"Having It All" Means Letting Go-by Rachel Bauer
I am an entrepreneur. I am a new mother. I am in my fourth year of marriage. I have amazing friends in every corner of the country. I am someone who functions best when I take care of my body with exercise and healthy foods. I am a pet mom to a dog and cat that I adore. I love to relax and often call my television and couch some of “my best friends.” These are the buckets that I want, even need to fill in order to feel balanced and happy. In order to “have it all.”
Generationally, I am an “older millennial”. I was born in 1987, primarily brought up by a single working mother, and have always been familiar with the idea of women “having it all. ” I am in the age group that has lived through the birth of social media in middle school and high school, and through the immersion of it into our everyday lives in college and beyond. I, like everyone else that I know, am attached to my phone: it’s my calendar, my lifeline to work, my camera that I need with me at all times in case my baby gives her first laugh, and my primary source of connecting to loved ones.
Social media is also my primary source for consuming content that makes me feel like a failure– as a mom, as a friend, as someone with a four month postpartum body, as a wife, as an entrepreneur, and yes, even as a pet mom and TV enthusiast. Social media serves as a daily (sometimes hourly, sometimes middle-of-the-night-while-nursing) reminder that other people are doing things better than me. They are taking better photos of their children, they are putting longer hours into their business, they are bouncing back into shape, and they are going on exciting dates with their husbands.
Social media is a constant reminder that I am failing at the idea of “having it all.” Or, at least it was.
Luckily, although I am yet to kick the social media habit, I have recently begun to rethink and redefine my definition of “Having it All.” After all, the notion of having it all was born before me and deserves to be upgraded. It needs to be personalized to fit MY definition of “all,” which is inevitably unique to my life and the things I love.
“Having it all” is an antiquated notion. Who says we want all of “it?”
Instead of trying to fill all of my buckets to the brim in order to keep up with the standards set by unrealistic social media accounts, I am challenging myself to fill my buckets a little bit at a time with the things that matter most. I am asking myself (often out loud- I work from home!) to question the content I consume on social media. Sure, someone may look like the perfect mom, but what are they letting suffer to chase that perfection? Someone may work longer and later hours than I do on their business, but when do they catch up on sleep? What stress in their life is not fitting into the perfect square on Instagram?
For me, having it all is about celebrating daily wins, and letting go of perfection.
I don’t get to walk my dog every day anymore, work out on my own schedule, or talk to my friends whenever I want. I don’t get to be with my baby constantly anymore, and I don’t get as much time as I need to work. I don’t get to relax each night and zone out the way I used to, and I certainly haven’t had many date nights with my husband as of late. My buckets are each substantially less full than they were a few months ago or a few years ago, and they are all filled to different levels on different days.
But that is because the idea of “having it all” is different now than it was yesterday, and will be different tomorrow. Instead of focusing on the buckets I am not able to fill today, I am challenging myself to focus on the ones that I am. I am making sure to fill my buckets with meaning, and I am careful to remind myself that tomorrow I will make time to fill others.
Or, maybe I won’t have time tomorrow or this week or even next week. But I will continue to build MY foundation for having it all, and I will continue to let go of the idea that it needs to look like anyone else’s.
Rachel Bauer is a co-founder of Gild Collective, an organization that designs women’s leadership workshops and organizational strategies to empower female professionals to lead and live with greater confidence and passion.