Do Women Really Want To ‘Have It All’?

Can Women Really Be Bothered To 'Have It All?'
Housework Hell by Alysa Pakkidis

This week I have decided to question the premise of women ‘having it all.’

And I’ve decided that ‘having it all’ isn’t ‘all that’.

Because the Perfect Mother medal in my cupboard and the ‘thank you’ email from that bitch of a client, hasn’t brought me the fulfilment I thought it would.

‘Having it all’ has its limitations.

It’s not like I’ve even lost any weight from the stress of it, which begs the question of what exactly I am supposed to be gaining, apart from a highly fraught existence.

There’s certainly no work/life balance to speak of.

The old man dared criticise my aptitude for house cleaning this week – a bit rich considering my pleas for a cleaner some time ago (here).  I knew something was simmering, because he develops this very loud tut when he’s cross. He tutted first when he had to empty the recycling bin, and then again when he discovered that I hadn’t ironed him any clean shirts for work.

Obviously I ignored the insinuated criticism.

After a few wines he grew some balls and came out with it. He said the house looked like the ‘back streets of Calcutta’.

Which I felt was a bit harsh.

Admittedly, the kitchen did look like some earthquake had hit the North Shore during lunch, but in my defence, it is the school holidays at the moment and our precious teenage babies can’t be expected to clean as well as grow, can they? I didn’t think the milk had been left out THAT long – I carried out the sniff test and it passed for hot drinks.

He was obviously just having a bad day. Apparently he was down a few seconds on his running time home from work and you know how maddening that can be?

Frankly, I couldn’t give a flying fuck about whether the house is clean or not, but it still stings to be criticised.

But made me realise that I’ve got too many balls in the air at the moment.

Trying to ‘have it all’ is exhausting sometimes.

We women are always trying to be the perfect mother, friend, colleague and partner. Sometimes it’s fun to rebel, kick off your shoes, become a bit more Bohemian and let the mess reproduce, the loo roll run out or create meals out of canned food.

Not that he didn’t have a point about the decaying sweet corn under the fridge.

But inevitably something has to give when we find our backs against the wall and the stress levels begin to escalate. My rule of thumb for coping with stress is to prioritise, and those activities that I derive the least pleasure from (like exercise and housework), have to be put to one side.

It’s quite amazing the squalor one can become accustomed to when push comes to shove.

I used to be proud of how organised my chaos appeared, but these days even my chaos is struggling to breathe. And the reality of ‘mum can’t do everything’ has hit the family hard. Because the bed linen doesn’t change itself and the clean washing doesn’t actually shimmy its way from the laundry to their drawers.

Calcutta might actually be an accurate analogy.

I admit that I’ve been putting myself first for a change.

After fifteen years of child-rearing, when at times I felt as though I had lost my own identity and become just someone’s Mum, I want some ‘me’ time now.

But now that I’ve put myself first, I feel guilty that I’m letting everyone down. Isn’t it strange how we women always feel like we’re failing?

Is ‘having it all’ actually worth it?

So there’s currently an embargo on cleaning in our house.

Anyone who needs a shirt ironed or food cooked can either hire a cleaner or do it their bloody selves.

Position Vacant: House Cleaning Fairy, Sydney

Fairy Wings
Fairy Wings (Photo credit: thor_mark)

Reaching middle age has affected my health in many ways. I am unarguably larger in size, most definitely losing my marbles, but I’m also mentally far less tolerant to…well, just about everything.

My biggest and most recent ‘intolerance’ is to house cleaning. The sheer banality of housework, when there are so many other things out there to ignite the senses, frankly gets on my tits.

This is not a new problem. I have implored the old man several times to release some of his secret funds for a cleaner (here), but apparently ‘wallet said no!’

Which leaves this particular house cleaning fairy no option, but to go on leave – indefinitely.

Cooking is the worst chore, and having to cook for a family who still sees Mcdonalds as a treat, has finally defeated me. These days, when I start to think about preparing dinner, I feel like curling up and rocking in my bedroom. That’s not normal.

I spend my days IN BETWEEN WORKING, clearing up after everyone in the family.

Kurt is obviously the worst offender, as NC tends to only extend her mess as far as her lab. But Kurt is more egocentric than even the most existentialist teenager and he lives in a bubble that revolves around his needs and his needs only.

He also hates to be alone, which means that he spreads his mess like disease, from room to room. Just as his personality is a dominating presence in our house, so is his stuff.

‘Did you move my shit?’ is a common accusation of the house cleaning fairy.

Kurt doesn’t know what a rubbish bin is. He evidently believes that a towel should only be used once and that cups and plates find their own way to the dishwasher. He also believes that every room has a secondary function as a recording studio.

So the combination of working from home and living with a child who likes ‘nesting’ in every area of the house, means that the ‘fairy’s’ old standards of household tidiness have had to slip.

The family is evidently quite happy to live in a pigsty as they’ve failed to notice my ‘superficial’ cleans since I went back to work.

These involve:

Pushing Kurt’s empty cans, chip packets and juice cartons under sofas

Using the towels to clean the bathroom floor

Folding towels neatly after cleaning the bathroom floor with them, so they look clean

Using the dog as a vacuum to clean the kitchen floor

Recycling school uniform and spraying it with deodorant so it smells clean

Hand dusting

Taking clothes out of the laundry basket that pass the sniff test and putting them back in cupboards.


There is no aspect of housework that fulfils me. Ironing is worse than watching paint dry, cleaning scum from the bathroom (even it is from the same gene pool) turns my stomach, and don’t get me started on the washing – although admittedly I have been quite enterprising in that department by outsourcing much of it to Kurt’s OCD – mental illness can have its benefits.

Do you ever find yourself scrubbing that brown grime ring from the bath (where the fuck does that come from?), thinking ‘is this really what life is about?’

Cooking not only bores me to tears, it exacerbates my anxiety levels too.

Maybe it’s because the kids have inherited the old man’s bland palate or maybe I’ve created food monsters by being too accommodating, but I have allowed myself to become a lackey in the kitchen.

SED (aka Fussy Eaters) goes with the ADHD territory, which is why we are all a bit finicky about food, but the fact is that we all want to eat different things, invariably at different times, and as we can’t afford takeaway every night, it makes my job as chief cook in the house wrist-slittingly frustrating.

Not a meal goes by where someone doesn’t complain about ‘what’s for dinner’ or my desecration of it. I’d prefer to have my wisdom teeth pulled without anesthetic than plan a meal for my family these days.

Imagine how awesome it must be for them to have the ‘fairy’ just call them to the table when dinner’s ready, rather than having to shop for and plan how many different ways the same piece of protein can be adapted to suit everyone’s dietary foibles.

I’ve had to become very deceptive creative.

Of course, the family would argue that I am the fussy eater, because (shock, horror!) I choose to eat healthily.

How very new-wave of me.

Sometimes the areas of mediocrity in my life appall me and I take all those inspiring words on Pinterest to heart – because no-one ever talks about achieving happiness while cleaning toilets.

No-one is going to put this house-cleaning fairy in the corner.

Position Vacant: House Cleaning Fairy, Sydney