From The Straits Times    |

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I want it all. I feel guilty. I have it all. I can’t do it all. Can working mothers effortlessly balance the motherhood seesaw while fulfilling career aspirations? Is having it all a mindset, and do we lie to ourselves thinking we’ve got everything under control while ignoring the ever-present guilt and anxiety? Do some mothers have it easier, sacrificing one side of the seesaw for the other? 

What does having it all mean

As a maternity coach, one of the most common aspirations I hear from working mothers is the desire to balance motherhood, while still finding joy and eradicating guilt while progressing in their careers. Women feel so pressured by the notion that they must do it all and consequently get asked if they indeed have it all. Spouses, friends, colleagues, and family all look towards mothers as guiding light for their children’s upbringing, but also to commit to work and financially help support the home. 

As mothers, our role in our children’s lives doesn’t have an expiry date, we are mothers for the entirety of our lives, but our careers do have a shelf life. Feeling strained by the pull of maximizing the years where we can dedicate ourselves to our roles, gives us a sense of satisfaction and purpose, which does increase confidence and well-being. But the line gets blurry when we feel the constant need to excel in both areas of working woman and mother. Our societal definition of having it all means that we shine and excel relentlessly in both areas, but truthfully, that’s hard to do. Where does this pressure come from, and how can we define having it all for ourselves that removes the unrealistic perfection, to a more holistic and peaceful definition.

As mothers, our role in our children’s lives doesn’t have an expiry date, we are mothers for the entirety of our lives, but our careers do have a shelf life.

Define your version of having it all

If somewhere were to ask me if I had it all, I would wholeheartedly agree. That’s because I am a proud imperfectionist. I know I make mistakes in both areas of working and motherhood. The reality is that these mistakes are only learning opportunities, and I believe no one is perfect all the time without slipping into stress and worry. I would rather maintain a healthy mental outlook to my life and embrace the teetering seesaw. If we strive for equilibrium every moment, chances are something makes a sacrifice. 

I see many burnt-out working mothers, who simply need to shift their mindset into embracing a little imperfection. Maybe you don’t know your child’s homework assignment, or you didn’t organize that playdate last week. Children are resilient, and explaining the reality of your role as a mother and working woman is honest and genuine. When we drop the ball and negatively label ourselves as failures we just run the chance of constantly feeling like we aren’t good enough. I encourage mothers to explain to their children that working not only makes us feel good, but even though they are the center of our universe, so is our purpose and how we choose to spend our days. 

Changing the narrative to explain that working not only provides a financial benefit to their lives, but the benefit to you as a woman is equally important. If we teach our children that we must get everything right, we create a dangerous narrative for the rest of their lives. Life isn’t perfect, we don’t always get it right, but we are in the constant pursuit to do our best. 

Move with the seesaw

There are precious moments in life that may require you to be a dedicated loving mother, and on the other hand, you may have days where you to be a stellar working woman. Let the seesaw move and start to have your own clear definition of what it truly means to have it all. To me, having it all is health, happiness and knowing I’m trying my best. And in the worst case, if things fall out of place, I dust myself off, try again, and keep going. The motherhood seesaw is powered by resilience and flexibility, so embrace your reality, share it with your family, and know you certainly have it all.  

Shireena Shroff Manchharam

Shireena Shroff Manchharam is a Her World Tribe member, the founder and principal consultant of Sheens Image Consulting, and the founder and creator of Getting to Happy, a mental health movement to inspire our community and society to live happier, more mindful lives.