“You can have it all”
For all the progress made during earlier waves of feminism, women still overwhelmingly bear the burden of domestic tasks and child rearing. This is a nearly indisputable fact, though I am sure there is a man on the internet ready to argue his point.
We are expected to have a successful career, rising in the ranks in spite of insufficient maternity leave, inadequate child care support and the de facto expectation that when a child is ill, mom is the one who dips into her PTO to stay home.
At the same time, we are expected to raise our children to be good humans, modeling polite behavior and respect for others. All while answering after-hours emails from demanding bosses and dreaming up new ways to be polite yet firm in enforcing our boundaries.
We are constantly on the receiving end of mixed messages:
Stay home with your kids…but don’t let that resume gap make you unemployable.
It’s great to be ambitious…but omg can you believe she’s letting a nanny raise her kids??
Of course you need to practice self-care! Will that be before your work presentation or after the kids’ soccer game? What, you’re too tired to soak in a bubble bath with wine?
Somehow, our mothers’ brand of feminism has backfired on us.
Yes, we gained access and acceptance in the workforce during the second-wave of feminism. But rather than reshape the role of women in society, we simply had more added to our plates, never realizing that what we actually wanted wasn’t more.
We actually wanted a redefinition of what it means to be a woman, a mother, and an employee/business owner.
Instead of something different, we found ourselves with both. And still, somehow, we continue to battle the outdated stereotype of the mother, the woman who can do it all.
The Truth About Motherhood & Ambition
For a moment, we thought the pandemic might become our great equalizer. Mom and dad are stuck at home with the kids, both forced to juggle Zoom calls with clients while fielding never ending snack requests and diaper changes.
The reality was, in hindsight, unsurprising. Studies quickly found that women were still finding themselves three times more likely than fathers to be responsible for the majority of housework and child care.
During the pandemic, women consistently reported more stress and negative outcomes due to work/family balance than men. One study in 2020 found that mothers with young children reduced their work hours four to five times more than fathers, increasing the gender work hours gap by 20-50 percent. This no doubt contributed to the more than 5.4 million jobs lost by women during the pandemic.
Globally, women lost over 800 billion dollars in earnings in just the first year of the pandemic. Now, two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, women are still struggling to get back to some kind of (nearly) equal footing with our male counterparts.
Women, especially working mothers, continue to search for the elusive work-life balance we’ve always been promised.
That work-life balance doesn’t exist. We have been lied to.
The reality is, no one can have it all… without putting intentional support and boundaries in place.
As an ambitious mother of 3, I have fought most of my life against this lie. For far too long, I tried to do it all. I forced myself to fit into boxes that were shaped by others. I was stuck there actually, in deep personal conflict over the professional path I could see so clearly for myself, and the messages I was being fed about where a mother belonged, which was principally, in the home with her children.
Thankfully, I am not in that place any longer. I have stepped into 2022 after the most successful year in my business, and I’m doing so feeling more fulfilled in my family and my relationships than ever before. How did I get here?
The Secret = Refusing to Do It All
The reason so many of us struggle between motherhood and ambition is because we bought into the lie that we have to do it all.
Several years ago, I made a shift. One that I believe has opened the door to the type of success I experience today.
I gave myself PERMISSION to stop doing it all.
I drew a line in the sand and gave myself permission to only concentrate on the things that matter most to me: my health, my family, my business, and my relationships.
I gave myself permission to hire help for home. I identified the tasks and chores that I have never, and never will, enjoy doing. I noticed just how much time, attention, and focus these things were stealing from me.
When I really began to reflect on all of it, I got angry. Angry that I let myself be swayed by the societal expectations about household duties and gender. Angry that I had ever worried about being judged by other moms and people in my life.
After all, I told myself, there is no judgment when a CEO hires an executive assistant to handle the inbox and the phone calls and the scheduling. Those are tasks that distract a CEO from actual big-picture, money-making endeavors. They are still important tasks, and vital to any organization’s success, but they are a distraction from what the CEO should be focusing on.
Why should a woman face judgment for delegating and outsourcing household tasks?
Once I came to this realization, I began to see everything much more clearly.
This shifting perspective started a decade ago when I had three young kids.
I managed to convince my husband of the time that we should have a cleaner come in once per fortnight to do our house. Then, when all three kids were still in primary school, I hired a nanny three afternoons per week to pick the kids up from school, do their homework with them, make sure they had a snack, take them to any sports training they had, and also start dinner and throw in a load of washing.
This help was an absolute game changer. It meant that for three days per week, my days weren’t book-ended by school pickups. I didn’t have to sit back down at my desk at night and work when the kids went to bed. I felt like I could be a much more present Mum on those days when the nanny came.
As I had feared, I did face judgment. People had some strange reactions when they found out we had a nanny. Several people commented that we must be rich (we weren’t), or that they didn’t know how I could choose work over being with the kids. For some reason, they never asked their father the same thing.
A family member even asked me “How lazy can you be?” For the record, my decision to hire help was never about being lazy. It was about being smart.
Though I had feared this kind of judgment in the past, now it just rolled off my back. I was savvy enough to realise those people were projecting their own fears and money stories onto me, and I didn’t have to take them on as my own. So we continued on with our nannies, until only about 18 months ago.
Somehow, over the past few thousand years, we women got roped into handling all the domestic duties at home. In the last 50 years, even as it became normalized to be a full-time working mother, we’ve never given ourselves permission to let go of those household chores. We still cling to the same outdated expectations, even though it is exhausting to do it all as we raise children, work at our jobs, and grow businesses.
Let’s be the generation that puts a stop to this, once and for all!
Because I believe that through transparency, we can put an end to harmful stereotypes, I want to share what hiring help looks like for me.
I have a budget for help at home, and I currently INVEST around $2250 per month for a team of people who give me back the time I want to spend with the people I love. This investment allows me to grow my business in a state of mind that lets me show up as the best version of myself.
I think you should consider it too, even if reading how much I invest in help each month shocks you, makes you angry, or makes you sad. It’s a large amount of money to most people, yes, but it is proportional with the value I receive from outsourcing these tasks.
You might want to start off small with just a regular clean each fortnight. After that, give yourself permission to think about other things you can delegate.
Yes, this may require conversations with your partner and they may be uncomfortable, but we must remind ourselves, and them, that we can’t possibly do everything, and it harms us physically, mentally, and emotionally to try.
The fact is, it is not the 1950’s, and our lives are not the same as those of our grandmothers.
We need help, and we are allowed to demand it.
You are allowed to stop doing things that stand in the way of you achieving your personal goals, that get in the way of your success at work or in your business, and that generally stop you from showing up in life the way you want to.
It’s all about choice.
As women we should have the right to choose if we stay as the household help, or whether we hire in some experts to do it for us.
In order to make a massive impact on this world, we have to make space to show up as the best versions of ourselves. Show your children a shining example of what it means to stand up for yourself and hold tight to your boundaries and your ambitions.
Our time is precious, life is short, and your future self will thank you for it (and so will your kids).