Can we have it all? – by Peta Leahy

Being asked recently to contribute to WICGE was very humbling, but on what to blog about became very a very daunting task. A few ideas were thrown at me – my journey through the Australian Coastal Society of which I am now the first female Chairperson, my role as a senior researcher at the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management, my position as a board member of the SEQ Catchments Members Association, and how I balance all my commitments with raising a young family and all the responsibilities that come with that.

Hmmmm… The old “Can women have it all?” debate.

My eldest child is seven and a half (make sure you always include the half because this bit is important to them!). After returning from maternity leave the struggle to find the allusive work-life balance has been just that – A struggle! Three years on from child number one add in child number two and the path to reach the perfect balance seemed completely out of my reach.

This is not a new topic of conversation and is something that is often talked about between working women especially those who seem to have it all worked out but more often than not as soon as one asks the question “how do you do it?” you are usually met with the response “I am not doing it at all!”.

I had it in my head that if I could find the perfect balance then I would be happy. Happy in myself and happy in my life and then everything would be unicorns and rainbows. So I started the journey to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I read books, attended mindfulness workshops, meditation classes and yoga, concentrated on doing things for myself, did activities that supposedly made me happy and tried to find a hobby. The more I did the more the see-saw of life tipped off balance and the more unhappy I became.

Hold on a minute! Stop! What if this so called work-life balance is all just a load of bullshit? What if this is just another way that society makes women feel guilty about the choices they make in life? You never hear of men being asked how they have it all and I have never met a woman who says she has found that perfect balance. So does it actually exist?

A quote from one of the many mindfulness workshops I did came to me. “Why worry if you can do something about it; and why worry if you cannot do anything about it”. To me this is about acceptance. The acceptance that maybe I have already found my work-life balance and this balance may mean missing that important work meeting to attend the book week parade or missing that Mother’s Day morning tea because I have fieldwork to complete that is tide dependant. The acceptance that no one is a super hero and that striving to be one is just setting up oneself for imminent failure.

So how do I balance all my commitments with raising a young family and all the responsibilities that come with that? Not very well. But I do the best that I can and I have to learn to accept that.

Peta Leahy is a Senior Researcher at the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management. She has a B. Env Sc and and MPhil will a focus on ‘Beach Use and Carrying Capacity on Gold Coast Beaches’. In addition to her outstanding coordinative work with the Centre she is the President of the Australian Coastal Society and is on the organising committee for the Queensland Coastal Conference. She has also written three pocket guides on coastal dune plants for the Gold Coast, Capricorn Coast and the Northern Agricultural Region of Western Australia.

Find out more about Peta here.
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