What does “having it all” mean to you? I think there is no such thing as having it all. Being human means confronting hardship and not getting everything and we set ourselves up for disappointment if we think we will have it all.
If I think about what I would want the phrase to mean or how it could be used in a positive way, I think about balance. It is not possible to do everything well, and be present, so you have to let some things go. Being a parent makes you more who you are. When your capacity is limited the essential things that are most important to you become really clear.
I want to live in a community where racism doesn't exist and am tempted to spend a ton of time and energy looking for a school that has a perfectly diverse student and faculty population with a good socioeconomic mix. But the truth is that my daughter will grow up in a racist world. So I try to assess which choices are worth agonizing over and which activities I want to be engaged in.
I know that I love my work, friends and family and I also like to be alone. Balancing those things, staying engaged in the world and letting go has been my process toward having the life I want to live.
What about your work changed when you became a mom? Everything. I think that parenting in a society that is anti-child and woman means that unless you are insanely wealthy, you face ongoing trade-offs. I think the reason so many women I know freelance or consult is because there is very little institutional support for working mothers in this society. After my daughter was born I went back to grad school, which was a fabulous way to spend time with her, work some and create a path to another career. However, it was a very expensive way to find balance as a new mom. After spending a year in Spain, I wish we had more options for parents to balance life and work in the country.
What makes you complete? Books. Every book contains an entire universe. I am a compulsive reader. I no longer let myself read at night because I will stay up as long as necessary to finish something if it grabs me.
Portrait by Vivian Johnson