I have never read Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" because in 2013 when her book came out, I was 2 years out of college, with a 2 year old, with a partner who was making about $2.
Her book was about as relevant to me as the luxury apartments across the street, I'm sure they're nice but that means absolutely nothing to me.
A few weeks ago I spoke to 300 girls at the high school I graduated from and one of the things these 14 - 18 year old girls asked me to talk about was work-life balance. So I was honest. For me there is no such thing as work-life balance. I work or I life.
I work or I life.
At no time in my life have I been spectacular or perfect at any two things at the very same time. In fact I've never even been flawless at any one thing at any one time.
I'm fairly okay with this. I'm not defined by the 13 minutes late I am for pickup, the second night of Thai food from the place with the B rating, the 139 group messages I missed, the three messages my mom left two Tuesdays ago, the grant report I submitted late, the happy hour I skipped out for the third time in a row, the seven nights this week I've fallen asleep mid-convo with my partner. I am not defined by any of those things because I'm more than my aggregate failures, I am more than the numerous hats I wear.
No that doesn't mean that my bad days aren't defined by dirty dishes (always the fucking dishes) It means my person-hood isn't defined by all my roles at all one time.
Mother, sister, aunt, mom, corporate relations officer, partner, friend.....
My day is not a balance beam its more of a seesaw with just me on it. I can only reasonably manage one thing at a time. In life and in parenting I have begun to understand that principle.
I've begun to understand the unrealistic expectations work, friendship, partners, motherhood puts on you. That these things constantly weigh themselves against each other, they want to ignore the fact that you are really only one person and things have got to fail sometimes. What might mean success for one thing might be failure (in that moment) for another thing.
I would love it if the stakeholders in my life understood that. If they did, it would mean my kid not screaming Moana at the top of her lungs when I'm on a conference call. It would mean my job letting me work remotely and not scheduling calls at 7:00am on a school day. It would mean my friends getting to happy hour on time and continuing to invite me even if I don't show up. It would mean not feeling guilty about taking a sick day.
When I scroll through Instagram it seems like everyone is doing it all. The highlight reels are real. but I have to believe no one is doing it all and behind that perfectly photographed picture of her in her white power suit feeding her kid organic peas (that they enjoy) there is a missed therapy appointment or a nights sleep. She probably still doesn't know who Ted ends with in "How I Met Your Mother". What you don't always see is the burnout of trying to do it all or the nanny or their cleaning service or task rabbit bill.
Goals change, priorities change. Every goal you have for yourself doesn't have to be socially acceptable. This year my goal is to actually make more time for my damn self. That doesn't seem like the good mommy thing to do and it certainly doesn't appear to be the professional move. But given that when I started to write this I forgot about my priorities to myself it probably means its a good priority to have. Next year my goal might be to get Peyton to be a concert violinist or help my partner with his campaign. (See the seesaw)
All this to say you can wear the #blackgirlmagic cape even if you're not in the south of France with your partner, even if you didn't just post a picture of yourself receiving your PH.D while holding your adorable 2 year old who is already reading. You are magic even if your one thing for the day was getting out of the door because some days that is pretty magical.
I work or I life.