I recently attended a meeting where I was introduced as the owner of a local wine bar & bistro, a mom of three young girls and a freelance writer. Then came the words that every mama simultaneously loathes and loves… “She does it all.” And like any mama, part of me wanted to pat myself on the back for a job well done because doing it all isn’t easy (actually it’s impossible). The other part of me wanted to scream because why is that the goal we are striving for.
For those mamas who are after perfection, to do and be all, there are two paths. First, you can prioritize what matters to you and do it all within the scope of your values. This means that some things will be left undone because, in the current season, they just don’t matter. The house might be cluttered or dusty. Clean laundry might be sitting in a basket waiting to be folded. The sink might be full of dirty dishes. But that’s not important because you were able to do what matters most.
Maybe that’s taking care of yourself, being a present parent who makes time to play and read with the kids at the end of the day and put a healthy and filling meal on the table for all to gather round. For me, mealtime is a priority even though it may not always look the way I want it to. My goal is to sit together at the table and talk about our day. My girls absolutely love sharing the best part of their day and it allows me a small glimpse into the part of their lives that I’m not a part of while they attend preschool and kindergarten.
The second path to doing it all is to get help… with the children or laundry or groceries or meal prep or all of the above. Help is whatever form works for your family but help nonetheless. In asking for help, you accept the fact that you want it all but recognize that is asking too much of yourself.
You know that you can’t be a fit mama and a present mama and a working mama and a housekeeper and a line cook while still remaining sane along the way. No one can run on empty. Attempting to maintain the façade of doing it all will leave you depleted so you can’t even enjoy the things that matter most. Asking for help isn’t admitting defeat. It’s about knowing your limits and how you want to spend your time. After all, time is our most precious resource, especially with children who are growing and changing each day.
For me, the answer involves a little bit of both. I’ve never been great about asking for help but I’m a realist and understand that there is not enough time in the day to tackle the never-ending to-do list. When I need to, I turn to my neighbors for help. I try to prioritize what is most important to me as both an individual and parent, and accept defeat gracefully. Because at the end of the day, the state of my home, the dishes left undone and the laundry needing folding are not things that define my happiness. When the inability to truly do it all feels overwhelming, I remind myself that this too shall pass.
I believe that we will all be happier if we choose to change our mindset. To quit striving for unattainable goals and focus on the present. To be there when it matters most. To encourage other mamas who are struggling with the season of raising children. To prioritize and reprioritize based on the needs of the moment, the day, the week, the month. The idea of doing it all is a myth that no mama should reach for.
Amanda Wagner is the mom of three young girls, a wine bar owner, and writer of all the things. When she isn’t carting around small children or providing excellent customer service to wine bar patrons, she loves to read non-fiction, listen to podcasts, hit the gym and wind down with a glass of wine.