On Not Really Wanting It All

{A brain dump regarding the idea that women can have it all, and the judgment we get if we try to have it all, and the judgment we get if we don't try to have it all... and so on and so forth}

If there’s one thing feminism has taught me, it’s that women can have it all. I’ve had that message drilled into my head for as long as I can remember, with a fairly simple – unspoken – subtext applied by the evolution of the revolution. That subtext being: you can have it all, so you should want it all, and if you strive for anything less than it all, you’re letting down all of womankind

Kind of a large weight for each and every woman to carry on her shoulders, huh? No wonder mine have so many immovable knots...

I wanted to write about this because I wanted to null any shame I’ve been carrying around about the fact I’m winding down my business, and have been doing so since I was around 5 months pregnant. I’m in my 8th month now, and still, every time I’m asked how work is going, I’ll mumble something about taking on less but still getting bits done, when what I should be saying is ‘my husband has been working extra hard to support us both while I close down my business, finish retraining as a teaching assistant before baby comes, and basically do housewife and dog walk duties whilst having lots of lie ins because we’re lucky enough to be in a position that allows us to do this, and pregnancy has taken an unexpected toll on my abilities to do my job, and also to be woken by an alarm without then spending the rest of the day on the brink of vomiting, because for some reason I can no longer handle having less sleep than my body naturally craves.’ The long and short of it being that we work really well as a team, and both contribute equally to the life we live together, only I now bring in significantly less money than before, and he does significantly less cleaning than before, which I struggle with some days, having been essentially self sufficient since I turned 16 and got my first job at the local Argos

And I struggle not because it wasn't a good choice for us, made between us in a mutually respectful and helpful manner, but because of what people would think.

Before pregnancy, we were both success stories in our own rights, career wise. He still is thriving in his chosen field, up there in the top 5% of people in the UK that hold the same job title, and doing some really important and life changing stuff through technology. I ran my own marketing business, after years in top agencies around England, and never had a bad month whilst self employed. But I didn’t love it. And yet, because I didn’t want to let go of it, I seriously considered never having children or, at the very least, putting it off for a really long time

Because here’s the thing. While we’re told we can have it all, as women we’re also labelled fairly early on as either a career girl, or someone that would have lots of babies and be a homemaker. And no matter which way we sway – whether it be to attempt to have it all, to be a career girl, or to be a homemaker – someone will tell us we’re getting it wrong.

Sound familiar?

Case in point, I have a good friend who is married to a doctor. She is a nurse herself, and a good one. She recently made the choice to indefinitely postpone going back to work in order to be a SAHM, and focus on her child and family – which is fine, right? A valid choice, nothing to write home about. Except she worried about that choice for absolutely ages, and for good reason – as soon as she announced her move, she started to get judgmental comments. One even along the lines of ‘guess I should have married a doctor.’ Which, more subtext: ‘golddigger.’ As though those that allow their husband’s to provide have not only taken a step back in time, but have also married in a manipulative manner. Despite the hilarious picture chosen to accompany this musing (taken on a stroll through Manchester, and sent to my husband about a week before our wedding), I for one didn’t marry my partner for his earning potential. I married him because he’s hilarious, kind, a bit complicated, a lot kooky, and hotter than hell in a heatwave. And, before I fall down that rabbit hole and forget the point I’m trying to make, I know she didn’t marry her doctor husband for his job title either

But people still make the assumption, which may make you think that women that work get an easier ride. Except that, on the reverse, I have countless friends that have done the alternative and gone back to work, and been labelled selfish mothers for their ‘lack of commitment to their child.’ These women get raised eyebrows if they can’t attend a children’s party on a weekday, and ill-concealed looks of disgust should they be a minute late for school pick up. No-one taking into account how fast they had to move to get to school in the first place, or how much paperwork some of them will have taken home at weekends just to keep up with their workload once baby is in bed

So you really can’t bloody win. And yet you’re expected to battle through, (misguided) feminist flag flying (misguided because the true meaning of feminism is to allow females choice without judgment, which I fully support) doing everything you can to ‘have it all,’ which apparently means being both present at home and fully immersed in the workplace, maintaining a thriving career whilst also getting the dinner on the table for 5’o’clock each night, keeping up with all of your friends, acquaintances, social media outputs and skincare routine so that you can look dewy and glowy as you flawlessly pull off your wonderwoman act, all while being bitched about by someone or other because, inevitably, you’ll be doing something wrong no matter what you do.

And I’ve kind of reached the point of thinking… why bother?

As I said, I didn’t know if I would have children for the longest time. This was due to both a fear of not being able to have them, and to anxiety around ‘giving up’ on who I am, ‘failing’ for not giving my job my all, and the judgment I’ve seen administered to others that have taken the path. I’ve given it a lot of thought in the past couple of years and, obviously, have changed my mind (hello 7 months pregnant, you sexy little thing you) but it doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle slightly with the choices I am making as a result

So, here I am, laying it all out. I am walking away from my current career. I might return to the same field at some point, or I may go into a teaching profession, as I planned before baby came to be. I might do neither, and be a stay at home mum, a homemaker, someone that washes everyone’s socks and makes everyone’s dinner and keeps on top of when the pets need their vaccinations and when birthday cards need to be put in the post in order to reach their recipients on time. I don’t know anything beyond the next year, which I plan to spend at home in the role of mum. But I do know that what I decide is no-one’s business but mine and my husband’s. Because no-one has a right to judge our joint finances, or our joint parenting choices, or our joint anything, really, unless we ask for input

I’m sure, if I tried hard enough, I could have it all - or at least, the outward appearance of having it all, because so few can really keep all those plates spinning without one at least getting chipped (and I have the utmost respect for those that do manage it) - but, right now, I don’t want it all. And so I have no plans to pursue it all

And that, I’m OK with…

… Or, at least, in time, I will be.

Lottie x

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