Moms, Careers and How We Measure Success (and Failure)

I’m throwing in the towel, waving the white flag, and acknowledging that life is totally kicking my ass these days. Here’s why:

1. Salt and sugar detox

About four weeks ago, I decided that I would remove salty snacks and sugary desserts from my diet. I did this because A. I apparently have masochist tendencies and B. My cholesterol levels are through the roof and cutting the garbage out of my diet always helps get them under control.

During week one of this healthy living plan, my brain was so foggy I could barely put a sentence together. Weeks two and three were better, for the most part, and I felt – dare I even say it? – like a salt and sugar detox rock star. Disappointingly, this has been followed by a hellish week four, during which my cravings are so bad that I’m licking my husband’s neck for salt when he gets back home from the gym. I am a mess.

fighting failure

2. Book proposal

I have a literary agent. I’m working on a book proposal. Doesn’t that sound so awesome, like I should be walking around feeling really good about myself awesome? Nope. Instead, I spend my days lugging my laptop from one coffee shop to another, trying to outrun the very real feeling that humiliation is just one crappy draft of a book proposal away.

I should be patting myself on the back. The sample chapter is done and the chapter summaries are done. All that’s really left is the synopsis (essentially a summary), which you’d think would be pretty easy since I know almost exactly what’s going to happen in the story. Wrong! So far I’ve managed to wrench eight sentences out of my head in about eight hours, which means this synopsis will be done, um, never. Why does it feel like tremendous success and supreme failure are each just a heartbeat away?

3. I'm failing all womankind

I was once so proud of my financial independence and when I envisioned my future, I never saw myself being supported by anyone. Now here I am, a decade after getting married, and hubby is the primary breadwinner. Every time I look at my bank statements and the small amount of money my business made last year, I have to remind myself that it takes time to build a profitable business and that there is more to life than a paycheck.

And I believe it, or at least I believe it when it comes to other people. But a voice inside of me, a really loud and irritating and relentless voice, says I shouldn’t be financially dependent on another person, even if that person is my loving and supportive life partner. That I should be setting an example for my daughter and showing her that women don’t need men to survive or thrive in life.

I blame this nagging belief that I’m letting down myself, my daughter, and pretty much all of womankind on Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer, obviously. Couldn’t they have joined the Peace Corps or spent a semester in college getting stoned and eating Snackwells? As I observe all of the focused and ambitious professional women around me, especially the moms, I find myself asking, when did the path to success become so punishingly straight and narrow?

This week, I’ll be finishing up my salt and sugar detox, my book proposal and, oh yeah, an austerity program that I added to the mix just to increase the chances that I would feel like a total piece of shit by the end of the month. Maybe surpassing these modest milestones will finally convince me I can stop all the striving. Maybe, but I doubt it.

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