I Can’t Have It All…

Women can have it all these days, so they say.  We can be mothers and sex goddesses and ambitious career women, and can generally achieve great things.  We can.

One could.

But right now I’m failing at all of the above.

the weight of responsibility

I’m failing as a mother because I’m not there for my children whenever they need me.

I’m failing on the second one (can’t bring myself to put “sex goddess” and “I” in the same sentence) because I have no significant other and no one on the horizon, nor the likelihood of ever having the time to find one – I am basically resigned to dying alone and my body being eaten by cats.

I’m failing as a career-type because I am increasingly resenting my job for sapping my time and energy and affecting the aspects of my life that mean more to me these days than my career.

My week is spent careering (pun semi-intended) from home to school to work to school to home, slap-dashing everything as I go.  I shout at my kids more than I ever thought I would:  for playing up for my attention which is stretched too thin, for making us late, for being rude when they’re probably just modelling my own impatient behaviour.

I drop them at school and check my watch multiple times, willing the whistle to go and the children to be led inside so that I can dutifully wave before legging it back to the car to speed off to the office.  I barely speak to the other mums as I only see them the few times a week when my children aren’t in breakfast club and/or after school club, so I constantly feel out of the loop.  My boys don’t do play dates as there never seems to be time in our week, even if I did get my act together enough to plan ahead and organise one.

Arriving at the office, I park the car and practically run to my desk, desperate to squeeze my contracted hours in without wastage.  Worky work work work…it pays the bills.

At the end of the day I dash back to the car, back to school, and run through the playground and into after-school club.  My babies are sitting, red-eyed with tiredness, the last to be collected.  Immediately they start to play up and I try my best to be patient but I’m so so tired myself and before I know it I’m shouting again – will you JUST get into your goddamn car seat so we can go home?

Fighting through the rush-hour traffic we eventually do get there, and we fall through the door, arguing and pushing and laden down with book bags and coats and lunch boxes.  I stick CBeebies on (do they watch too much TV?) to stop the whining and leg-climbing whilst I make any sort of dinner which takes no longer than 10 minutes to prepare – we are all shattered and the kids need to get to bed tout suite.  Beans on toast again; at least I know they’ll eat that with minimal complaining – I just can’t face more whinging, even though I know that they should be eating something green and more nutritious.

At last, bed time.

The children protest, despite being barely able to keep their eyes open – they know that this hour with me is all they’re getting today.  I try to make it a worthwhile hour.  We have stories and cuddles and I tell them I love them and that I’m sorry for shouting and that I’ll try to be a less frowny mummy tomorrow.  If I’m really lucky I’ll get a sleepy smile and an “I love you Mummy” as they drift away and that makes me feel guilty and glad all at once.

My days are spent wishing for lunchtime, for hometime, for bedtime, for the weekend, for next weekend, and every so often I blink and realise that my babies are toddlers, are big boys, are growing so fast and I’m wishing it all away.

I don’t want to hear the words “I don’t know how you do it all” any more.  The truth is, I’m not doing it all, whatever “it” is.  I’m barely keeping my head above water.  And I know it’s not just me.  Is this feminism?  Is this what we have been fighting for all these years?  Will our daughters and grand-daughters look back on this era and thank us for creating this utopia of opportunity for mothers?

I am a staunch feminist, a fierce mother and a proud Chartered Engineer, but something has got to give, and it can’t be me.

But I am tired and I am stretched too thin, too thin.

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  • Fran 08/03/2017 at 9:24 pm

    Oh Beth I wish this had a dislike button. There aren’t enough hours in the day and you are doing the absolute best you can. I don’t know what to say other than xxxx

  • Mum-Work-Repeat 09/03/2017 at 8:08 am

    I have nodded my way through reading all of this and am with you on every point you’ve made. It’s bloody hard isn’t it! In answer to “I don’t know how you do it” It’s because we have no choice and because we are strong women that want to provide for our children. Hence leading this crazy existence of juggling the work and the children single handedly. I’ve just had a promotion and on one hand I think whoop whoop but on the other I’m now left thinking I was stretched before, now what am I going to do? You may have noticed my blog is now untouched and rarely do I surface on twitter. I just have no head space/time left. That moment I do, I collapse on the settee and switch off in front of some American series. As for getting out there to find someone, when the hell are you supposed to do that with everything else going on, let alone have the energy for it!! I’m with you on the cat front!!
    Anyway to end on a positive, you are doing a bloody brilliantly job, despite you feeling like you’re not. Your boys will grow up to see what a strong, hard working woman you are and what you did for them. Maybe then, they can hook you up with one of their friends Dads that by that point might be divorced or separated!!! Xxx

    • Beta Mummy 09/03/2017 at 7:46 pm

      Ha ha the last sentence made me laugh out loud!
      Yes, the prospect of a promotion fills me slightly with dread, which is ridiculous.
      I have no answers, but it’s good to share even if for no other reason than to know you’re not alone!
      Thanks x

  • Miss K 09/03/2017 at 5:28 pm

    Mum Work Repeat said it all. It’s hard. I saw myself nodding all the way through this (rushing in to do contracted hours was definitely a bit head nodder) but I do have a SO at home to help. So literally I dont know how you do it all but you do cos you have to. Work to live not live to work right? Repeat after me… This too will pass. It’ll get easier. ?

  • Pip 09/03/2017 at 11:23 pm

    That’s not feminism in action.
    A feminist led society would be better geared towards making the life of women with multiple responsibilities easier. Less physical divide between work and good care. In my mind a feminist society isn’t where women are allowed to do what ‘men’ do as long as they also do everything a ‘women’ needs to do as well. It’s the state recognising the work of care and making it not impossible for single parents.
    Kind of like how Feminism isn’t women wearing suits and shoulder pads, it’s wearing whatever we want without the gendered judgment and being valued in that outfit.

  • Sadie 08/04/2017 at 7:52 pm

    I felt you on every part of this, and I’m not trying to juggle this on my own, so no – I don’t know how you do it. And it’s something I hate about the modern world that you, or I or any other parent is expected to. I do the rush, the stress, the shouting and the guilt and then I cry because this is not what I’m told motherhood should be like, what life would be like. I agree with Pip above, this isn’t feminism…its just another way to keep us down.

    But despite all that, you are doing it. I’m doing it. And hopefully our kids will know that.

  • Kimberly - Media Mummy 09/04/2017 at 6:43 am

    Stretched too thin is a horrible feeling. Whatever happens, those stories and cuddles and I love yous are the most important thing for you all and the fact you work so hard can only be a good thing for your children to see. Don’t forget how much fun they have before you pick them up at after school club, it’s normal they’re so knackered surely? You just get to see the irritable end bit sadly, not the 5 mins before bombing around. As for the love life, ask all your friends maybe… two friends set my husband and I up!! Sending virtual hugs x

  • Min 22/03/2018 at 8:41 pm

    I am with you on every point here. This is exactly my life. You’re not alone, and you’re doing a great job. X

  • Vicki 22/03/2018 at 9:50 pm

    Every day I have similar thoughts “get through this, get through this” and then the day is over and I fall into bed straight asleep. Hang in there as the good times are ahead…they must be x

  • Winniedaff 22/03/2018 at 10:14 pm

    You could be me, I hate the grumpy mummy I become when work pressure builds and boy is it building! I’ve tried to explain to my colleagues and boss, but I work in the car crash that our NHS has become over the last 6 years and so every single one of them is feeling it too. We need a new house, I have a boy approaching 11 and a girl of 6, the time has come for separate rooms but in order for me to afford that I would have to go for a promotion, a promotion that would make grumpy mummy even grumpier and would mean she would have even less time to spend with the two most important people in her life. And so a scary, mind blowing decision has been made, I am leaving the job I absolutely loved until 2 years ago, a job that now creates a feeling of dread every week day morning, I am leaving the crumbling health service ( and trying not to feel too heartbroken about it, after all the NHS runs on the good will of the staff but when that good will comes at the cost of my children then the deal is off) and we are leaving the country, by ourselves, for a different life. A life that will no doubt be challenging, and where mummy will still be grumpy on occasion but, and it’s is a massive but, something has to give and I’m not prepared for it to be me, I’m all those two most important people have got after all.

    • Beta Mummy 22/03/2018 at 10:16 pm

      Wow! Hats off to you, you brave lady. Wishing you all the very best with your big adventure x


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