Having It All

It’s not necessary that you always answer a young child’s questions "correctly," only that you answer them in ways the child can understand. If "correct" was necessary, we’d read to children from the encyclopedia instead of from story books.

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Having It All

by Janet Carter

The notion of women "having it all" is just one more idea in the list of cultural lies out there, contributing to our stress and robbing us of life. NO ONE can have it all. Man, woman, child – no one. Life is all about making choices, and the very nature of choice suggests that when something is chosen, there is something not chosen.

I work with lots of moms – some stay at home, some work part time, some have full time careers with nannies or daycare. And they are all trying to have it all. And they are all exhausted. Doesn’t matter what the life choice is, the culture has a mandate for all families: run, and run hard. Never stop running and never stop trying and never stop doing and never stop educating and never stop planning and never, ever, ever stop trying to have it all. Never stop.

We are on the cusp of a new school year and the wind up is palpable. Commercials and ads abound for back to school shopping. New clothes, new shoes, endless lists of supplies from preschool to high school. Schedules, classes, sports … on and on it goes. The national addiction to activity, feeding our obsession for more and our insecurity about not enough. And so we fill our weeks, our days, and our minutes with constant doing.

One of the many drawbacks of the choice of hyper-scheduling is what is not chosen: time. The system works on the assumption that children and family and life are like computer programs – download the schedule and let her run. No accounting for the inevitable snags, problems, mistakes and messes that come with the human condition. And if your family includes children, then you are going to need triple the time cushion, because children generally function on snags, problems, mistakes and messes.

A day in the life of a child is a day in the life of the unexpected. They just don’t run on our schedules. Generally, they don’t care about our schedules. Children have no schedules; what they have is time- endless amounts – to do with as the moment dictates. Frankly, it is one of the lovely attributes of childhood, and when we, the adults in their life, try to force them too quickly into our paradigm, we are only asking for additional stress, disappointment and frustration.

And all too quickly, their childhood passes us by. Gone in a heartbeat, we are left with only a distant memory of our own defeat and exhaustion. And sadly, all too often, children robbed of their own childhoods remain children far past an appropriate age. We were not made to go, go, go. We were made to work and rest, work and play, work and rest, and without that critical rhythm, we often sacrifice our health, our joy, and the pleasures that can come with having a family.

There’s a new school year ahead and a fresh calendar waiting to be filled. What will you choose? What will you not choose? Leave a few of those days empty – you won’t regret it.

Janet Carter is a former high school English teacher and mother to four adult children. Based in Richmond, VA, Janet is a Certified Rosemond Parenting Coach, writer, speaker, and advocate for the family. You can follow her on Twitter @janetgcarter or visit her website and blog, www.ourchildishways.com.

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