Having Most of It


I don’t have a perfume photo so here’s Laura (aka Enigma and Snake Snack) on the tractor at her southern VA commune. Love the dress.  Also her foot is almost back to normal.

I read a couple of articles in the Atlantic recently – this piece by a man discussing the ups and downs of being the primary parent while his wife works the high-power job – and the previous (connected) article, written by his wife, called Why Women Still Can’t Have it All. They’re both way too long and too intense for me to adequately parse here, but there’s so much that resonated for me as a parent, as a single parent, and as a resident of Washington, DC, a city where I see power-couple dynamics in play on a regular basis.

Frankly, I already knew I couldn’t have it all. I did have most of it. For awhile there in the middle of the last decade, I was from outward appearances having it all on a much larger scale than I’d grown up with. Of course during much of that time I was uneasy and waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it did – the market crash in 2007-2008, followed by a deeply ugly divorce – I didn’t spend too much time wallowing because I was too busy just trying to keep the kids and myself afloat. Thanks to the kindness of friends, strangers, and life itself, I did. Now I approach every day with an early morning meditation on gratitude. Yeah, I lost some stuff, but now that the dust has settled I’ve gained some stuff too — freedom and peace of mind being high on my list.

So every day I go to work (for which I am grateful), a job which is very computer-intensive, which has resulted in my wanting to spend approximately zero time on the computer during evenings and weekends. Then the twins Hecate and Buckethead turned thirteen (can you believe it?! It seems like just yesterday I was on here, writing about them shellacking themselves in vaseline and baby powder during that one terrible naptime) and started seventh grade two weeks ago and it is Kicking. My. Ass. The jump to middle school involves a significant step up in the quality and quantity of homework, combined with a step down in coddling and reminders from teachers. Yeah, I know their homework isn’t my job, but while we get systems in place and figure out how this is going to work… it’s so frustrating. Right now I feel like my waking hours are taken by two things: work and homework.

Other people’s lives can look so fantastic from the outside, can’t they? Several close friends were made via my older batch of children, and those friends are becoming empty nesters. One just sold her house in the ‘burbs and bought a glam pied-à-terre close to her downtown office, since much of her time is spent traveling to Europe for work. Another just up and moved to a coastal town and spends her days selling antiques and walking her dog on the beach with friends she made in yoga class. I read (Now Smell This) Angela Sanders’ recent report on her Paris trip and sighed all the way through it, before turning right around and reading it again.

These people are doing it – writing, and thinking, and drinking dry martinis in interesting bars on their travels while wearing chic clothing.   This weekend I got the laundry done and my son off successfully to the year’s first scouting trip, and did some cooking, and that’s good and right, but it ain’t scouring the flea market at Clignancourt. I haven’t touched my paints and brushes in months, and, uh, we can see how well the creative writing is going.

I need to get over myself. In the meantime… what do you do when you’re feeling stifled for creativity, or not living (as I think Oprah puts it) your best life?

Next week – actual perfume review! Because I sniffed something interesting at the last minute but didn’t have time to write it up.







  • cinnamon says:

    Beautiful pic of your daughter, March, and glad to hear/read she continues to get better. A few years ago my brother lost a job that he’d been in for years and loved. It wasn’t his fault — a problem someone else caused. He spent two years in a metaphorical work wilderness, at a less prestigious institution. Still, he managed to turn things around and got himself into a much better situation. I keep that in my head when I’m feeling stuck — that sometimes you just have to put your head down and push through. It will change — because all things do.

  • thegoddessrena says:

    Whenever my life feels stuck, I go somewhere else. Novelty helps me have a different perspective, even if it’s just a day too

  • Ann says:

    March, so glad to read this post. Can the twins REALLY be in middle school?Wowza! Although I know, I know, I have a high-school freshman and am shaking my head in wonder at that. And I do feel your pain about homework; it’s gotten a little better, but as you said, for a while there it was like go to paying job, come home to homework job and wrangle till it gets done. Anyhoo, I know the past few years have been bumpy, but so glad to things are working out for you. And so happy big girl is recovering so well (love her on the tractor — makes me think of “Green Acres”!). Sending you a big hug …

  • tammy says:

    If we had it all, what would we dream about and aspire to?!

    I think the lack of creative flow is more of a symptom than an issue in and of itself. I know when my muse is in residence, nothing stops me, I forget to eat, I can’t sleep, I just want to do my thing. If you truly wanted to paint, you’d be painting. Look deeper.

    And maybe try 60 second bursts of something creative. Arrange 3 vases or bowls on a table, or three pumpkins on the porch. Anything. Just start creating beauty somewhere. 60 seconds of beauty every day, just do it!

    And now I shall go off and ponder the twins being 13.

  • maggiecat says:

    So glad to read you again, March! My life is depressingly void of creativity and play right now, as I handle a demanding full time job, work on getting my real estate license so I can also have a part-time business, and handle a difficult flare of a painful chronic illness. (How? you might well ask. I.Have.No.Friggin’.Idea. But it seems to be happening). Life right now is work and whimpering, with occasional forays into the wonderful world of perfume for fun. I used to write poetry, blogs, essays…now mostly reports. I’m dying to travel, to write, to find myself in the midst of this very proficient leader/educator I’ve become. I handle things by remembering that my work makes a difference in people’s lives, that I am loved and valued, and that I’m still here. Somewhere. It helps to know that others have the same challenges.

  • Ellen says:

    It is difficult to watch others doing what you had hoped you would be able to do. As friends go off to trips to Europe and cruises, theater, and dinners out, I remind myself that I have been taking care of my “kids,” by myself, for many years past the time I thought I would be finished. The downturn in the economy wasn’t just terrible for me; it has been catastrophic for my adult children. Creatively, I read, every day with a library card that costs next to nothing. I also bead.
    Another thought comes to me; having a supportive partner, emotionally and/or financially, can really ease many of the daily worries and concerns. Additionally, not everyone can find a job…good or otherwise…and trying to support a family on minimum wage just doesn’t work. It is just very difficult to keep afloat by one’s self. That people do so is a testament to their inner strength and sheer grit.

  • Dina C. says:

    Loved today’s post, March, because I’m also a creative person who needs those outlets to feel whole. I used to be a triple threat gal: acting, dancing, singing. Nowadays, I sing in my church choir year-round, and I act a few times a year. Those opportunities keep my batteries charged. Like you, I’ve got constant laundry, dishes and home maintenance that never seems to end. My kids – DS is college freshman, and DD is 10th grader – also keep me hopping.

    The thing that eats at me, if I let it, is that some of my former classmates at The National Theater Institute have won Emmy awards and done Broadway shows. And here I am, suburban mom, doing stuff in her community where people have known me since I was a kid and treat me like I’m no big deal. Can you tell that it gets me down a bit? I wonder a lot at the road not taken. I’m convinced that women can “have it all” but not all at the same time. That’s the key. We have chapters where we are workers. Chapters where we are mothers and/or wives. And chapters where we are artists. But I’m looking forward to someday maybe having an empty nest and an opportunity to delve back into my passions. I remind myself that Jessica Tandy won her Oscar award when she was in her 80s. 😉

  • Neva says:

    Hmmm, many thoughts go through my head after reading your post…I’m also sure that I “cant have it all” because I always wanted so much 😉 as soon as I got it, other wishes come up. That’s human nature I suppose. As a working mother, divorced but living with a loving fiance, I realized that I live my best life when I’m not trying to do other’s people business (or live their lives). When I leave my daughter and my old mother and my fiance to fight with everyday life instead of trying to help them – I can relax and concentrate on MY life! When I work on my “projects” and neglect them, they are happy and they don’t miss my intervening in their lives at all. So I think I’m usually the only obstacle to living my best life.

  • Heidi says:

    March, I don’t know you, but hugs to you — you are enough, however you are, right now. I do the same thing, of waiting for the perfect moment to create, and then it never happens. I just get creatively constipated and irritable. Portia is right — just dive in. It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece — it just needs to give you pleasure.

    In the past few years while my husband’s been in law school, I’ve been supporting our family by myself — I’m an English professor, and I’ve been taking on extra classes to bring in more money. I’m also a poet and essayist, and I’ve been having trouble finding time to write — or, once I have the time, the energy. We’ll be moving to Minneapolis next summer for a job he has lined up, and I’m excited about the move, not the least because it means I’ll have time to do some writing. But I’ve been waiting for that miraculous stretch of creative time, instead of getting writing done now, and I can tell it’s eating at me. I need to take Portia’s advice, too.

  • poodle says:

    I don’t think it’s possible to have it all either. I think if you try to then something suffers as a result. You need to pick the things that are most important and focus. I often wonder how people find the time to do all those fun things they claim to do when I often think there aren’t enough hours in the day to get the priority stuff done. That’s the thing though, they have different priorities. If painting is important to you, you need to actually set aside time and do it. Schedule it in like any other appointment and if that fourth load of laundry has to wait until another day then it waits. I can relate to how you feel because I’m needing a change in my life too with more creative time in it.

    • March says:

      These are all excellent points. I think I suffer from some sort of … artistic delusion that my life should be arranged in a way that these things happen organically — you know, a little gardening here, a little painting there, etc. As if I’m some free spirit with all the time in the world. The need to organize is itself oppressive to me — antithetical to my delusions, if you will. It’s like scheduling in the sex when your kids are small. But if doing a painting means deciding I’m going to spend 90 minutes on that on a Saturday afternoon after I balance my checkbook, well then, I should do it.

  • Lavanya says:

    Btw- the articles you linked to are great – love the very nuanced discussions/arguments articulating a lot of what I have felt/am feeling but hadn’t verbalized or sorted out yet. I’m still reading through the ‘women can’t have it all’ article. Thanks – they are just what I needed and I find myself nodding my head. A lot.

    • March says:

      His article was fun but hers was FANTASTIC. So many different perspectives and nuance. It’s really long, and/but I found myself nodding all the way through it as well, admiring her thought processes.

      • Lavanya says:

        I finished reading her article late last night. And you are right – her article was FANTASTIC and totally worth finishing. There’s so much to say and discuss and chew on. I loved so many of her points.. I also forwarded it to my sister, who was beginning to feel disheartened at the way things were at her workplace, the subtle and not so subtle gender biases etc (she is a corporate lawyer in India, with crazy schedules that she isn’t crazy about, and a 2 year old son).

  • caseymaureen says:

    Hi March, a thought provoking post particularly the line about other people’s lives looking so fantastic from the outside. I don’t think we can “have it all” simultaneously but we can aspire to bits at different times in our lives. For most of what was a successful career in the health sector I always had a lurking regret about giving up acting, I couldn’t cope with the industry when I was young and then three young children and a partner becoming very seriously ill for many years put an end to anything more than getting to the odd class. Now with number three off to university and partner more stable I’ve retired from my thirty year “day job” gone back to film acting and I’m having enormous fun without the inhibitions or anxieties of youth getting in the way. I know that many ex colleagues are envious, quite understandably what they’re not seeing is that in addition to all the fun now that we are now dealing with several elderly relatives with dementia!!!
    So it never ends, just try and carve out a little something for yourself, do your “homework” when they are doing theirs!

    • March says:

      I love this story. I’m glad you’re getting a chance to do what you love, and I imagine film acting is quite a treat after 30 years in the health sector! I’m also helping care for my 93YO dad who lives nearby, so I hear you.

  • Portia says:

    Heya March,
    You are freaking amazing. I’m proud to be your buddy.
    Get the fricken paints out and make some mess.
    Portia xx

    • March says:

      See, this is one of the things I love about you — your just-do-it attitude. It’s like if I can’t schedule it in perfectly it doesn’t happen. You’re right, I should get the paints and canvas out and just have fun and not worry about inspiration or result or whatever.

  • sarahpatto says:

    Dear March,
    Don’t forget the gal who borrowed all of your maternity clothes 12 years ago! I hear you on being out of synch with friends who are enjoying their empty nests. I’m pretty sure our youngest thinks he has a grandma for a mom. Love your posts. Your creative writing is doing just fine. xx Sarah

    • March says:

      I burst out laughing when I saw this — I remember! You were so happy to see the last of those clothes, and then I was giving them back! I miss you, I wish you still lived here. Drove by your house(s) yesterday and had a flashback to all the toffee-making fun. xo

  • Lavanya says:

    Hii March!!! It is so lovely to read your posts! I’ve missed you! I read your last post and thought I had misread – your daughter got bit by a snake?? Whaaat?!! So glad she is better!

    I know exactly what you mean(feeling stifled for creativity etc). I just had back-to-back babies (as I liked to call them) and right now it feels like I will never go back to work (to a job that involves the skills that I went to grad school for) but I am trying to look at taking baby steps to get there. So when I was pregnant with my daughter (and my son was 1.5 years old)- I started feeling a bit overwhelmed and jaded, creatively very blah etc and… so… I started a company..LOL. The initial high of creating a company and dreaming up ideas and all the creative brainstorming was just what I needed although I don’t yet know if it was a financially wise decision (we haven’t launched)- so I won’t recommend that route. Atleast not yet-:D.

    The other thing I did when i was feeling out of it, creatively stifled was taking an online (free) writing course on writing poetry earlier this year. I hadn’t written poetry in ages and this was just the ‘shot’ I needed and it was a fabulous course organized by the International Writing program at the University of Iowa. I read some interesting contemporary poetry, wrote some crap and some not so crappy poems and felt more energized than I’d felt in a while. They are starting a course on Fiction on Sept 24- and I plan on attending that too. Basically this just gives me a structure/framework to do creative work and I love that. There’s also a Modern Poetry course that started on Coursera that I just started – the first week we are reading Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman – so it is good fun!(Organized by UPenn)
    What can I say, I love taking courses..LOL. It allows me/forces me to take some time out to think, and write..and think. And I’ve missed that. If taking courses is not your thing..then..I’ll see if I can come up with other ideas..:)

    Again – so nice to see you!!! *Ginormous Hugs*

    • March says:

      She did! Stepped on a copperhead (endemic to her area) in the middle of the night, and it bit her twice in the foot. They’re nasty — very aggressive, which most venomous snakes aren’t, actually. Fortunately her comrades took one look at it and drove her straight to the ER for antivenin. That is a great suggestion about online courses. I’ve never done it, but I think for my personality type it would work — some kind of structure and assignment to inspire creative discipline. The poetry class sounds fantastic.

      Two little kids at the same time is rough — I did that twice — until mine reached the age of less maintenance, at which point it becomes fantastic fun. I personally enjoyed them more as they got older and could be little people with a modicum of self control.