Let's just put this out there. No one ever asks if men can have it all. You know why? Because men don't ask themselves that same question. They just sort of live their lives and shift things around when need be. They live in phases allowing themselves to intensely focus on one big aim at once: an academic or athletic pursuit phase, a date-every-girl-I-can phase, a career-focused phase, a settling down phase followed by a marriage and kids phase, etc. They pursue their aims almost blindly assuming the people who really care about them and love them will be behind them. We women tend to burden ourselves by living in multiple phases at once, hence the burnout we feel so poignantly. We torture ourselves over this question of having it all, partially because we've gone after having it all and failed miserably or allowed ourselves to feel guilty for trying in the first place.
Artist moms are a special case. They have actual babies, spouses that sometimes feel like they need as much as actual babies, projects that become babies, relationships they nurture like babies and even fears they nurse like babies. Add to that, artists have another all-consuming type of baby, which is their art itself. Many times they willingly, but painfully, sacrifice one baby for the other. I happen to believe artist moms can have it all, but something's gotta give, as they say. And maybe the giving part doesn't have to be a bad thing or even a let-down. What if we get to decide what gives instead of being forced to surrender? What if we learn to shift?
Rethink what "all" means. We have to know what "all" looks and feels like. So many of us are chasing a lifestyle we only think we want. This is linked to discovering one's artistic identity that comes from our true interests and untapped talents versus prescriptions given us by the artistic world we're trying to fit into. A friend once said to me in the middle of a particularly busy season that she wanted my career. When I told her that meant a recital on Monday, an orchestral engagement on Thursday and a chamber concert the next Tuesday, she looked horrified. A light went off, she'd been going after an "all" she didn't really want in the end.
Reorder by flowing with your personal seasons. We fail at having it all and then subsequently preach that it's impossible to attain after burning out in our own pursuit. Your "all" should be flexible, giving priority to whatever you deem is most important to you or brings you the most joy in a certain season. The key to living by seasons is letting your loved ones know which one you're in! An artist mom might go into a deep preparation season where she's completely preoccupied with a new project. If the family is warned ahead of time, they'll rally behind the artist. The artist will reward them and herself by following that period up with a family-focused season. Everybody feels like they're getting it all.
Redefine relationships by letting go of martyrdom. You don't have to be the worker that always stays behind, the friend that always organizes activities, the wife that always compromises and the mom who's always perfect. Plan to be the best human being you can be, but know sometimes you're going to fall short in a very good way; a way that allows others to step up for a change.
Revolutionize! Artists need change so don't fight that itchy feeling that tells you it's time to expand. Don't block that insight someone gives you that could be leading you to an "all" that you're supposed to have. Some of the most successful artists will tell you the best things that ever happened to them were because of a risk they took or a change they made. Don't let anyone make you feel like you're "all over the place" because you've taken a change in direction. Put some strategy behind that shift and you're headed for a personal revolution.
Relax and Relish. This is simple. Take time to look at and appreciate what you currently have in the NOW. Remember, if you get to where you want to go, you might have less and less time for family, fun and personal time. So relish those things now so that it remains a priority you can't so easily throw to the side.
Routine: Get one. Contrary to popular belief, routines and regimens aren't restrictive. Instead, they're actually downright freeing, allowing you to automate your life so you can be ready to receive surprises. Adopt a natural routine based on your tendencies as well as your goals. Don't set yourself up to fail by scheduling exercise at 6am if you know you're not a morning person. You'll be ticked off at yourself for the rest of the day if you miss it. Make a routine based on what you love to do AND what you've got to do.
I know having it all is not as simple as a 600-800 word blog post, but this is a start for those of us who secretly feel we really can get closer to "ALL" then we've ever been before.
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