Everywhere you look these days you see someone who seems to be overachieving in all areas. Not to pile on Gwyneth, but every time she talks about her angelic children, booming multiplatform career, total mastery of the shishito pepper, and razor-sharp glutes, that sound you hear is a nation of women collapsing to the ground in exhaustion and shame.
I’m here to tell you: There’s an easier way to have it all. Ready? Wait for it, as they say.
You just redefine all.
It’s a strategy that my husband, who works in finance, might call “managing expectations downward.” It means figuring out which things matter to you and tossing out the rest. I’m married, with two kids, a full-time job, a great family, and lots of terrific friends. Anything that is not one of those things gets 86’d. To pull this off requires commitment, a deep laziness, and an ability to be proud of all that I am shirking. So here it is, my public confession about the things I’m not doing in my quest to “have it all.” Might give you some ideas.
My car does not get washed. Ever. Los Angeles is a car culture, and Angelenos value a sweet ride. My car is nice and was originally a sexy cherry red, but years of city schmutz have rendered it sort of a smoky maroon. It needs to be washed, waxed, buffed, and probably a couple more things I don’t know the name for. The only time my car gets cleaned is when I park somewhere that has a car wash and the guy asks, “Would you like a wash?” in a way that lets me know he might call the police and have it impounded.
Then I keep my personal grooming simple. In L.A. there is no end of things women are supposed to be exfoliating, surgically enhancing, and microdermabrading. In fact, a whole business seems to be geared toward creating new stigmas. I submit to you vaginal rejuvenation, brochures for which you can find, alarmingly, in the offices of many OB-GYNs. We’re now supposed to renovate something we frankly couldn’t pick out of a lineup. At my annual mole check I like to ask my dermatologist which things I should be freezing, filling, and zapping with a laser beam. Then I say no. Then I laugh an evil villain laugh and think of all the time/effort/money I’ve saved.
Next we come to food and the locavore/food truck/pop-up restaurant phenomenon. I love reading about the latest trends in food the same way I like reading about people who get to make out with Justin Timberlake. It sounds amazing, but it’s not gonna be me. In our house, if it hasn’t been pushed around a giant air-conditioned store in a cart first, it’s not in our fridge. If some trendy dish is really that good, I figure eventually Amy’s Kitchen will freeze it and we will eat it then.
And while we’re talking about the kids, at our house we don’t argue about clothes or haircuts. My kids are not chic. They don’t know from chic. The time I don’t spend explaining why a stretched-out Star Wars T-shirt with holes along the seam is not appropriate formal wear is time we can spend on the important stuff, like playing Word Thief or debating who should start for the Lakers this year.
Lastly, Angry Birds/Zombie Farm. Seriously. It’s not happening.
Most of all I try to cut “feeling guilty” from the list. That is the true working mom time killer: wondering what you could have done, should have done, didn’t do, missed, almost missed, said, or shouldn’t have said. Men don’t do this. Ever. You will never hear a man wonder how Gwyneth finds time to buy free-range, spa-raised yoga chickens. So don’t you do it, either. Put on your best Nancy Reagan (you can see I also don’t waste too much time on updating my cultural references), and just say no.
Illustration by Eddie Guy