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The Weight of Having it All

This summer, having it all has felt very heavy.  At other times, the all is as light as a trophy, feeling as if it might float away if I don’t hold tight to it.  The all feels as airy as a dream that I might forget if I don’t keep repeating the details to myself upon waking.  There are times when I spin around in the lightness of it all and think, “wow — this is my life.”

But like my weight on various planets, the heaviness of the all shifts at times, and instead of living on the moon where I am floating above the surface with my enormous leaps, I am living on Jupiter where my 130 pounds feels more like 300 pounds even though my body doesn’t change at all.  It still looks like my normal body; only heavier.  Much heavier.  And the all has a tendency to do this too, to not change in form but to feel sometimes as if it exists on Mercury at a mere 49 pounds one day and then on Neptune the next day at 146 pounds, even though the all is still just the all:

Marriage, two children, career, house, volunteer work, friendships, family*

I think the mistake we make in taking the all is thinking that it is like going to the help yourself bins at the candy store where you can take one chocolate kiss or ten chocolate kisses, and you pay for your purchase and leave the store.  Instead, the all is more like being told you can purchase a bag of Goldenberg peanut chews — which is simultaneously the most delicious and most disappointing candy in the world.  Do you know Goldenberg peanut chews?  They are a favourite of grandfathers everywhere… well… perhaps more like great-grandfathers at this point.  They were one of the only candies sold at my sleepaway camp in the canteen so everyone ate them, and they’re actually very good — chocolate, chewy peanut cluster bars — and they make me happy because they remind me of camp, and of Josh’s grandfather who ate them.  And yet they’re Goldenberg peanut chews — they’re not a Hershey bar or M&Ms.  People pass over them as a candy choice for good reason.  But having it all is like that — it’s like being told that you can have candy, but the candy is going to be a big bag of Goldenberg peanut chews that you’re going to have to schlep around in your purse whether you want to keep carrying them or not.  Once you buy the candy, you’re going to have to carry it, even if you pass one of those help yourself bins and want to grab one chocolate kiss.  You can’t.  Because your candy is the Goldenberg peanut chews.  And the help yourself bins are for those who are still undecided or working towards the all.

I’m not explaining this well.


The all is fantastic when it’s fantastic.  But when you opt to take on part of the all, you take on that part of the all regardless of whether you’re on Earth or Jupiter.  When you opt for the marriage, you get the hand holding, and you also get the responsibilities.  You get the mind-blowing sex and you get the “seriously, can you please hang up your jacket in the closet instead of leaving it on the railing because I am going to flip out on you and beat you senseless if you leave that jacket one more time on the end of the bannister WHY DO YOU CREATE SO MUCH FUCKING WORK FOR ME.”  With the house, you both have this space to keep you safe from the elements, a place that reflects your tastes and contains all these items that you love that bring you comfort; and you have the other side of home ownership when the front door breaks and you need to now figure out who you call to repair such a thing and scrape together the money to pay for the new door and bend your schedule around the time period that the repair person can show up.

My job both provides money and is a mental outlet, and it keeps me up at night until 2 am, trying to hit all of my deadlines.  I am running on empty; trying to squeeze work into all the unclaimed minutes of my day.  I don’t think I’d be happy not working, but I’m certainly not happy working either, which is the whole Goldenberg peanut chewiness of it all.  It’s a job — it’s prestige and money — and it’s candy.  But it’s candy that is a big bag of Goldenberg peanut chews.  And sometimes I’m grateful to have candy, and sometimes I just feel like complaining how much space this candy is taking up in my purse and it isn’t even a cute little bag of chocolate kisses — the exact amount I want.  It’s a big lumpy bag of Goldenberg peanut chews.  And I love peanut chews… and I don’t love peanut chews when I see it next to M&Ms… and I love peanut chews… OH MY G-D, DOESN’T ANYONE WANT TO TAKE A GOLDENBERG PEANUT CHEW FROM ME TO GET IT OUT OF MY PURSE?

I can’t imagine taking any of the all of my plate because when I’m on Earth, the all is completely manageable.  I somehow can find time to see friends and take the kids to paint pottery and make dinner for Josh and turn in an assignment and work on the family tree… and it all fits.  It’s all exactly the weight I expect it to be.  But all summer I’ve been on Jupiter, and all the responsibilities have been heavy; heavier than they are in other months.  I can’t get enough done; I am spread too thin, people want more than I can give, and there are few places where I can say no without either offending or losing out on something important.  I have to do lists for my to do lists.  I literally have additional post-it notes that tell me how to approach the other post-it notes.  Because without them, I wouldn’t get it all done.  Too many things would fall through the cracks.  So I make to do lists for my to do lists.  That’s where I am right now.  And I know this will pass, that I’ll be back on Earth later and glad that I traveled to Jupiter even if it does make things quite heavy.  Because — my G-d — I was on Jupiter.  And I never forget the wonder of all that.


I screamed at the twins the other night.  The ChickieNob had lost a doll, and in trying to help her find this doll, we cleaned up a drawer together and we threw out a bunch of pieces of random plastic junk, mostly goody bag fare.  Later that night, when it was time for bed, she decided to let the lower lip start quivering, and she told me that she really had wanted one of those bracelets we had thrown out — a bracelet which was not only a piece of junk but which was currently buried in the garbage bin under the chicken carcasses from dinner’s chicken and rice.  And suddenly, I lost it, thinking about how I had four hours of work ahead of me, and I was going to use precious minutes trying to find a piece of junk jewelry.  I wanted to dump all the garbage on her bed and jump up and down on it screaming, “I HAVE TOO MUCH ON MY PLATE AND NOW YOU’RE ASKING ONE MORE UNNECESSARY THING FROM ME!”  But I didn’t.

Instead I shouted something akin to that (which, in all fairness, was much saner than what I wanted to do as I snapped) and stormed out of her room, leaving Josh to deal with her tears.  And that is the heaviness of the all: it weighs 40 pounds when she wants me to still carry her like a baby, cuddling her head against my shoulder, my sweet girl, my partner-in-crime, my mini best friend.  There are few people I want to spend a day with more than the ChickieNob or the Wolvog when they are 40 pounds, and they are usually 40 pounds.  But then they turn into a Jupiter 94 pounds when I have deadlines screaming at me and my blackberry buzzing non-stop and a sink full of dishes.  And I can’t carry 94 pounds.  It makes me want to just scream hysterically, “who the hell expects me to carry 94 pounds for 24 hours?”  Because that’s what you sign up for when you sign up for the “all” in life: you have to take it whether it’s at an Earth weight or a Jupiter weight.  And you need to carry it even when your arms feel like they’re going to break, when you wonder how you could have ever thought that the all was so light that it might float away if you didn’t hold tight.

I completed all my work by 1 am, and then sat at the kitchen table and cried.  And then I put on a pair of surgical gloves that I use for touching chicken and dug out the bag from inside the garbage can and found the bracelet.  The cheap, plastic bracelet that she probably didn’t give two-shits about but was only mentioning to get out of going to bed.  I bleached the bracelet and wrapped it in an apology note and brought it to the ChickieNob’s room to tell her that I’m sorry even though she was sleeping.  And then I got into bed and stayed up for another hour, unable to sleep because Jupiter does that to you.  It takes five minutes to unwind from a day on Earth; it takes an hour to unwind from a day on Jupiter.  Because when I’m on Jupiter, I sort of hate myself.  I hate that I am so focused on the weight of the all that I don’t remember most of the time the happiness of the all.  And those moments when I realize that, that I’m not appreciating how good I have it, I berate myself.  I hate myself.  I tell myself that I suck because I yelled at my kid because she wanted one more thing from me before she went to sleep.

And all of that, it just adds to the heaviness of Jupiter because I wake with this residue of feelings that I carry with me into the next day, which affects how productively I work, how productively I parent, and the cycle continues because I am overtired, stretched too thin, scanning my to lists for my to do lists.


I don’t know why I am writing a blog post about this instead of tackling my to do list except that I read an article in Forbes about a woman who was told that she wasn’t infertile if she couldn’t conceive between 34 – 39: she was just in a suboptimal fertile window and she needed to accept the facts of life as told by a random doctor who doesn’t know the first thing about this woman’s personal health history.  While I agreed with large chunks of the article, I also found myself wanting to smack some of the people who delivered quotes in the article (an effect of life on Jupiter — it makes you rage-y) when I was thrown off-guard by the final line:

“These girls and all girls need to know that there are different meanings to ‘having it all’ and different ways they can have it all, or as much as they want.”

As much as they want?  What a horrible thing to teach girls since life isn’t the help yourself bins.  If you want the all, if you want the marriage, two children, career, house, volunteer work, friendships, family, you need to understand that you get the bag of Goldenberg peanut chews, which at camp is the biggest treat of the day, but in the real world drugstore is also the ugly cousin to the Snickers.  It’s both those things; the sweetness and the sweet-ish.  That’s what I want the girls of tomorrow to understand; prepare yourself for the heaviness of Jupiter, enjoy yourself with the lightness of Earth, and know that sometimes you get to choose which planet you’re on and sometimes you don’t, but wherever you are, this weight will change one thousand times before you put down the all.

* This is what my all looks like.  Your all may include travel, caring for aging parents, hobbies, or any of thousands of options which create a personal all; a term which I believe is defined by an individual and not someone else’s idea of an “all” list.

Photo Credit: Jupiter via WikiCommons


1 Tiara { 07.31.12 at 8:34 am }

This post has me in sobs…so poignant. Tho I was confused at first as to what you were getting to, you have articulated the All so well. Your analogy of the planets & weight is genius. Thank you so much for writing this. I don’t think I can express how deep an impact it’s had one me.

2 Lacie { 07.31.12 at 8:49 am }

This was so well said, Mel. Your analogy is perfect. I’ve been feeling this exact same way all summer. As a teacher I should be enjoying my first summer with my baby boy. Instead, grad school work has been weighing on my shoulders (I FINALLY finished my masters last week!) and trying to fit it in while meeting the needs of my baby and getting to stuff around the house and striving to get back into shape and having a conversation now and then with my husband has left me without a moment to blog. I am now looking at the to-do list for my to-do list on my desk, as I am, ahem, writing this comment.

Thank you.

3 Ana { 07.31.12 at 9:01 am }

Oh Mel. What a wonderful metaphor—lightness vs. heaviness. Some days its like all the different facets of life are lifting up the others and I’m literally dancing through it all. Others, its as if they are all weighing each other down & I can hardly expand my lungs, much less take a step. And yes, we need to teach our children (because I think the men may struggle too…its different…but its there) about the heaviness. But how? I feel like past generations did a better job preparing their children for the reality of life simply being hard, but these days we want to shelter the innocence & hope. I don’t know how to balance those messages.

4 Marisa { 07.31.12 at 9:16 am }

Wow. I’ve been struggling with having it ‘all’ for awhile now. In my previous life (before IF, before babies) I idolized people like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer because they were doing it all and having it all. The perfect life with babies and strong careers.

After two rounds of layoffs that knocked my husband and I on our asses, I’m staying home with my boys now and doing consulting work on the side. The strange part is that I NEVER thought I’d want to be a stay at home mom but now that I’ve had the chance I not only love it but truly want to find a way to make it work (and do work). Ironically enough, now that I’ve realized how much I want to spend time with the boys work opportunities seem to be flying my way at lighting speed.

Thank you for writing this. I’m trying to constantly figure out what my ‘all’ is and having women like you as my new Sheryl and Marissa is so helpful.


5 sky girl { 07.31.12 at 9:20 am }

You have nailed it on the head. I found myself nodding along and saying YES! to parts. Thanks Mel.

6 KeAnne { 07.31.12 at 9:31 am }

Beautiful. I happened to say to my husband on Saturday that it was so humid that I felt like I was on a planet like Jupiter in which I weighed more and could barely move and here you are with this analogy that also perfectly describes the mental weight I’ve been carrying for a long time. This year has been rough and I need to figure out how to return to Earth.

7 Courtney { 07.31.12 at 9:33 am }

Awesome post, Mel. I found myself crying and agreeing with you at so many times. I’ve felt so stretched lately. I can’t find how to fit it all in the day, and still leave time for myself without being completely exhausted.
Beautifully written, Mel. Thank you.

8 Mud Hut Mama { 07.31.12 at 9:58 am }

I loved this post and despite saying, “I’m not explaining this well’ you explain it beautifully. At the moment I’m light with my all and I’m relishing it because heavy is never too distant and I know heavy will find me again. I think that knowledge makes being light so invigorating.

I love that you put on your gloves and pulled ChickieNobs bracelet out of the trash at 1am. I’m sorry you are heavy now and hope you are light again soon.

9 Detour { 07.31.12 at 10:02 am }

I love this, Mel. You describe the All and the weightiness so beautifully. I feel on the verge of having it all, or maybe even in the midst of it, and sometimes the weight becomes overwhelming. I did not anticipate this feeling.

You are so sweet to have dug the bracelet out of the trash for ChickieNob. 🙂

10 Anne { 07.31.12 at 10:39 am }

Oh wow–I’ve totally been feeling this way. I’m running a summer camp and dragging my infant around with me, which is exhausting, but I whined all winter about wanting to spend more time with my children who are driving me crazy!

Basically, I’m just glad that I’m not the only one feeling this way. I needed the reminder that the load does get lighter even if it doesn’t seem like it ever will.

11 Esperanza { 07.31.12 at 11:02 am }

This is an incredible post. So poignant and so well said. I want to write more about what it made me feel but I can’t quite put it into words. I’ll have to digest it today and then either return to comment more or to write my own post about it.

Thank you for sharing this.

12 It Is What It Is { 07.31.12 at 12:20 pm }

I have never been sure why women pursue some elusive “having it ALL”. Men don’t. Men do what they do, have their ambitions and seemingly take their life as it comes, one day at a time. Sure, they goals which may include the desire to have a family, own a home, perfect their golf game, but never are they held to some manufactured standard of having it ALL. I guarantee you, if surveyed, 10/10 men would have never conjured that statement relative to themselves.

So, maybe it comes from being discriminated against, or maybe it is because we are the child-bearing sex, that we feel we have something to prove by chasing if not attaining our version, or, worse, society’s version of “it ALL”.

I have always felt (and I KNOW this has to do with being in an accident that killed my brother) that my life was what I made it. I never ascribed to someone else’s view of what my life should be nor have I ever felt compelled to have it ALL, because, frankly, life has way too much to offer to ever be able to have and enjoy it ALL. My life has unfolded as it has and I have been mindful, at different points, of what I felt was missing and knew that perhaps I’d have to make some adjustments to bring the missing piece to me (can’t work 70 hrs/week AND find a suitable partner), but I still always felt that it would either happen or it wouldn’t and it wouldn’t change how I felt about my life or that I was somehow less than.

I always want to be a better person, particularly a better mother, but not relative to having it ALL. I strive to find the particular equation that brings me into balance, into alignment with what I am supposed to be. I don’t know, maybe that is akin to having it ALL but it doesn’t feel that way. Somehow, to me, having it ALL comes from without not from within.

I commiserated with you on yelling at the ChickieNob as the stress of being pregnant at 46 with my questionable cervix has created an undercurrent of stress for me that makes me snappish with my son. I always feel horrible after and we discuss why/how I was out of line and what I could have done to handle the situation better, but snapping/yelling at him always makes me feel small.

13 Alexicographer { 07.31.12 at 1:41 pm }

This is perfect. I’ve read a lot on the “having it all” issue of late, but no one has captured as nicely as you have, here, the way the problem is the cons that come with the pros of whatever “it all” is.

14 Kathy { 07.31.12 at 1:43 pm }

What a great post Mel. I really appreciate they way explained how you are feeling and as you so often do, you found an analogy that helps others really get and relate to what you are saying. I too have been spending time away from Earth lately and find it difficult to getting everything done that I want and/or need to. That also leads to my second guessing myself and having trouble sleeping at times.

I heard or read somewhere awhile ago that people, especially women, can “have it all” but in most cases not “all at once.” I really appreciate that idea, as it helps me to see how at different times in my life I can choose to focus on and prioritize various things and people. Easier said than done, but in theory it makes sense to me.

Finally, I love that you found the bracelet for ChickieNob and wrote her a note. That is totally something I would do. I was reading another blog post recently about taking responsibility for our actions and at times apologizing to our children. I do that and am proud of them knowing that I am not a perfect parent and make mistakes/overreact sometimes too.

Thank you for this. I can’t wait to see you again in two days and hope that we can spend some quality time on Earth together at BlogHer or at least we can have a break from orbiting the other planets.

15 Her Royal Fabulousness { 07.31.12 at 3:46 pm }

This is an absolutely amazing post. I will think about it for days to come. Thank you for writing it.

16 a { 07.31.12 at 7:27 pm }

I so do not enjoy it when the world feels weighty – or, as you say, when I feel like I’m on Jupiter.

I have been in the same situation as you with the ChickieNob – and probably far more frequently. But I’m a believer in the check/double check/one last time for good measure method of discarding things…and then there’s no going back. So, while I would also have apologized for yelling, I would definitely not have been digging through the trash. I hope she appreciates you and your efforts…and I’m sure she does.

I hope life lightens up for you…

17 jjiraffe { 07.31.12 at 7:54 pm }

Yeah. This is how I’ve been feeling this summer. Overextended.

I read Nie Nie Dialogues’ book a couple of days ago, and it really clicked for me: life is so crazy and busy and stressful. But I am just so thankful to be here. And I’m trying to grasp the sweet moments in life more.

Anyway, I feel you on this post. You are not alone in feeling the gravitational pulls.

18 Chickenpig { 07.31.12 at 10:02 pm }

The weight of sadness this month makes me feel like I have Jupiter on my chest. It makes me feel like I’m behind on everything, from parenting to laundry and everything in between. July 20th was my due date, and it doesn’t look like I will be back to Earth anytime soon. *sigh*

19 missohkay { 07.31.12 at 10:11 pm }

This is the post I would have written if I were more eloquent and weren’t living on Jupiter for the last month. I’ve had a start of a post ever since I read the ubiquitous Atlantic article about having it all. Thank you.

20 Mali { 07.31.12 at 11:43 pm }

I’m thinking. Hard. And I may come back and comment. Or I may post on this. Once my thinking is done. But my first thought is – perhaps “All” is actually “too much.” But I can’t explain that right now because I’m still thinking.

I did appreciate your definition of “all” though – as the “marriage, two kids and family” thing doesn’t really work for a lot of people. So thanks for recognising that we don’t have to have those things to have it all.

21 Justine { 07.31.12 at 11:50 pm }

I’ll take a peanut chew. 🙂

First, I have to say that you may quite possibly be the most amazing parent I know. Because I don’t know if I’d have it in me to go through the trash for the bracelet. Apology, yes… I’ve drawn pictures and written cards and notes and made ice cream … but oh, plastic in the trash … after working late … you are your little girl’s hero. And mine.

I love this metaphor. It’s interesting to me how the “all” changes, too … and yet the problem of weightiness remains. And we think that if we had a *different* all, maybe it would weigh less. Or at least, I do. I have, a lot, lately. But in the end? It’s still peanut chews.

Hoping that bag feels a little lighter tomorrow.

22 Esperanza { 08.01.12 at 3:10 am }

Still digesting your post, hoping I can add something meaningful to the conversation at some point.

But I’m back again before I’m ready for that because I was struck, reading through the comments, that I “knew” every single one of the commenters. What an incredible community we “live in” that I can read those comments and attach the authors with their blogs and their stories; I know who they are and who they care about and where they call home. It’s an incredible thing and I’m so utterly humbled, and grateful, to be a part of it.

23 Ellen K. { 08.01.12 at 7:53 am }

I like the Jupiter weight analogy. This year (the girls are 3) is kicking my ass. They’re great kids, but there’s always something on the level of ChickieNob’s bracelet.

24 Jendeis { 08.01.12 at 10:13 am }

This is it. This is exactly it.

25 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.01.12 at 12:39 pm }

“prepare yourself for the heaviness of Jupiter, enjoy yourself with the lightness of Earth, and know that sometimes you get to choose which planet you’re on and sometimes you don’t…”

The incredible lightness (and heaviness) of being.

Should be in a book of awesomest quotes ever.

26 Queenie { 08.01.12 at 5:59 pm }

Yum. Peanut chews. Yep, I’ve been living on Jupiter this week, too. If I told you two of the things I’ve done, you would totally slap me for feeling Jupiter-heavy, because they are OH MY GOD cool. But it still feels like work this week. And instead of yelling at the kids, my husband got it in a big way, because part of my all is that I am the planner in the house, and the detail person, and I am so fucking sick of my to do lists, and the fact I can’t escape Jupiter-heavy and probably won’t until we move back to the US in approximately 59 days.

So yeah, I hear you. Awesome post.

27 Peg { 08.01.12 at 7:46 pm }

This entire post made me cry in recognition. The majority of my days have me living on Jupiter with couple earth days to help me catch my breath. Excellent post.

28 jenn { 08.01.12 at 8:13 pm }

This perfectly describes it for me. I have been feeling it lately, this year, but no words will come as eloquently as these. I hope that I am soon to be on Earth and can fully enjoy my all.
(I hope you don’t mind if I link to this?)

29 {sue} { 08.01.12 at 9:02 pm }

OMFG, YES! Yes, yes, yes. Wow. I spent my day on Jupiter and bedtime is approaching and I have to pack and I still have work to do and my plate, my lovely plate is so loaded up I can’t carry it on Jupiter. (I love this.)

30 Corey Feldman { 08.01.12 at 9:47 pm }

I randomly had some Goldberg Peanut chews today, and yes I totally thought of my grandparents.

31 Collette { 08.02.12 at 2:11 pm }

This is my first time commenting and frankly, I don’t think I have much to say–at least not articulately. This post really resonated with me and came at a wonderful time. Thanks for the analogy re the weightiness of Jupiter and the oh so timely reminder to enjoy the lightness of Earth.

32 loribeth { 08.02.12 at 8:11 pm }

Interesting perspective, and you’re right. I’m still not entirely sure we can “have it all,” especially all at once — but you’re so right that we need to realize you get the bad along with the good. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be sunshine & rainbows all the time. And somedays, it’s a downpour. :p

33 Terrisse Arete { 08.05.12 at 2:12 am }

You said exactly what I have been feeling! I feel now that someone understands! This came at such a great time.

34 Bea { 08.13.12 at 10:53 am }

Oh, thank goodness. You screamed at your kid. It’s not just me.

I mean, I’m really sorry you screamed at your kid. Doesn’t it make you feel awful?

This is a great post. Yes, it’s like waking up in a different kind of gravity sometimes, for whatever reason. Not parenting – just life.


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