Making a decision not to have it all (at once)

I read something really interesting yesterday, which made me think again about my work life and my home life. Since having my children I have really struggled with wanting to work and wanting to be a mum. I've wanted to do all of it, without having to compromise either. To some extent I've been really lucky. Working for myself, I can have flexibility and I can work and be a stay at home (a lot of the time) mum. But it's not easy. It's not easy because it's tiring. It's not easy because there's a constant battle going in my head, in my inbox and in my home between my children and my clients.

But that is not the only battle that has gone on in my head. There has also been the battle between wanting to be a supportive wife to enable my husband's work to be successful and wanting to do my own work. Why should I be the one always doing the housework if I'm also looking after three children, running my own business and trying to do something with my poor old neglected unfinished PhD? As I have mentioned before my husband works crazy, crazy hours. Longer than anyone I know or have ever met. He really doesn't have the time or space to do anything else or to think about doing anything else. If he attempts to help with the washing it never leaves the washing machine! I need to be keeping it all together at home because otherwise it would fall apart around us. He can work the hours he works because he is safe in the knowledge that he doesn't have to worry about anything else. (Apart from cashflow but that's a whole other post for another day.) He always has clean clothes, there's always food and beer in the fridge, there's usually a cake, the house is pretty clean and sometimes tidy!

Sometimes I feel like he has it all. He gets to go and work in London, he gets to network, he gets to socialise (a bit), he gets to work as late as he wants, knowing I will always get up with the children. He can concentrate completely on his work without having to think about what's in the fridge, how many loads of washing need doing and if the bathroom's been cleaned. But, he doesn't have it all either. He's missed out on so much time with the children and I know this hurts.

However, this is not what we plan it to be like forever. I have made the decision to do this now, so that he can do his thing now. And, I also really, deeply want to be at home with our young children as much as possible. And to really be with them and not juggling being with them with being with my work.

And then, when this period is over, we have a plan for things to be different. We have a plan for our combined work/life balance to be different. We are working towards having the opportunity to make changes for both of us, for all five of us, and to both have it all but not as much of it all as we once thought we wanted. I spent last year working out how I could spend more time with my children but still do enough work to be happy in that area of my life too. I think I'm at that point now, although as my diary begins to fill up I do hope I can really make the balance work. But I have had to make sacrifices with my work. And I have had to learn to accept there are a lot of things I would love to do now but I can't. But that's ok because what I do have is more time with my children while they are young, which is what I want more than anything in the world. And I also have the joy, pleasure and love that comes with knowing that I really am supporting my husband to do what he wants to do right now.

When I was growing up I thought that as a woman I really could have it all. I thought things had changed in the workplace. I am not really sure they have. I worked in academia for a few years and it certainly hadn't changed for women where I was working. The women doing well were the women who didn't have a family. And women at the top really didn't seem to support women who wanted to combine work and family. It shocked me so much that I made a decision not to become an academic, which was at the time my dream job. It wasn't going to work for me because I knew how much I also wanted to stay at home with my children.

I'm not sure I've really written the response to Muddling Along Mummy's eloquent post that I had in my head this afternoon while I was snuggling with a sleeping toddler on the sofa. And that's probably because it's stuff I could discuss for hours. I have a strong feminist streak, which seems to tell me to strive forward in my career but at the same time all I want to do is be a housewife and a mother. And right now (combined with just enough work to keep me happy) that is exactly what I'm going to be!