In a lot of ways, I’ve always existed just slightly on the fringe of what I’d call the rest of the world.
That’s not to say I’m a loner; I’ve had friends, sure, but I’m often the person who’s more of the friend you bump into, not the friend you call to deliberately meet up with. I’m extremely introverted, meaning I’m often in my own head rather than in the present. I also have a strange obsession with being right (ha), so I have a habit of falling down the rabbit hole of tedium and minutiae – particularly when it comes to grammar and language – which not everyone finds as fascinating as I do. I like to call it job security, but in a lot of ways being interested in the things no one else cares about is, gasp!, isolating.
In fact, I have a tendency to take on challenges that others aren’t interested in, or don’t want to try. In my relatively short career post-college, the majority of my jobs have been the only one of their kind at that company. Even my position now, which I job share and therefore actually DO have a counterpart, is somewhat isolating in its ubiquity. We work across all clients, making us simultaneously members of every team and of no team.
But at work, I like being one-of-a-kind. It leaves me as the go-to person for answers (see aforementioned obsession with being right) and gives me the autonomy and authority to act as I deem necessary, mostly because there’s really no one else to consult. There’s a freedom to being on your own in this way; I can pop in and out of projects, leave my mark and then move on to the next.
At home, though, those same qualities that look like drive and ambition at work can lead to my taking on way more than I can chew. And because of that inability to let go, to delegate, to work as a team, I wind up feeling like I’m doing it all alone.
Because I am. Because I’m a crazy person.
Because god forbid, something gets done in a way different than how I would do it.
The funny thing is – I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.
As women, as mothers, as wives, we’re told we can have it all, but the underlying sentiment is that we have to have it all. We have to be the best wife, mother, daughter, employee, sister, friend and so on. That we have to figure it out. That if we just put our minds to it, we can totally handle it all.
But that’s just it. We’re putting our minds to everything – keeping track of the things that keep the house running – and doing it all alone.
It’s not that the men of the world aren’t stepping up – they absolutely are, and my husband is a prime example – but if I can be so bold as to generalize, the women of the world are still handling so much of the unseen work that it’s absolutely beating us down. (Check out this article on Time that explains it so much better than I could.)
And instead of finding solidarity, support or camaraderie in our always-connected social era, we find comparison and self-loathing for any and all of our shortcomings. We see Insta-edited versions of the lives our friends and family live and wonder, why can’t I do that? Why can’t I handle it like she can?
Why am I the only one who just, simply, can’t?
Personally, I very much do not have it all together. On any given day, there’s a pile of dishes in my sink, laundry getting wrinkled in baskets on the floor and a kid going off to daycare with blueberry stains under his fingernails. My mind races between the work I need to do, the money I need to spend (or save, and for what and how much) and the questions I need to remember for the doctor’s appointment coming up at the end of the month.
It never ends. And the more I tack onto my mental to-do list, the more I feel like I’m falling behind in the endless and solitary pursuit of perfection. The ever-elusive “all.”
So with that, I say, can we all agree to just cut the bullshit here and now?
Maybe if we all quit pretending we have it all, we could all feel a little better about not having it all.
Who really wants it all anyway? That just sounds like more to clean.