It’s 2pm on a Friday afternoon.
I count the productive minutes left in my day before my children are home.
Ninety minutes. Ninety minutes.
My fingers tap against the desk. I need to write, dates and deadlines approach too fast and the heartbeat in my ears sounds more like the second hand of a clock. My eyes sting. I stifle a yawn and tell myself it’s too late in the day for another coffee. I waste minutes as I watch geese shuffle past the window in their clumsy line.
I came back Sunday from my Writers’ Festival weekend wrecked, but with no moment to catch my breath before being propelled into the week ahead.
The need to submit two more articles to Elephant Journal this week. That makes 8. If their writers submit 8 articles in one month they are eligible to receive some kind of payment. Eligible. As in, not even guaranteed. It relies on how many views my articles generate, and whether that helps them grow their readership as a whole. Otherwise they receive a complimentary annual subscription. Which is swell, given I’ve already paid my annual subscription. #writerslife
The need to plan a workshop and presentation for Literacy Week. The need to write some articles for HuffPost. The need to write an article on PTSD for a journal awaiting my submission. The need to plan words, plan scenes, plan time to write my novel-in-progress. The need to pay bills, do housework, pull weeds, plant vegetables. The long term projects around the house and farm that will have to wait.
Then mid-week the husband decides he wants to lamb-mark this week before the rain. Which means drop everything and cook food. Lots of it. Because for the rest of the week, not only will I have to feed four growing children, but also four fully grown, working, hungry men.
And so my week since has involved mornings spent wading through muddy sheep yards and marking lambs, a couple of hours of writing time grasped in the afternoon before school finishes, the rest of the day in the kitchen baking copious amounts of food, making dinner, preparing lunches, helping with homework, doing chores, sorting and folding washing, cranking the fires, feeding the animals, and this week preparation for piano exams thrown in there too.
When the evenings have slowed down I have reached for a glass of wine, somehow synonymous with calling it a day, and fallen onto the couch. Except, I don’t call it a day. I remember messages I need to reply to, emails I need to return, plans I need to confirm. I try to fool myself into the belief that sitting on the couch with a glass of wine is conducive to relaxation time, but as my fingers quick-fire against my phone and I engage in virtual conversations I’m too tired to have, I know this isn’t true.
Eventually all four kids are in bed. I tell myself I should write for another hour, but instead berate myself as I inch upstairs, the promise of writing tomorrow night vague upon my tongue. I wash and moisturise, brush and floss, check everyone is asleep, then force myself to read one chapter of my book, which I’m too tired to absorb and will have to re-read anyway.
Tomorrow the alarm will go off at 6.30am, and I will do it all again.
I recently read an article by Kristi Coulter, The Real Reason Why Women Drink , that confronted and challenged me. Yes, it was ultimately about why women are compelled to drink. No, I’m not ready to delve into my own psychological demons about that one just yet.
But she makes reference to the 24-hour woman, which I thought of again today after I went to bed too late, woke up too tired, and have struggled to work this afternoon, too exhausted. She writes,
“We can’t afford to act like it’s okay that ‘Girls can do anything!’ got translated somewhere along the line to ‘Women must do everything.’ We can’t afford to live lives we have to fool our central nervous systems into tolerating. We can’t afford to be 24-hour women.”
The 24-hour woman. I am her. She is me. And she is in the faces of most women I know as we hurry past one another, shopping in one hand, children in the other, both eyes on the clock. We are scheduled, organized, programmed, committed.
And we are exhausted.
We’re tired of not taking an hour off. We’re tired of striving to accomplish more than we can fit into each day. Tired of working as hard as any man for less pay and recognition. Tired of running our houses, running our businesses, raising our families, building our careers, and feeling the pressure to do it all with shaved legs, shaped eyebrows and three days a week at the gym.
We’re tired of the lie that women can do it all, and should do it all, and there’s something wrong with us if we don’t do it all.
But most of all, we’re tired with ourselves for perpetuating the lie in our desperate pursuit of being that woman.
Because if we’re not that woman, then we have failed.
It’s time to call bullshit.
It’s time to realise our limitations do not diminish us, they preserve us.
It’s time to allow ourselves some much needed grace.
It’s time to no longer give power to the lie of the 24-hour woman, and instead claim the power back for ourselves.
I’m not sure yet how that will look for me, or how it will feel or how it will sound. Maybe at first it will stick a little in my throat, maybe it will feel like an unfamiliar stranger or a new pair of shoes that don’t quite feel right, and I’ll feel a little clunky and unsure of myself.
I don’t know.
I just know tonight I’ll pour another glass of wine and not think about the reasons behind it and wake up tomorrow and do it all again.
But then maybe I’ll remember I no longer want to be a 24-hour woman.
And maybe, dammit, I’ll put on my new pair of shoes and learn how to walk in them.