Bestselling author and mother Taylor Jenkins Reid challenges this unattainable goal and discusses how she realized, after the birth of her daughter, that having good help is even more important.
I spent all nine months of my pregnancy eating McFlurries and reading What To Expect When You're Expecting and I never once asked myself—in concrete terms—how I was going to balance work and family.
In hindsight, this genuinely baffles me. Because my tendency to overthink things is so deep that I have, at various points, given myself hives, back spasms, and stress headaches. But while I was undergoing the largest transformation of my life and identity, I somehow didn't outline a plan for how I was going to be a working mother. I had no plan to "have it all."
I have to think that this was probably because, on some level, I knew parenthood is one of those things you can't make a plan for until you've already fallen down the hole. It is only once you are standing at the bottom of that thing, looking up at the sky, with a newborn in one hand and your job in another, that you can possibly start to formulate a strategy for how to climb on out.
So it was about a month into my maternity leave—when I started to remember my own name and that I am a writer with deadlines—that I began asking myself, "Alright, how do I have it all?"
I envisioned writing books with a baby napping in my office. Or taking phone calls while pushing a baby stroller. I saw myself making homemade baby food and writing personal essays on my laptop. LOLOLOLOLOL NO. No, you guys. No.
I cannot make organic pureed spinach and breastfeed and write my magnum opus. It's not happening.
My job requires one hundred percent of me. My baby requires one hundred percent of me. There is not two hundred percent of me. And also, I need some leftover me for me.
Somewhere along the way, "Having it all," has come to mean "doing it all." Look, I can't do it all. I've never been able to do it all.
I need help.
I need professional childcare. I need my family to step in. And I need my husband to pull his weight. I need him to do half the work of raising our daughter—sometimes well more than half the work—without compromising how much money he takes home.
I need all of these things because someone has to watch my baby while I write. While I'm on a book tour, someone has to feed her and dress her and make sure she gets extra lotion on her back because baby girl's got eczema. When I'm writing a book that requires me to face the dark truths about human nature, someone else needs to be teaching her that "two" comes after "one."
And you know what? Even with other people helping me, I'm still not measuring up.
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It took me a few months after my daughter was born before my brain was fully present at work. My husband is her primary caregiver right now. I supplemented with formula from the time my daughter was two months old, not because I didn't have milk but because I did not have the time and energy to be strapped to a machine every three hours. Now, she eats baby food from pouches most of the time. I tricked her into using a sippy cup by giving her juice. And, once, I let her watch TV because I really wanted to see Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump impression that morning and she would not take a nap.
And after all the work during the day and the breastfeeding through the night, I'm just not together enough to lose my baby weight. Sorry. But I keep eating pancakes by accident. And I paused my gym membership because I went once in two months. It's awesome that some moms can get to spin class but I can't right now. So I'll stay chubby if I have to.
Because while I may not be some gold standard for juggling nine thousand balls in the air like we expect working mothers to do, I'm making it work, one day at a time.
So I'm not gonna lose my mind over the details just so my life can seem perfect on the outside.
I do not "have it all."
But I've got it good.
Taylor Jenkins Reid lives in Los Angeles and is the acclaimed author of One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, After I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Her most recent novel, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, is out now. Her novels have been named best books of summer by People, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, InStyle, PopSugar, BuzzFeed, Goodreads, and others.
In addition to her novels, Taylor's essays have appeared in places such as the Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, and Money Magazine.