Work and Identity: I Want it All (And I Don’t)

The working-parent struggle is real. Wait, scratch that – the working struggle and the parent struggle are both very real. One day you might feel like a superhero, doing it all and crushing it, and the next, it takes everything within you (and an obscene amount of coffee) just to keep the tiny humans (or fur friends…or plants) alive and not get fired.

Whether you’re always at work as a stay-at-home parent, work full time outside the home, have a part-time gig, hide out in your home office working remotely, or some crazy-complicated hybrid; it’s all hard. And the guilt. Ohhhh, the guilt. Think of a work/family/life balance scenario, any scenario at all, and a parent will find a way to feel guilty about it. Too often, moms – and dads – feel like they are failing everywhere, or at best, just keeping their heads above water in all pockets of life.

Before having kids, we didn’t know it was possible to be so completely torn and conflicted pretty much all the time. The desire to pursue a career consistently battles the longing to be a full-time caregiver to our kids (or at least feeling like we should feel that way). And that pendulum can swing back and forth at a moment’s notice.

How many of us have the “grass is always greener” inner dialogue on the regular? The, “My life would be so much less complicated if I didn’t work…” or “I don’t even know who I am outside of being a (insert role here) anymore…” kind of thoughts. And other people don’t always help, because of the comparison game. Other parents always seem to have it all together and surely won’t screw up their kids, while we’re over here in full hot mess mode with day three hair telling our three-year-old not to lick the wall (it happens).

Here’s the thing. The deck is stacked, and we’re all set up for failure. Why? The world tells us that these labels (boss, mom/dad, employee, wife/husband, etc.) define us. And when we find our identity in any combination of these titles, we’ll come up short every time. Because there is always more we can be doing (so much more), yet there is just no space in our life (or soul) to cram anything else in. And then we model this achievement-based chaos to our kids and start the cycle all over again. It’s exhausting.

We have a crazy idea…let’s let ourselves off the hook (gasp). And maybe each other, too. What if we all worked hard at everything we did, but laced that work with a big ‘ol helping of grace? What if we made it a priority to fill up our own cups? We can’t pour from an empty one and no one is going to top it off for you. What if we stopped pretending we’ve got it all figured out? Because we don’t, and no one does. What if we asked for help and offer loads of it to others without judgment?

The cycle will never break unless we take a sledge hammer to it. Let’s get swingin’.