Having it all? It’s just not possible
There’s a quiet epidemic among high-achieving women and it’s not a pretty outcome
Billie Piper has spoken for a generation of women.
The 34-year-old talks about the pressure we’re under when we’re “supposed to be successful and business-savvy and coquettish and making cash and a slag in the bedroom and well-read”.
“I just feel f ***** by this amount of pressure,” she told Stylist. It certainly struck a chord with me. Right now, as I write this, I’m sacrificing doing the other 29 things on my to-do list. Things that I really need to do today, so I can go on holiday at the end of the week. It’s an impossible list.
I choose to work full-time hours over a four-day working week so I can attempt to be a half-decent mother to my children, and still have a career that I love.
Being there for my friends as we navigate our way through marriage, divorce, death, kids, redundancy and every other element of life is really important to me too, as is being in love, making time for romance and having a partner that I’ll be with for the rest of my life. Apparently, I want it all. When I negotiated my flexibleworking pattern after having my first child some people actually suggested I should choose what’s most important to me – being a mother, or having a career. Appalled, I set about a vision where I could make time for both of these things and I think I’ve achieved it. Sort of.
But I’m tired. Each time a holiday rolls around and my body gets a chance to rest, I’m ill. I feel constant guilt that I’m not there to scoop up my kids, cook them good food and put them to bed.
I am one of life’s perfectionists, and I’m not alone.
There’s pretty much a generation of women trying to do every little thing brilliantly. And it’s either making us ill, alcoholic or anxious.
“There’s a quiet epidemic occurring among high-achieving women and it’s not a pretty outcome,” says Georgia Foster, author, speaker and life coach. “What looks good and wellmanaged on the outside is not necessarily what is going on inside.”
She notes that when someone is driven just a little bit too much – and too often – the brain demands some sort of respite to stop the madness of meeting deadlines, money issues and trying to fit in exercise while juggling childcare.
“For many, the respite comes in the form of food, alcohol, cigarettes, sex or exercise, as a way to calm the central nervous system down. In good doses this is fine, but being perfect causes vulnerabilities, such as unnecessary anxiety, low self-esteem, and too much selfjudgement and comparing with others.”
Ultimately, she says, we need to stop worrying about what looks good and concentrate on what feels right instead.
It makes total sense, of course. But saying and doing are two very different things.
Baby steps is the way to go, I think. Check in with yourself. Make sure you’re OK – and if you’re not, make a plan to start putting things right.
But if you’re fundamentally happy, perfectionists need to start caring less. Take an extra half hour lazing in bed and forget looking pristine for the school run (honestly, no one you want as a friend truly cares).
If you leave work a bit earlier to check in with the children at bedtime, the chances are tomorrow’s to-do list won’t be any worse than today’s. If you’ve missed a date night/birthday/school concert, plan another date to look forward to and let yourself off the hook.
And let’s talk about it. We need to stop whispering, “I don’t know how she does it,” and instead shout about how amazingly brilliant we all are. Let’s also start realising that actually, none of us care how fabulous a boss/ mother/slut in the bedroom anyone else is – it only makes us feel more inadequate.
It’s time to take the pressure off and live life without killing ourselves.