The “Ask Polly” column on NY Mag.com is one of my (and Laura’s) favorite places to find advice. The writer behind the beautiful, insightful words of “Ask Polly” is Heather Havrilesky. She writes truthfully and warmly and she reminds me a bit of Cheryl Strayed (Author of Tiny, Beautiful Things and Wild). The most recent “Ask Polly” column was especially resonant for me as a 33 year old woman in a relationship who feels behind in her career yet also feels the pressure to have children in the next few years.
The letter (email?) writer was stuck in a dilemma. She wants children but she also wants a fulfilling career (and the job she’s in is not satisfying, so she wants to start over and find a job that satisfies her). She feels it impossible to do both. I can relate! I desperately want to find success as a screenwriter (or some semblance of success) before I have kids. But time keeps ticking away and while my writing is getting better, the paychecks and job offers aren’t rolling in.
Heather ‘s (Polly’s!) advice was beautiful, per always. She advocated for the life of “All.” The life of everything even though it will be damn challenging.
This was my favorite part of her reply:
Bottom line: I was so fearful. But throwing my energy into both my kids and my career turned out so much better than I ever thought it could. And I became much more focused and ambitious after I had kids. I valued my time more. I used my time more wisely. All of the time I used to spend questioning myself and worrying about the big picture is now spent doing dishes and folding little dresses. A lot of the working mothers I know feel the same way.
…Imagine a full life and be true to that vision. Defend it. And put fear aside. You have one person with a steady job in the house. Don’t panic.
You can have it all. You may have to adjust the particulars of “IT” but trust me, “ALL” is what you want. It’s exhausting and it’s a balancing act and it’s way too much for anyone to handle, ever. That’s also what’s so gratifying about it.
This was a refreshing advice column to read, because I think it addresses the “perfectionist” trap we can get into as women. That we must excel in our careers and excel as mothers and homemakers living from Instagram worthy moment to Instagram worthy moment. So we end up feeling the need to choose one or the other.
But it seems the best option is this: if you want it all, you should aim for it all, and not pre-emptively cut yourself off from options. And yes, your life of “ALL” will probably be imperfect and messy.