When You Can’t Do It All

screen print by James Brown – click for info

When I was young I used to love our annual visits to the family of my mum’s sister. They were such interesting people, particularly my aunt. Her many and varied hobbies included wildlife rescue work, auto mechanics, and fashion, and she often accompanied her sleepercutter (lumberjack) husband into the forest to fell trees. What an exciting life she seemed to lead. My own mother seemed so mundane by comparison.

I once asked my mother why she didn’t do more fun stuff like that, and she told me something that has stuck with me. She said, “All of that would be interesting but I would still have to do all my housework when I got home, and I just cannot do it all.”  I felt very annoyed on her part, and resented how my dad was keeping her down, stopping her from being fulfilled. Of course, the issue was not so clear cut as that; Mum wasn’t really a dull housewife and Dad was not a domineering taskmaster. My mother loves handcrafts, music, and books, and she made time to sing, sew, and tutor kids. My dad, while saying a woman belongs in the home, taught me to roof and gutter and supported my ambition to enter the trades.

As a work-at-home mother to young children, I am really trying to do and have it all, the thing my mother said she could not do. And right now we are remodeling a room in our home, turning the master bedroom into an amazing playroom. My husband and I are doing the work ourselves, and instead of the usual struggle I have to balance housework, mothering, and my business, I have hit right up against the blunt reality that I truly cannot do it all. Not “I can’t do it all as well as I like,” but that it is physically impossible. And the thing I enjoy so much, building things, is the thing I feel like I shouldn’t do.

I discovered the real person holding me down is me.

Luckily for me my husband won’t let me get away with that. His nudges for me to hire help range from the pragmatic — “a teenager to watch the kids is cheaper than a carpenter” — to the sarcastic — “it sure is lucky that when you are working big days we all stop eating and wearing clothes.” So I have hired help. And I hate it. I feel guilty and annoyed and lazy to need other people in this way. Even when the housework is a hated obligation, it is hard to give the task to another person who won’t do it exactly right.

So what is the answer, and where does all this lead? I don’t know. I hope I will get better at letting go with practice. I know that it is different for everyone, but I hope some of you can offer ideas or support.

All I know is that I am pushing ahead and trying, and that is all anyone can do.

7 thoughts on “When You Can’t Do It All

  1. Chantelle, I felt guilty, too, for a long time when I decided to hire help with cleaning. I work from home and felt as though I should be able to do it all!
    But then, I realized, that while we need to feel productive in our work, so do others! Once I came to the realization that I was affording another the ability to work (and putting money back into my local economy by doing so) I let go of the guilt! And, even though it doesn’t always get done the way I would do it, at least it gets done (when I’m too busy to even do it)!

  2. I hear your words resonated among many of my homeschooling mama friends (and in my own thoughts!) on a regular basis…we are all eager to create and be and do and give everything, but peace comes when we take things one step at a time. Slowing down, accepting what is, releasing control, and loving ourselves just as we are: good practices for all of us. Thank you for sharing your story, it is so important for us to realize we are not alone, no one is an island, and it’s actually good that we need each other. Cooperation is the essence of humanity. Hoping today finds you feeling at ease and enjoying being in the flow. :)

  3. I know what you mean, hiring a cleaner was one of the hardest and best things I’d ever done. It’s a decision I will never regret. I need to remember this when I’m thinking about getting help in other parts of my life, because I can’t do it all (although secretly I’d love to be able to do t all).

  4. I am still struggling with this – I am now ‘retired’ and SHOULD be able to do it all and get very very resentful when ‘real life’ gets in the way of my art. Or any other project I want to start; new flooring, painting the living room, landscaping in my yard. Control issues, health issues, whatever it is that gets in my way. I have to decide which things are the most important so my head doesn’t explode.

  5. I will definitely keep you in my prayers! There is always a way–whether it is in letting go of something, or finding a new way of doing it–whenever God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window. (I’m not trying to sound preachy, I just want to encourage you, and this quote always sticks with me)!
    God bless, and may He show you the way!

  6. For a few years during my childhood as a homeschooler, my mother hired a tutor. I appreciated this, cause Mom was so busy volunteering with projects she was more interested in, that I was often left doing my schoolwork alone. XD She had great ambition for my classes, but poor follow-through . So hooray for the division of labor. =P

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