Nobody outside the movies really has that kind of life and if we try to achieve the impossible we are only setting ourselves up for misery, guilt and their toxic buddy, resentment.
I learned this the hard way, needless to say. When my son was born five years ago, I thought working flexible half days would help me achieve the magic balance between being a perfect mother and a businesswoman. But life turned out to be more complicated than that: neither babies nor clients have half-day demands. Trying to please everyone, all the time, soon sent me into a spiral of guilt and exhaustion that drained my vitality for a few long years.
Children, unfortunately, are not compatible with being in control 100% of the time. Maybe, when my child didn't want to eat his lunch and I was panicking about the 2pm meeting across town, I should have spent the time doing a puzzle together instead. Or let someone else feed him and go to the meeting with a clear mind. I tried so hard to get it all "right".
I have found more balance now. My son has taught me how to slow down, be present in the moment and actually enjoy spending time talking about caterpillars. I've taught him - or am trying to teach him - that mothers are not slaves, that good things only come through hard work (no matter how smart you are) and that it's good for us to have high expectations of life, but we can do this with love and compassion for ourselves too.
I won't pretend that life is perfect, though. The task of integrating work, family and the rest of our lives is a delicate daily balance. But we do each other no favours, as parents, when we deny that love comes at a price. Let's rather acknowledge the price we pay - and the true value of what we get in return.
The learning has been priceless and I feel a fraction more qualified to be the mother of an extraordinary little teacher aged five.