A tweet from 2011 by by Randi Zuckerberg (sister to you-know-who Zuckerberg) is making the rounds again. She insists that an entrepreneur must choose among friendships, building a great company, spending time with family, staying fit and getting sleep. She says, "pick three."
You know what I want to pick? An article to read that doesn’t insist I limit my choices to be successful. While I’m not an entrepreneur, I have two children, a full-time law career and a freelance writing career on the side. I’ve been fighting this bullshit line fed to mothers since the day I peed on a stick and got a positive result. I suspect I’m not alone.
From the moment I got pregnant, people started telling me about the doors that would close for me.
Actually, Zuckerberg’s theory about picking three is more generous than the one I heard all during my early motherhood. The prevailing “wisdom” thrown my way was that among motherhood, career and marriage, mothers could pick two. The other? You simply had to accept you would do a shitty job at that third spoke in your wheel.
From the moment I got pregnant, people started telling me about the doors that would close for me. I was 14 weeks pregnant when my boss told me that once my baby was born, I would never see another movie. The ladies at the gym told me to kiss the spin bike goodbye because we all know that moms don’t get to go to exercise class. The warnings kept coming: Say goodbye to good sex, firm breasts and a sense of style. Each dire prediction made me want to shake the women bearing these messages and say, “Can you hear yourself? Please stop telling me how ugly, tired and asexual I will be!”
It got worse when I was pregnant with my second. Everyone told me that it would be “impossible” to find time to exercise and that I would never see my pre-kid friends. I was told that date nights would fly out the window and skinny jeans would have to be donated.
I put my foot down then, and I’ll keep on stomping. Because the idea that women’s lives must be circumscribed by motherhood is both self-destructive and false. I’m not having it, and neither should you.
Think about it: Has anyone ever told your husband that he could no longer have his friends, his great career, his sleep and his time with his family? You know why no one ever says that? Because everyone assumes that a father has a wife at home who will gladly sacrifice her friendships, exercise or career so that he can play hoops with the boys or take a meeting out of town to land a big client.
No one has ever told my husband to “pick three,” or barraged him with messages that his life would shrink (and his body would expand) once he became a father.
During my seven-year tenure as a working mother, I have continued to exercise three to four times a week. I remember the first time I left the kids with my husband for a run. I felt like a huge rebel—everyone had told me that it wasn’t possible, but all I had to do was hand over the kids and lace up my shoes. Why did everyone say I would never be able to exercise?
And sometimes when time is short, I combine things that I love. My friends and I run together in the mornings, and that’s the best therapy I’ve never had to pay for. And my kids are old enough to go on bike rides and runs as well. Yes, I have less time, but I make the time I have count. My pre-kid friends spend time with us, just like before—we just sit at a bigger table. And I use some of the money I make at my job to pay for sitters so we can have date nights. I haven’t had to trash my marriage, jettison my dreams or succumb to wearing yoga pants full-time.
In other words, I haven’t had to pick.
Like all moms, I juggle a lot. I don’t know a parent who doesn’t. We should stop telling moms that they have to pick because it creates false limits, and we should save our energy for the actual limits that face us all.