• Anwuli Anyah

March 0.5 - You Can't 'Have it All'.

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

Yes, you read that correctly.

There is no such thing as having it all. We should all strive to be the best version of ourselves, but the mindset that breeds unhappiness is the unattainable goal of ‘having it all’.

There are so many things wrong with that phrase. It implies that a working mother is somehow greedy or trying to do too much. It makes it seem like the different aspects of a woman’s life are somehow irreconcilable, or constantly opposing each other. This attitude towards a woman’s professional life is not conducive for her personal growth, and confidence. In an effort to ‘have it all’ she compartmentalizes. As she strives to be the ultimate worker, she avoids being judged as weak so, she shies away from incorporating aspects of her motherhood into her job - the very things that makes her a strong and unique worker. After having these mixed emotions at work, she then goes home feeling guilty for being away. She then tries to assume her role of mother like she hasn’t been at work for a decent proportion of the day.

I am a big believer that the complexities of motherhood makes us highly skilled individuals in the workplace. A mother should blossom and exhume this confidence at work. Change is happening but, we are still in a cultural atmosphere that isn’t conducive to a working mother. She often feels inadequate or at a disadvantage.

This mentality of ‘having it all’ could also make women who decide to stay home to care for the kids feel a little less awesome because she isn’t trying to ‘have it all’. No mother should feel this way. We are all constantly busy and sacrificing, at home or at work.

Nobody has it all.

It doesn’t feel like having it all when on busy days I only have an hour a day to spend with my son. It doesn’t feel like having it all when a screaming baby interrupts my study or work. These tough moments feel like having less than half of 'it all'. On bad days, it feels like having neither. These are the days when in my head, it feels like I’m unable to fully give to both of these demanding roles of mom and physician. Days when I think, what’s the point if I can’t be the best mom and the best doctor? But then I remind myself:

Nobody has it all.

We just have roles and responsibilities as we try to be the best version of woman that we want to be. A working mom is pursuing a career and expressing her freedom by not giving up her dreams of motherhood. A stay at home mom is also living her dream or choice and expressing her freedom to devote all her time to her children. Each pathway should make the decision maker happy. Don’t chose a path because you are trying to prove anything to anyone or ‘have it all’. We know we are strong and can do whatever we want.

I’m finding balance and feeling happier in my roles as I take on a new mindset. By understanding that I’m lucky to have the knowledge and gift of being a physician, I know that it is my duty to use these gifts, to save lives. So I give my time, as much and as fairly as I can to my son, my husband, and my job/calling. I don’t strive for perfection. I just strive to serve.

I’m learning to focus on enjoying my moments of motherhood instead of focusing on the missed days and hours. My son is growing and learning. He is strong and beautiful. I’ve even heard that I’m a great mom. Lol. Same applies to work. I focus on enjoying my time doing surgery and taking care of my patients. Instead of moping that I no longer have uninterrupted study time, I focus on being more efficient with the study time that I have. Check out my post on time efficiency.

Those of us who seem to ‘have it all’ and also seem to have their shit together, don’t. Last week, it wasn’t until lunch time that I noticed my work dress was only half zipped. My toddler had interrupted while I was getting ready and in my rush, I had simply forgotten to finishing zipping up.

It is beautiful when my role as a mom blends into my role as physician. One of my favorite motherhood moments happened this past week. It involved sewing a tail back on, and mending a hole in Tobe’s favorite toy. I was about to leave for work when he started wailing, demanding I fix it. He stood beside me waiting patiently while I fixed Kit Cat. It was like doing surgery on a stuffed animal. True Doc McStuffin stuff!

So apart from my biggest reflection point shared above, these past 2 weeks have been normal and sweet. Nothing too exciting. We went to children museum. We had some rains and enjoyed playing in the mud. I have a few weeks of conferences coming up and I have been dreading leaving Tobe. I get this sick feeling in my stomach when I think about being away from him. But I have to do what needs to be done.

I have really enjoyed writing this reflection. I plan to write a 3 to 5 part series on motherhood in residency. I’ll talk about topics like being a pregnant intern, and trying to find time to pump and maintaining my milk supply in between surgical cases, etc. I think that many new and working moms could find this relevant or learn something. We all learn from sharing.

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