BY MELISSA CHAPMAN
Although every fiber of my being wants to say, “Yes, a girl can have it all,” I know doing so would be a huge disservice to my own daughter. The cold, hard truth is that the ideology of the supermom is, well, just that: an idea. It’s a lovely idea and one that has been dangled like a shiny, orange carrot before me as I played by the rules, worked 14 hour days in an office, made myself available to my bosses at every conceivable instance and then, when it seemed within reach, I got pregnant.
At the time, I was lucky and had the luxury of choosing to stay home full-time with my daughter. I didn’t need to put her in daycare six weeks postpartum and head back to work. Yet I harbored this nagging feeling in my gut of being torn between wanting to have a career and the ability to do so while simultaneously embracing motherhood. I thought I could successfully juggle both and tackle various writing assignments when my daughter napped. However, over the years, and now with another child under my belt, those plum assignments – the ones that I knew could help me advance my career – were beyond my reach because I wasn’t willing to trade in eating breakfast with my kids, doing homework, and just being there for an editorial position that would require my physical presence in an office cubicle and a lengthy commute.
It’s been a teetering balancing act for me for the past nine years, and most of the time, I feel like I’m failing miserably at everything. At any given moment during a typical day these are the thoughts racing feverishly through my mind: I should be further along in my career; I feel guilty choosing work projects that may interfere with my quality time with my kids; there are mounds of dirty laundry and dishes going unchecked; and my windows are filthy and I can’t remember the last time I washed them. Oh yes, and then there’s the whole marriage maintenance issue. I often find myself feeling a deep disconnect with my husband, barely squeezing in kid- free conversations with him.
And of course there’s the residual guilt at not choosing to be a full-time stay-at-home mom who is completely and utterly devoted to her kids, and has only their interests in mind. Yes I feel guilty for wanting something that is my own, for not being the selfless mother I feel I should be.
I also look at women who seemed to have broken through the proverbial glass ceiling and emerged as titans in their respective fields like Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer, Condoleezza Rice, and Supreme court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
I’d refer to them as “superwomen” and one underlying common denominator that they all seem to share is that none have chosen to become mothers. And I don’t think it is a coincidence. When you choose motherhood, I believe you are making a choice about the type of career path you will inevitably be able to pursue and maintain, especially if you choose to be a major presence in your kid’s lives.
That is not to say you can’t achieve some sort of balance, but for some of us, there is always something that has to give. Whether it’s giving up that plum press trip to Rivera Maya, Mexico, because your daughter is heading off to her first sleepaway camp experience and you want to be there to drive her up to the camp grounds on her first day, or the fact that each time you walk across the carpet you feel several things crunch underfoot because you haven’t had a chance to vacuum it. The truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as a supermom; just a mom who tries her best to be super.