Women can’t have it all in this life, no one can. What you’ve got is good enough, so enjoy it. Register file photo

Sr. Helena Burns: You can’t have it all … and that’s OK

  • October 10, 2020

Ladies, you’re being lied to. You can’t have it all. (And while we’re at it, all what?) No one can or does “have it all.”

Why am I addressing this article to women in particular?

OK, to be fair, we all know some superwomen. But they are far and few between and they definitely have nannies (they never mention) and stay-at-home hubbies (they don’t always get credit) who may or may not be living out each and every one of their dreams. These alpha females are even telling you that you absolutely can and should be like them if you want to live your best life.

Before a recent women’s conference, the women planning to attend were asked to use one word to describe how they felt about themselves as moms. The majority of responses came back with words like the following: Exhausted. Overwhelming. Demanding. Sacrifice. Loser. Regret. Chaos. These brutally honest words made me want to cry.

So I would not like to preach at an obviously already beleaguered mother population, but rather to announce to you some Good News of great joy! Why the caps for “Good News”? Because it’s actually the Good News of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t see you this way. He wishes you’d take a chill pill and lower your impossible self-expectations! You are a good mom. Could you always be better? Of course, but no one is omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent except Jesus Himself who “did all things well.”

You are just one person. There used to be a parenting theory (don’t you love parenting theories?) called “The Good Enough Mother,” meaning you didn’t have to be perfect, just good enough, and your kids will turn out fine and dandy (and probably a heck of a lot less stressed themselves). But how will you keep up with the Joneses if you let some things in your model life slip? Who. Cares. About. The. Joneses. Those Joneses have way too much power over our lives.

Also, marriage and parenting are team sports, so hopefully your hubby is on the same page with you about the intensity level of your lifestyle/life together and family/ child-rearing. But if women are truly feeling like all those descriptors just mentioned, something’s gotta give. Perhaps it’s time for a new personal and family strategy.

We are human beings, not human doings. How much of our busyness is escaping the vital, slow, time-consuming, immeasurable, challenging and rewarding work of plain, old relationships? The self-actualization or self-realization movement of the 1960s and ’70s destroyed many marriages, families and religious communities by falsely claiming that the only way to be fulfilled, to truly be yourself, was to express/ use all your talents, gifts, hopes, ideas, fantasies, inclinations, proclivities and wistful whims at all moments and never sacrifice them for anyone or anything. It was the shibboleth of the “Me Generation.”

It’s not just marriage and family life that are difficult, life itself is hard and requires untold sacrifices as well as sacrificing our umpteen dreams (many of which are pipe dreams) to live one big dream, closing lots of little windows to open one big door (our vocation in life) which we step through. Then the whole world actually does open up to us, but in a very focused way that doesn’t leave us floundering, frenzied or frustrated because we’re trying to be and do everything. Which sacrifices do we make? The sacrifices of love.

“Love consists of a commitment which limits one’s freedom — it is a giving of the self, and to give oneself means to limit one’s freedom on behalf of the other. This might seem to be something negative or unpleasant, but love makes it a positive, joyful and creative thing.

“Freedom exists for the sake of love. We long for love more than for freedom—freedom is the means, and love is the end” — John Paul II, Love and Responsibility.

Ladies, you’re being lied to. You can’t have it all, not in this life. But that’s not the purpose of this life anyway. However, if we get our priorities straight, we’ll be able to breathe, bring it down a notch, relax a little and have some of it on our way to the real Paradise, and that’s not too shabby.

(Sr. Helena, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. www.HellBurns.com Twitter: @ srhelenaburns)

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