parent opinion

'No one can do everything. So why do I keep trying?'

There is a saying I've heard many times over the years: If everything's important, nothing's important.

It rings true. It really does. But the problem comes when there are enough things that actually are important that it becomes impossible to accomplish them all.

This started to happen to me when I began teaching. 

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Being a first-year teacher is a fresh hell reserved for only the most naïve and masochistic of us. 

You've got to have the right combination of drive, stubbornness, and support if you're going to get out of there alive, and there were times when I didn't know if I would.

The learning curve is so steep that there's always a hundred things you don't know and a thousand things you know but suck at actually doing.

And the kids can smell it.

After five years, I thought I had the hang of teaching - and then I moved to a new school at a new grade level and got to be terrible all over again. 

Only this time, there were state tests and network-wide initiatives and, well, more things to suck at. 

There was the teaching, which happened during the school day, but there was also the lesson planning, which generally happened before and after the school day. 

Everything was so important (and being a teacher is so miserable unless you're decent at it) that I spent hours each day trying to get things just right so I could do something other than fall apart when I was actually in front of kids. 


Even so, I'd close my computer at 11.00pm each night, knowing what I had wasn't quite good enough, but so exhausted I could do no more.

It was a constant state of failure - one that never truly went away.

Having children is a similar state of perpetual shortcoming. 

There's always something I know I should be doing, but I just can't.

If I'm doing well on meal planning, I'm doing a bad job of spending time with the kids. If I'm keeping consistent behavioural expectations, I'm doing a bad job of cleaning the house. And if I'm doing a fantastic job at all the parenting things (which is a dream, let's be real), then there's a 100 per cent chance I'm failing at doing anything for myself.

I'm not working out, I'm not reading enough, I'm not doing well at my job.

There's simply not time in the day for it all.

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So what do I do? I go in phases. Sometimes I feel like a really good mum. Some days I do really well at my job. Others my writing shines like Aladdin's lamp. But never all at once.

It's survival mode at its finest, and I've been living here for my entire adult life.

I read a book recently - The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore. I enjoyed the book quite thoroughly, and I identified hard with the character Lu, an at-home parent who aspires to have a career. 

She's speaking with another rock-star female character, Joy, who says something that tightens my shoulders even now.

"We can't have it all. We have to pick."

Lu's response is desperate, and tears sprung to my eyes when I read it. "You're wrong," she says. "You have to be wrong." I feel those words in my soul.

People will say to prioritise. They'll say it's impossible for one person to do all the things. But it can't be. 

Because if I have to pick, I'll inevitably pick everyone else over myself. And so I pick survival mode. 


Catching one of a thousand balls before they all clang to the ground, occasionally asking a kid, partner, or friend to chase after one as it bounces away. 

But mainly I pick everything, because I can't be whole if I have to choose.

So what's a person to do when everything's important? A person who wants to be a good parent, while at the same time having a career and a self that exists outside? Will it always be survival mode, or is there hope?

Nicci is an author, teacher, and mother living in Boston with her husband and children. Some of her hobbies are singing in the car, escaping from rooms, dreaming about a full night’s sleep, and perpetual cleaning. Along with sharing personal stories from all corners of her life, she writes books and short stories. Look for her debut novel, tentatively titled The Other Women, coming in 2022. For more from Nicci, you can follow her on  FacebookInstagram, and Twitter on  @kadilakwrites, or find her at her website:

This post was republished from will full permission.

Feature Image: Getty.

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