May 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

The Myth of Doing It All

Well readers, as some of you have noticed it has been quite some time since I’ve had a piece published in the paper. The irony of this is that the topic I’ve held onto, that I’ve sat down countless times to explore by written word, directly parallels the reason that it’s taken me so long to write: the myth of doing it all.

This myth, this idea that one can do it all easily floats all around us in language, the media, social media and even billboards. It is based on the premise that as we develop and progress, the transition toward further stages in life is expected to be smooth.

One can see this myth among college-aged students. There is that student who enrolls in school by him/herself, adjusts completely to the independence, searches for some sort of job or internship, experiences a strong academic and social life, succeeds and progresses onward toward more and more beautiful, shiny experiences. While this happens for some — perhaps those who have had doses of independence before, perhaps those who are diligent about preparation — for the most part this transition includes lots of messiness, mistakes, failures and overall important learning experiences. But these learning experiences can involve tears, anger, fear, longing and a plethora of other emotions. Imagine what would happen if we simply told these students that college might be a hard transition. What if we allowed for a range of experiences — those that are seamless as well as those they might not be? How might this impact the process of change and how one feels about his/her performance and abilities during these times.

I think of my current life stage — mid-twenties, recently married, working full time with two dogs, an apartment to keep up, food to cook, and friends and family I wish to see. Yeesh. I am blessed, truly, to have all this. But there wasn’t much warning that it might feel overwhelming at times. Those whom I’ve surrounded myself with are constantly supportive and my husband is not someone who expects four-course meals every night. And yet I look at social media and see all the foods people prepare and the beautiful Shabbat tables (not to mention that these women have children and my puppies just aren’t human children, let’s be honest) and the way they’ve slaved to stay awake until 4 a.m. so that everything could get done, and I wonder if I’m doing something wrong.

We’re all in different places in life and have different values; perhaps preparing a nice meal is the top priority for some while getting a good night’s rest is key for others. There isn’t an objective right or wrong way so long as we can all feel accomplished and supported. The key, in my mind, is to expand the conversation; let it be known that the adjustment to running a household may not feel easy. Or any adjustment or transition for that matter. It may be seamless. You may have incredible time-management skills and get it all done. Or maybe it will feel hard. You’ll need to find a balance and plan and also receive hugs and reassurance that you are not alone in this feeling. Balancing so many roles can feel stressful and scary and above all exhausting for both men and women. I wonder what might have happened had more people shared how hard it can feel. I wouldn’t change my life and all the responsibilities, I’m learning to balance and lean on those around me — and yet that isolating and even shameful feeling of “doing it wrong” could have been easily addressed so as to make me feel like just another human doing my best.

This dialogue around changing the conversation is one that can truly enhance the experience of so many in this community. It is reminiscent of the dialogue around eating disorders and my work to create a sense of normalcy rather than shame; I went through it, others go through it and it can be described with countless adjectives, but shameful need not be one of them.

Each person’s experience will be different. My experience, at times, is ordering Chinese food for Shabbat and leaving the laundry for an extra few days. Or maybe I get everything done on time. Either way, the ability to openly discuss this, whatever the age group or life stage, to discuss one’s difficulties or successes is crucial to allow for support and shared experiences. Now excuse me while I address the pile of thank you cards I need to write, and the episodes of my shows that I’m hoping to catch up on. Because that it what it means for me to get it all done in my own way.

Temimah Zucker is a social working hailing from Teaneck, NJ who specializes in working with those struggling with eating disorders. She is a primary therapist at Monte Nido Manhattan and also provides public speaking and mentorship on the subject. For inquiries, email [email protected].

 By Temimah Zucker, LMSW

 

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