Having It All, But Maybe Not All At Once


By Emily Phelps

One of the things that drives me absolutely nuts is when someone asks me what my “plan” is. It’s kind of an invasive question, isn’t it?

This question comes in many forms: “What’s your plan? What are you working on? When are you going to get married? When are you going to have a baby? When are you going to go back to work?”

Having it all, but maybe not all at once

“Here’s the thing: when you’re a young woman, you face unrealistic expectations.”

And somehow, it’s only ever asked to the women in the room. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked my husband a question like that, well…I’d have no dollars. 

Here’s the thing: when you’re a young woman, you face unrealisitic expectations. We are surrounded by social media stars that tell us we can travel, be fit, be wealthy, and then start a family, and continue to do it all at the same time. (Everything on Instagram is so shiny and bright, isn’t it?)

But, then reality sets in as you approach those post-grad years. You slowly realize that to manage a good job, pay rent, and travel, all whilst not sacrificing your health or quality relationships, pretty much takes a miracle. Yet somehow, you’re supposed to throw in getting married and raising a family into the mix? You see your friends get engaged and promoted, you might even see someone you know have a baby, and you feel like you’re missing something. 

And I’m here to tell you, you’re not missing anything. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing. The pressure you feel to do a certain thing or be a certain way is made up by unrealistic societal expectations, and honestly has nothing to do with you as a person.

It is impossible to have everything you want at exactly the same time, even though it seems to be portrayed that way on platforms like Instagram. 

This is the simple truth: at some point, you will have to make difficult choices.

I’ll use myself as an example. I got married when I was 21, and I had my baby boy when I was 22. I made a bunch of tiny decisions that lead me to this point. The ultimate big ones were deciding to get married and then having a baby. I wanted to be a wife and mother more than I wanted to finish college and have a career. 

Now, some of you reading that may be completely repulsed, and some might see it as inspiration. Either way, my point is that I had to face my reality and as corny as it sounds, I had to follow my gut instincts and my heart.

Do I regret this decision? Absolutely not! There was nothing I wanted more in the world then to raise a family with my husband. And to be quite frank, those decisions never struck me as difficult. I truly was following my heart to become a wife and mother.

What is difficult now is the decision to go back to work full time. It weighs on me sometimes, because I love working. But, because I feel torn, I’m taking small steps towards making a permanent choice. I’m slowly taking classes. I’m teaching myself new skills. I’m preparing myself to get back to work. I crave all of the stress, pressure and excitement that are bound to the field I want to be in. I love being a part of a team, having the opportunity to create something, and to be an asset. At the same time, I’m not ready to leave my son with anyone else. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer to balancing work and being a mom.

All I can do is to remind myself to take it one day at a time. 

So, when you see other women you know on social media displaying how perfectly they “balance” their complicated lives, remind yourself that it is a ruse. No one is perfect. We can make our lives look as shiny and bright as we want, but the reality is everyone struggles at some point.

Making these drastic life decisions shouldn’t happen all at once, even though as women we feel pressured to make instantaneous decisions. It took many months of sitting with the idea of being a wife and mom (and being excited about it every day vs for just a moment) for it to happen for me. It’s now going to take some time to get back to working. Resonate with your goals. Give yourself time to figure out what you want. Don’t pressure yourself into a decision because you want to “have it all.”

The other piece of this puzzle is to remind yourself that your path may not unfold the way you think its going to. And yes, at some point, you will have it all! It just may not happen all at the same time.

Be perfectly imperfect. Allow yourself to try new things. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Allow yourself time to make decisions. Build your life for the future, but also remind yourself to enjoy the present. And most importantly: don’t pressure yourself to be what you see on social media because it isn’t real.

If you want to share your personal experience with trying to have it all, contribute to girl friday! We want to hear from you!