A Mother's Essay: "I 'Have it All'... Just Not All at Once"

By Jennifer Marshall

There has been a lot of talk on the interwebs lately about women and work and family and can we really have it all? Some argue yes, we definitely can. Others argue, well sure, if you have unlimited income then, yes, you can. But I think it's safe to say that it's definitely not the reality for most working Americans.

For me, it's all about bursts of having it all. You know, those days when you finally get the kids tucked into bed at 8pm and you sit down and realize: Wow. Today was really awesome. I know -- doesn't happen all that often, but when it does, I like to savor every drop of it.

Those are the days when the kids are happy and smiling when they hop out of bed for breakfast. When they play together so sweetly as I buzz about the kitchen making them french toast because it's what they said they were craving. My coffee is perfect and I sip it as I cook. Everyone loves their breakfast and eats it all up without any spills and I even have a conversation with my little ones as they tell me excitedly about what they're going to do at school that day.

The morning routine continues to go smoothly as I dress my younger one and the older one practically dresses himself after I lay out some clothes. Teeth are brushed, shoes and jackets put on without having to ask ten times, and bookbags are ready so that we make it to school with three minutes to spare. My big kid remarks on the drive to school, Today was a good morning, Mommy. And I drive on with a smile.

Back at home, I dive into cleaning up the breakfast dishes and marvel at how it only takes fifteen minutes when there aren't little ones underfoot. I settle in to get some work done and have a leisurely lunch, actually tasting each bite, before picking up the kids. Their shining smiling faces are so full of joy when I arrive to pick them up. It's been a good break, but I am ready to have them back again, to hear all about their adventures at school. The afternoon sails by with a nap for baby girl and quiet time for big brother while I finish up where I left off with my work.

We play some board games together and read a few books before I realized it's already time to make dinner. My husband arrives home around 6pm, and the kids are sitting at the table in the kitchen eating their meals because they were so hungry from all the play that they couldn't wait for Daddy. I wrap my arms around him for a cozy welcome home hug and the kids both smile at our little display of affection. As he goes upstairs to change out of his work clothes into something more comfortable, I think to myself, How did I get so lucky?

Now, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of days when I am counting the seconds until bedtime because it's been such a rough and draining day. Those are the days when I feel like a terrible mother because I forgot my patience and yelled at the kids too much or because work was so busy that I barely had time to play with them let alone feed them a proper meal. But when the days come where I have juggled everything with ease and I look around me and am in complete awe at all that I have, I am filled with an immense gratitude for life and motherhood.

Makes me want to push my luck and just go for one more. But that's another post altogether.

Finding a balance has been a lifesaver for me. I enjoy my first career and appreciate the flexibility I have in working from home. For me, trying to have it all - all at once - is way too stressful. It makes life miserable for me and my family which is not fair for anyone, myself included. Instead, I have come to terms with the reality that it is better to go with the flow of life than to try to arrange all the responsibilities of work and family into a perfect package. If I work on a contract for 9 months and then want to take five or six months off to give my family my complete and undivided attention, then I'm going to work hard at our family budget in order to make that happen. It's worth it in the end and the balance it provides our family with gives me sanity.

Balance is the key for me in life and work and I am very thankful for being able to have it all even if I don't always have it all at once.


Jennifer is a 34-year old wife and mother of two young children. Over seven years ago she suffered her first manic episode. Several months and many doctor's appointments later, she was finally diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder  Type
I.Jennifer's blog, www.bipolarmomlife.com, documents her progress, and keeps her accountable and healthy for her family.  Along the way, she hopes to help fight stigma and inspire other people who are struggling with the same feelings, fears, and insecurities that she was at one point. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just need to keep fighting hard to get there. You can email Jennifer at bipolarmomlife@gmail.com.

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