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First person

“I no longer exist in any sense other than being someone’s wife and someone’s mother”: Have it All? Can’t do it all.

Jette Virdi on gender imbalance in running a home, and the exhaustion of modern life.

When I first started writing this, it was a piece all about how I did a lot of the housework. How I’d become a 1930’s housewife; doing everything and having no real life of my own. How my modern society is unlivable. And my modern society was my house during the pandemic.


It’s not that my husband doesn’t do stuff. It’s just that a lot is left to me. It’s just that I have to ask a lot of the time for him to do the stuff. And I’m really tired. I’m actually on the brink.

Because for me, what I thought would bring me more happiness, more fulfilment – a life with someone kind and smart and funny and a baby to boot, hasn’t. 

It’s brought me less happiness and less fulfilment. I no longer exist in any sense other than being someone’s wife and someone’s mother. I am the one who carries all the emotional labour, and the house stuff, on top of running two businesses in a three hour window each day. 

And it feels damn unfair. That my wants and needs have been put last out of everyone within the household. I know it’s my fault too and that somehow, makes it worse. 

I’ve let this happen.

My first draft of this piece was me talking about how men do nothing. And that I’m sick to my eyeballs of being a housekeeper. And it wasn’t fair. Because he does do stuff. Just not as much as I do. And that’s partly because I have flexible hours, partly because I don’t voice that I need help enough, and partly because, well, he doesn’t see it. 

I wrote this piece first of all after posting on Instagram “Feel like we’ve moved beyond ‘burnout’ and more to the pandemic has illuminated that nearly every aspect of modern society is fundamentally unlivable”,  it was to highlight how unfair I feel my life is compared to my husbands. 

I talked about this piece to a friend, and they asked “what did you expect?” Like I should have known that I would end up with most of the stuff to do. I didn’t. I don’t expect this shit life. I expected it to be shared because we’re a team, my husband and I. We’re in it together against the world. 

Aren’t we?

I’m not a modern woman living in 2021. For me, I’ve gone back to a time where women served, picked up undies off the floor, did the cooking, tidied the house, and made sure everyone was looked after. The responsibilities fall on me, 95% of the time and I’m exhausted by it.  

And when I really think about how modern society is so open, so free, so full, I can also see how much we’ve had taken from us. Weren’t we sold the promise that modern society is good for everyone? I don’t see really how it serves females. We’re expected to work but also look after the house. We’re expected to be who we want but still conform to a male beauty standard. We’re told to be loud but not too loud. Make decisions but only if it doesn’t affect men. I don’t see how much has changed. 

We have so much we’re able to do, we want to do it all. But physically and emotionally, we can’t, and I don’t know about you but I’m fully disappointed that I can’t do it all. I’m disappointed that what I wanted isn’t available, even though I was told it was. I won’t even quantify by asking “how do those women do it” because fuck me if I want to get up at 4 am to start my day so I can do more things. 

I miss a time where phones weren’t a thing (yes I’m that old), and you’d sit in the sun with the smell of freshly mown grass making you horny as the boys ran past and you’d giggle and joke and take the piss. There was no backstabbing online. We had the courage to say it or we just never said it. We had nowhere else to be. Just there in that moment and it was so powerful. So glorious. To think we had nowhere to be apart from exactly where we were. Looking back it feels so luxurious. Whenever I’m anywhere now I’m already thinking of the next place I have to be and the things to do. I’m exhausted by it.

Modern society has told me I can have it all. But I can’t. Not really. 

I’m not happy rushing between mother and business owner, doing neither very well, always feeling disappointed in myself and how I’ve not quite achieved what I’d set out to do. But I don’t have the time. Yet I’m told I do have the time, I just have to work harder, right? Because I can be the wife and the mother and the business owner. I can also be the lover, and the shoulder, and the thinking and doer, and all the other fucking things women are told we can be. But in this time warp, we’ve been going through for what seems like years now, I see clearly that I can’t. So I have to choose. Mother or business owner. I can’t be both. I don’t have the energy to be both but I want to. 

The pandemic has made me rush even more than before because I don’t have people to help me be the business owner I am and the mum, and I thought that would be picked up by my husband, but it hasn’t been. And it’s partly my fault and partly his. It’s both of our faults because we’re learning how to be in this new, modern society. One where we don’t know the rules yet. Just like new terminology comes out constantly for feelings, syndromes, hate, we’re still learning them. Learning the way we should move together through this modern society, and it’s fucking hard. 

But I am less happy than I was. I am less fulfilled. Would I be happier or more fulfilled if I wasn’t married and didn’t have a kid? I don’t know. I know that I love them with all the inches of my soul. But in this modern society I lost the me that I also love with every inch of my soul, and if I don’t love me, how can I love them fully with a true, unwavering, never judging love?