Doing it All: A Realization
Here I stand shoving grapes in my mouth watching my 1-year old avoid the grapes on her tray and lick peanut butter and jam off bread making sure to drop any and all food items she doesn’t like on the floor… my mind trips over how I’m ever going to do my taxes by Friday, how I’ll ever finish 2 TV pilots by yesterday (honestly they were due last week), and when I’m going to build the play kitchen her uncle gave her. Oh, and then I have two classes to teach this afternoon that I haven’t even thought about, plus a phone call I was supposed to make for my personal assistant job last Friday, and TONS of emails to send for my fifth job as a college admissions consultant. And all I want to do is dance to ‘80s music with my daughter, because she laughs so much when we just dance together (and ‘80s is the best escapist soundtrack—come on, Whitney Houston, Madonna, The Bangles?!). When I was pregnant I had this deluded notion that motherhood would be easy because I played with every age kid all those years I babysat… same thing, right? And then the truth arose like the snake-headed Medusa: I DO love being Xoa’s mother, but I never realized how hard it would be to do everything else WHILE being a mother. With my fiancé’s job bringing in less than what we can live on (especially since he broke his arm) and all my jobs are freelance, guess what—I went back to work 2 1/2 weeks after Xoa was born. Maternity leave was not an option. In fact, I brought my 2-week old to my tutoring jobs, dog-sitting gigs, and all meetings I had about scripts. And I thought that was hard! But that was nothing compared to when she started crawling. At 5 months. Wiggle & Work saved me so many times.
There’s a strange phrase that has been going around for a while, and I never really thought about how wrong it was until now… “have it all.” It’s strange for two reasons: number one, I have never heard it in terms of a man—ever. No one says to a man, oh, you want to work and become a dad—you can’t have it all. And secondly, there is no state of “having” anything as a working mother. In my mind “having” connotes this lovely passive, sedentary action: having a cup of tea or having a piece of cake. There is absolutely nothing passive about my life, and if I ever sit down, it’s so a small mouth can suck one of my nipples dry. I didn’t “have” a baby. I pushed a baby out of me with all the strength I had left after 26 hours of excruciating pain. I don’t “have” a job. I work 5 part-time jobs to provide the needed financial stability to my family. I don’t “have” a child: I am feeding a child, educating a child, reassuring a child, snuggling a child, rushing to the ER with a child, and keeping a child’s hands out of her own poop. So there is a correction that needs to be made to that phrase: we, as mothers who also work, DO it all. I am in no way trying to assert that fathers do not also have it really hard in 2019 in America. They do too. In fact, in no way is any parent having it all. We are all DOING it all. And we have to. According to a recent study, over 50 % of us are not going to surpass our parents’ incomes. Wages have stagnated and there is not a lot of government support for us in terms of childcare, substantial parental leave, or early education programs. Not to mention so many of us have moved out of the suburban towns where we were raised and into cities far from our parents, who have a hard time babysitting using Facetime.
All of this to say: it is hard. It is hard to be the parent you want to be. It is hard to do it all. This is not new, but it is different from our parents’ generation. The stress is different, the country is different, wages are different, jobs are less stable, and climate change is creating an uncertain and scary future. If you are feeling the pressure of all of these things like I am, know you are not alone. Now more than ever we need each other’s support. And yet often I feel like I’m in my own little bubble… just trying to squeeze work into whatever time I have when I’m not explaining why shoes aren’t good things to put in one’s mouth. I have so many friends with babies, but I only know what they’re doing because of Facebook and Instagram. And social media isn’t telling me that they too are struggling—social media is telling me that they are always smiling at the zoo or hanging out all day at the Zimmer Museum with not a care in the world. That’s a false narrative, and we can’t let ourselves think that our lives are the only imperfect ones. So, tomorrow I’m giving myself a treat: I’m going to lunch with a fellow mom to hopefully get some sentences in about our lives being hard in between the sentences about staying in your high chair and not using hand-smashed avocado as a hair product. Then, I am going to Wiggle & Work to video chat with a high school junior to give her advice on how to get into her dream college. Hopefully I won’t have too much baby food smeared all over my shirt…
Originally hailing from Massachusetts, earned her film degree from Columbia University and headed to Tinseltown. Once here, she started working in production, writing, producing, and directing (as well as doing countless odd jobs for real money, as one needs to do in this industry!). With her writing partner Katie Locke O’Brien, she’s sold shows to IFC, ABC and Warner Bros TV and she also has a children’s book, Nathaniel T. Culpepper is Missing a Sock, currently available on Amazon. She became the mother of Xoa Gerety-Mott-Jahn on February 19, 2018, and her life has never been the same!