Hav­ing it all? It’s just not pos­si­ble

The Wharf - - Front Page - By Claire Spread­bury

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.

Bil­lie Piper

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