Open Letter to High Achieving Women

Quentin Bryce, Governor General.

Dear Women Who Have Done It All

I’ve just got one question, how? How do you combine high profile, hardworking, careers with raising children? Seriously ladies I want some answers and I want them now.

In my life achievement now boils down to whether we can see the kitchen bench and everyone has left the house wearing clean undies – I struggle to see how you lead countries, run big corporations, work ungodly hours in high stress jobs while there are kids at home demanding time and attention.

Does it come down to money? Earning the big bucks gives you more options? I desperately want a Nanny, not for the children they are long past that stage, for ME. Someone who cooks my dinner, ensures I’ve got clean clothes to put on in the morning, brings me cool drinks and Panadol when I’m ill, someone whose only priority in life is making sure I’m OK.

Does a Nanny make the difference in terms of doing it all?

Looking at some of the high achievers in Australia it’s not like you went the no children policy, in fact some of you were high achievers in that regard as well, Governor General Quentin Bryce you had five children, Gail Kelly, CEO of Westpac you stopped at four, but that included a set of TRIPLETS.

I look at you all on paper and it all sounds so calm, ordered, successful. Your bios read like a step-by-step case study in focus, drive and determination but please tell me there were days when the wheels fell off.

My goals aren’t as lofty as yours, I don’t need to be the 32nd most powerful woman in the world (Gail, just in case you didn’t have time to notice that’s you according to Wikipedia via the Forbes list but you have dropped a bit you were 8th in 2010 – might want to work on that).

All I want is to write a 300 word blog each day. I don’t even have to leave the house to do it, but buggered if I can figure out how you find the time to think creatively, write interestingly and correct spelling and grammar mistakes while arguing with children, debiting the pros and cons of buying a new car with my husband, cooking meals, washing clothes and ignoring the housework to the point you can’t find the youngest child under the rubble.

I know you were busy doing really important stuff, but what I want to know is, did you have sleepless nights worrying about missing school concerts? Or did you manage to make it to the school events on top of everything else?

At the end of the day, as far as I’m aware, your kids grew up to be OK. But do they ever harp on about what you missed out on?

Most importantly of all, any regrets? Note I’m not expecting that you will say God Yes, if I had it to do again, I’d be happy in suburbia  running the most successful P&C in the country.

As a mother who did the Gen X thing of opting out of the career race – what advice can I give my daughters of what it’s really like out there in the big bad world?

Please note high achievers – and I’m not just talking Quentin and Gail here – give it to us straight, without the PR spin of girls can grow up to be anything, do anything, have it all – how was it REALLY?

Signed Tired, Frazzled, Doing the Best She Can Mother.

14 thoughts on “Open Letter to High Achieving Women

  1. 1. You can’t do it all.
    2. It’s not about balance. It’s about doing the right things (be they mundane or glamorous) whole heartedly at the moment you’re doing them. (I tend to be not so good at this… I just know it’s true).
    3. Nannies, personal assistants/ chefs/ groomers, therapists and wine probably all help. 🙂

    • You are right about doing the right things whole heartedly at the moment – one of my regrets from the stay-at-home years is not enjoying it more. Recognising it was just a chapter of my life, kids do grow up, you do go back to work, I wish I had lived more “in the moment”.

  2. did you read the book “i don’t know how she does it”? just the topic. very interesting, but fiction so it takes you into the home – although she was not that high achieving if i remember correctly. joy to you!

    • No, haven’t read it, wanted to see the movie but I think I’ve missed it at my local cinema. I often get irritated by movie stars banging on about how tough it is raise kids and have a career but one of the things I liked about Sarah Jessica Parker’s interviews for this movie was she openly said – I’ve got it easy, I’m juggling, but I’m juggling by choice, with enough finances to hire all the help I need.” I know money doesn’t erase the mummy guilt but I imagine it has to make the day-to-day existence that bit easier.

  3. I love this post. I’d love to know the answers too. In my experience, a lot of women at the top who have kids also have stay at home dads. The wheels fall off a lot more regularly when both parents are high achieving (as opposed to high achievers – perhaps we could all be that given the opportunity). I also think there is a LOT of help. I currently have babysitting, daycare, cleaning and gardening help, and I am still not achieving high things. Like you, I am lucky to get out of the house with all kids fully dressed each morning. You know how some people make motherhood look easy? I make it look hard.

    A friend who is running her own PR business has a nanny they pay $60k a year to, who does EVERYTHING. The kids were in fulltime daycare as well, I might add. They are now at school. So nanny does drop off and pick up; meal planning, buying and cooking; buying presents for the various kids birthday parties they attend at the weekend; washing and ironing; and manages the family calendar on the fridge. So everything ye olde housewife might be expected to do. Valued at 60k a year. I was drooling listening to her. And this mum appears to love her job, never be stressed, can attend all the important school events etc of her kids, and seems to spend quality time with her kids because she’s not stressed about doing all the other stuff.

    So why don’t we all work at what we love, and hand over our pay to someone else who is doing the daily grind? Personally, I’d feel guilty because I am hanging on to some misplaced notion that I am supposed to do all that stuff. I am not saying this is right – that it is a mum’s job to do this stuff (I had no judgement of my friend whatsoever) – but somehow I have an expectation that I am supposed to do, and have, it all. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest 🙂 Was planning on writing a paragraph.

    • One of the happiest times in my parenting life was when my eldest was 6 months old and I went back to uni two half days a week. My husband was at sea in the navy so I hired a babysitter to come to the house. Twice a week I left the house at midday returned at 6 pm to be handed a bathed, fed baby who I played with for an hour before she happily went to sleep. It was bliss. So I understand how your friend actually gets to enjoy her time with the kids because she’s not worrying about the cooking, the washing etc. Of course the sad thing is most women, even when they return to work, won’t be able to afford the help they need because we still work in traditionally lower paying jobs. The guilt thing – it really is our worst weakness as women (but I’ll never admit that to a man). We feel guilty if we do, guilty if we don’t. How do get rid of the guilt gene? Can it be surgically removed? I also think Gen X mums in particular got fed the “you can have it all” line but I’m not sure it panned out for us.
      Now I’ve not met you, but from one “just getting out the house dressed” mum to another, you are doing a GREAT job – and the mum’s who make it look easy are just better at faking it than us!!!LOL.

  4. I used to have a t shirt that said, “I’m up and dressed what more do you want?” Some days I reckon that anything more is a bonus….and if everyone at home is fed and smiling does it really matter?

  5. I have really enjoyed reading this post.
    I’m a lot older than you and my family have grown and left the nest. It was difficult at times running the business and being mum, wife, cleaner, chauffeur, chef, nursemaid – the usual hats we women wear – but it was my choice.
    I eventually got help in the house and Anna and I are firm friends, she was a rock when I needed one
    All I would say is I don’t believe any woman who tells me they have it all. Why would you want it?
    Just remember that you don’t have to be Supermother, Superhousewife, Supercook, there’s nothing wrong in just bring Good Enough.
    Take care of you


    • Thank you for visiting my blog. I am trying to embrace “Good Enough” and I know that there aren’t that many years left before they do leave home – then I’ll be wandering around wondering what to do with myself.

  6. It’s funny how we want to have it all and judge other women who do. Is it them that proclaim they have it all or do we romanticize it in our heads that they do? We all do the best we can do everyday…them and us. We all have the same three needs…to give love, to receive love and to know that we matter. That’s a more helpful way to view each other.

    • It’s definitely us that proclaim they have it all,I’m quite sure they have their own struggles, no matter how successful they are. I do get frustrated though when I see women portrayed as “super women” whether it be by the media or their interaction with the media. I vaguely heard Gail Kelly once mention how tough it had been having a career with triplets and it was so refreshing to hear someone be honest about the experience. Wanting to have it all is the problem I think – I don’t think we can have it all – at the one time – I think you can get there over the course of a lifetime – but when you are struggling at home with young children – or going back to work in a lesser job than you once enjoyed – many women can feel like a failure, which of course they are not. I love the three needs you mentioned – will try to remember give love, receive love, know we matter.

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