I have this wonderful friend. We met when our babies were super young. Toddler and her firstborn were born a week apart and this friend and I met at a lunch for new mothers exactly three years ago.
This friend is one of the most kind and loving and generous people I have ever met. She is the first to organize a birthday dinner or a pre-baby gift. She hosts elaborate and thoughtful play dates. She brings souvenirs home from vacations. She cooks dinner for her family almost every night. And I feel compelled to mention that she is also very pretty and fun and smart.
Anyway. This friend attended my first Happier Hour last week. And I was thrilled that she did because she is very very pregnant with her second child. She came and braved the crowd. And after the event, we traded some emails. And in one, she thanked me for including her. She expressed her amazement at the accomplishments of the women who also attended. And then wrote,
I can't believe some of you ladies can do it all. Careers, blogs, books, Facebook, Twitter, kids, husbands, friends and families, household... I really don't know how you can do it. Not just you either - obviously there were other women there who juggle like you do. I feel like my days are full but can't imagine what yours must be like. Some parts of the night made me feel quite average, as if I should be trying to do more but there is not a day that goes by that I wish I was working. In fact, I consider myself so lucky that I don't have to work. But you ladies are just super women doing it all, and doing it well.
And I got this email and smiled. Because honestly I look at this friend and feel that she is anything but average. I feel that she is extraordinary. An extraordinary wife and mother and person. I feel that she is the portrait of parental devotion. I look at her and feel a surge of insecurity and wonder if I am placing my energies in the right places and if I should perhaps cast a more intense focus on my kids and my family. I told her these things. Because they are true.
And I sit here realizing that we all, all of us, look at other people, people who are doing different things, and who have made different choices, and we wonder. We wonder whether we are doing what we should be doing. Whether we are doing enough. All of us have moments, and places, where we feel utterly and unequivocally average.
And all of us work. All of us. Working is not about paychecks or publications. Working is not about donning pinstripes or doling out business cards. Working is about expending energy and emotion and effort. And whether we are home with our children, or at a desk, or somewhere in between, we are working. All of us.
Writing this now, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a fellow Preschool mother at the beginning of the year. This mother asked me, "Do you work?" And of course I fumbled and stumbled around and treated her to an utterly inarticulate mess of an answer... "Well, I write and blog and am home a lot too..."
But now it is clear. As day. We all work. All of us. We all juggle. And drop balls. Constantly. We all try. And hard. None of us does it all. Has it all.
Why is it so hard for us to see this and to appreciate this?
- Why do we subscribe to such inflexible notions of "work"?
- Why do so many of us feel average when we are really quite extraordinary
- Why do you think these Mommy Wars (Parent Wars) truly exist? (Because, at bottom, we are all insecure about our own choices? Because, when it comes to parenting or other big life decisions, we are more shaky in our confidence?)
- When will Parenthood finally be validated as the Career, the excruciating and important career that it is?