is really mine.

Then of course, there are those other days -- the days I can't get the kids in the car on time, I'm shouting like a lunatic because we forgot someone's lunch, their shoes still untied and (dirty) shirts on backwards. I screech out of the driveway feeling like a terrible, overwhelmed, impatient mother. I breathe deeply as I enter the school drop-off zone, thinking it can only get better when it suddenly gets worse. All the children in the school yard are in pajamas -- all the children, of course, except mine. My older son, not yet 10 and already brooding, looks at me with disappointment in his face and says, "Thanks Mom, you forgot.... again." My face flushes a red-hot crimson as I look around at the other mom's in their yoga pants with their pajama-clad children, waving them goodbye as they run off to see their favorite hot yoga instructor.

I catch my reflection in the mirror; hair still wet, deep goggle marks circle my eyes from my 6:00 am swim session. These are the days I feel like I fall short at everything I do; more time spent at work takes time away from where my first priority should be -- my children. Alternatively more time with my children takes focus off of my career. People think I am such a great mom and businesswoman and as I sit in my car I feel like nothing short of an imposter.

For all Moms, those who work and those who do not, it always boils down to a balancing act. Some days I juggle each ball in perfect harmony, other days nothing seems to sync up the way I planned. Those are the days I watch as each ball gets dropped in succession. A call from the school nurse, a crisis at work, the myriad of responsibilities I have each day are all part of the fabric that makes up what I like to call my, "not so perfect life." This is the space I have created for a candid snapshot at what it is really like to have it all. My hope for all women in this busy frenetic world is to connect to what I am saying, to support each other more and to judge each other less. Although the piece of art is often beautiful and precious, upon closer looks it is the fine fissures in this portrait that truly connect us to one another as women.