Women have been sold a lie, you can't have it all: After Paloma Faith said raising children is like being a 'full-time CEO', mothers share brutal reality of why juggling careers and family is impossible

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  • Mothers from the UK have chatted to FEMAIL about Paloma Faith’s remarks
  • READ MORE: ‘I don’t believe women can have it all’: Paloma Faith claims men fail to use their ‘initiative’ when it comes to parenting

Women can’t ‘have it all’ despite being ‘given the idea’ that they can work and have their independence while raising children, Paloma Faith has declared.

The British singing sensation, 42, split from husband Leyman Lahcine after 10 years in 2022 and has been struggling to balance co-parenting their two daughters, aged seven and three, with her music career.

She told Radio Times: ‘I feel a bit disgruntled about society’s expectation on women, because we were given this idea that you could work and have your own money and independence while raising children.

‘What we’ve ended up with is far too much responsibility, and I think a lot of women are burning out.’

Indeed, Paloma is not the only woman feeling this way; speaking to FEMAIL, other modern mothers have opened up about their own experiences, echoing how it’s ‘impossible for one woman to do everything’.

Juggling motherhood while trying to claw back onto the career ladder is a struggle and most agree that giving 100 per cent to career, family, and personal fulfilment is not doable all at once. Here, we speak to the mothers who claim women ‘can’t have it all’…

‘We think we can have it all… the truth hit me like a runaway train’

Holly Matthews, from Coventry, is a mother of two (pictured together) and a self-development coach and founder of The Happy Me Project

Holly Matthews, from Coventry, is a mother of two (pictured together) and a self-development coach and founder of The Happy Me Project

Holly said: 'We think we can have it all. When I became a mum, I truly believed that everything would stay the same, only now I'd have a baby on my hip. The truth hit me like a runaway train'

Holly said: ‘We think we can have it all. When I became a mum, I truly believed that everything would stay the same, only now I’d have a baby on my hip. The truth hit me like a runaway train’

Holly Matthews, from Coventry, is mother to Brooke, 13, and Texas, 11, and a self-development coach and founder of The Happy Me Project.

Holly said: ‘We think we can have it all. When I became a mum, I truly believed that everything would stay the same, only now I’d have a baby on my hip. The truth hit me like a runaway train.

‘We aren’t enough, we aren’t enough to do everything. No one is. This myth that we can juggle it all, or that women are ‘great at multitasking’ sends us into burnout (and FYI we don’t choose to multitask, we are cornered into this behaviour). Truthfully, we are only ever doing one thing well at any one time.

‘When I’m working on my business, I am not spending time with my kids, when I’m spending time with my kids, my business admin piles up high and when I’m doing either of these things the piles of washing and dishes pile up higher than that.

‘My mental load is so high every day that socialising or time for me must be so heavily scheduled in advance, or it would never happen.

‘Women can be whatever the hell they like, of course they can! Women are strong, resilient and brave but when we win in one area, another area pays the price. 

‘We can do our very best to juggle it all, but this eventually just erodes our sense of self and is ultimately just another form of people pleasing.’

‘I don’t think it’s fair to have another child as life is so crazy’ 

Mother-of-one Laura Kay is the founder of permanent makeup business Laura Kay London in Radlett

Mother-of-one Laura Kay is the founder of permanent makeup business Laura Kay London in Radlett

Laura said: 'Juggling the demands of work and raising children can be a big challenge, leading to sacrifices in various aspects of life'

Laura said: ‘Juggling the demands of work and raising children can be a big challenge, leading to sacrifices in various aspects of life’

Mother-of-one Laura Kay is founder of permanent makeup business Laura Kay London in Hertfordshire.

Laura said: ‘Many women enter motherhood with the optimistic view that they can balance a successful career with family life, striving to ‘have it all.’ 

‘But the reality is a different picture. Juggling the demands of work and raising children can be a big challenge, leading to sacrifices in various aspects of life. 

‘For some women like me, this means sacrificing precious time with our families, as work commitments take over our days. There is very little room for quality time with loved ones and most certainly no time for self care days! 

‘I would say personally I was so career focused that I feel I don’t really remember the early years of having a baby.

‘I went back to work after six weeks after having a caesarean section on New Year’s Day in 2017, I never had maternity leave and watched my friends have a year off with their babies but I was so career focused that I didn’t even think what I was missing out on.

‘Now seven years later I try and have more of a balance and I make sure I do school pick ups as I feel these are things I remember as a child. 

‘I also decided to only have one child as I don’t think it’s fair to have another child as life is so crazy and I want to now give all my energy to him and give him the best life I can. 

‘I’ve always wanted to be independent and not rely on anyone so I know I can fend for myself if I need to, I think that sets a great example to my little man. 

‘In my parents generation things were very different, my mum didn’t work due to the cost of child care it was better for her to stay at home but things are very different now as most of my friends do work and juggle everything. 

‘I actually love my work and I call it my hobby. I’m so lucky to enjoy what I do, I wish I could get some of those baby years back now as time soon goes by and I can’t believe how quick seven years has gone!’ 

‘I’ve acknowledged that it’s impossible for one woman to do everything’

Mother-of-one Rebecca Tidy, 37, is a freelance writer and researcher, from Falmouth

Mother-of-one Rebecca Tidy, 37, is a freelance writer and researcher, from Falmouth

Rebecca, who has daughter, Mabel, six, has not returned to her academic career since having a child

Rebecca, who has daughter, Mabel, six, has not returned to her academic career since having a child

Mother-of-one Rebecca Tidy, 37, is a freelance writer and researcher, from Falmouth. She has a  daughter, Mabel, six.

Rebecca said: ‘I worked hard for the PhD that I proudly obtained from the same Russell Group university as my dad. And afterwards, I secured my dream job as a policing lecturer.

‘Nothing made me happier than the validation of publishing my research in the best academic journals. In fact, I was so dedicated to my career that I worked from my hospital bed on the night before my emergency C-section.

‘Maternity leave was tough, as I was alone with a newborn. Mabel was born prematurely, leaving her with breathing difficulties until the age of two and severe allergies.

‘It felt ironic that my then-fiancé was promoted to partner at his prestigious accounting firm soon after I gave birth. He was out of the house for 12 hours a day, while I got to grips with nappies and vomit.

‘Though I returned to work when Mabel was aged one, I found myself taking weeks off – or working from home – as she was poorly. I was too embarrassed to admit it, but I was exhausted and unwell too. Despite my best efforts, I was failing everyone.

‘The final straw came when my boss texted to ask why I missed a deadline, while I was in A and E with Mabel. I politely handed in my notice the next day with the intention of spending a year working from home as a freelance writer. However, I’ve not returned to my academic career since.

‘It’s been a financial stretch, as my income has halved. I’m often jealous of my ‘mum’ friends that kept their full-time careers. They’re professors now, whereas I’m single parenting and doing twice-daily school runs.

‘I do, however, still think that reining back my career goals was the right decision. Mabel’s now a healthy, happy six-year-old with bags of confidence. We have wonderful memories together from gardening to baking cupcakes.

‘Though I’ve been recovering from cancer, I’m feeling energetic and cheerful once again. I’ve acknowledged that it’s impossible for one woman to do everything.’

‘I had to carve out a new career’ 

Mother-of-two Sarah Haselwood, has James, ten, and Oliver, nine, and is a writer from Surrey

Mother-of-two Sarah Haselwood, has James, ten, and Oliver, nine, and is a writer from Surrey 

Before having her children, James, ten, and Oliver, nine, she worked as a full-time HR manager in London

Before having her children, James, ten, and Oliver, nine, she worked as a full-time HR manager in London

Mother-of-two Sarah Haselwood, has James, ten, and Oliver, nine, and is a writer from Surrey. 

Sarah said: ‘The concept of ‘having it all’ has been an ongoing debate in modern society, particularly in career, family, and personal fulfilment. 

‘As the pressures of life intensify, the desire to excel in all aspects of life simultaneously has become both a lofty aspiration and a source of immense stress.

‘I’d love to shout with positivity about how I easily manage children, marriage, an extended family, friendships, and a career every week. Unfortunately, the reality is less rosy. I have all those things, but it’s stressful to get everything done, please everyone, and feel like I’m on top of things. And I’m a pretty organised person!

‘Before I had my children, James, ten, and Oliver, nine, I worked as a full-time HR manager in London. 

‘After having Oliver, the ongoing battle of commuting and being late for work or nursery pickup led me to retrain as a freelance writer. While it’s been difficult carving out a new career, it’s made home life more manageable and given me more flexibility.

‘I don’t have any help with childcare, so I fit the school runs and clubs around my work. This is fantastic for allowing me to attend things like sports day, but I then have to work long hours around school to meet client deadlines.

‘It’s a manic time of year regarding the impending school holidays when the juggle of clubs and children off with work demands kicks in.

‘When my father passed away less than two years ago, there was an added responsibility of helping my mum move. Yet, weirdly, it was somehow possible to fit in selling the family home and helping mum buy a flat along with working kids and everything else. But in hindsight, it almost broke me.

‘Even though she now lives five minutes away, I feel guilty that I don’t have enough time to spend with her during my working week. Every weekend, I think about booking a walk with my mum or a coffee with a friend, yet Friday rolls around, and I seem to be behind on most things.

And then there’s the novel I started in lockdown which continues to exist, waiting for edits. Unfortunately, it remains at the bottom of the pile; hoping to get some attention when the kids leave home! 

‘It’s  true that you can’t have it all’

Mother-of-one Annette Kellow, 40, who is a journalist, from London, said jobs have wanted to know 'how I would "cope" with doing the role as a mum, how would I manage my workflow, did I have help at home? Questions they would never ask a man!'

Mother-of-one Annette Kellow, 40, who is a journalist, from London, said jobs have wanted to know ‘how I would “cope” with doing the role as a mum, how would I manage my workflow, did I have help at home? Questions they would never ask a man!’ 

Annette added: 'But the reality is unless you have a good support structure, you can't have it all, and if you want to have it all, you will always be fraught with friction'

Annette added: ‘But the reality is unless you have a good support structure, you can’t have it all, and if you want to have it all, you will always be fraught with friction’

Mother-of-one Annette Kellow, 40, who is a journalist, from London, said jobs have wanted to know ‘how I would “cope” with doing the role as a mum, how would I manage my workflow, did I have help at home? Questions they would never ask a man!’

She added: ‘But the reality is unless you have a good support structure, you can’t have it all, and if you want to have it all, you will always be fraught with friction.

‘Children will cry that you missed their assembly, bed times will be rushed, bosses will be annoyed if you don’t do overtime, the list is endless.

‘I know women in finance that have had to ditch the million pound deals because even with nannies, parents and a partner they still found they couldn’t make it work.

‘Instead of asking why women can’t have it all for those who do work a lot, maybe the question lies in why is no one helping her? Why is her partner’s work seen as more important than hers? What can be done to manage the juggle?

‘For me, I have a good support structure of childcare, parents and co-parent, but I still can’t have it all. I can do certain hours or times because of caring duties so I do what I can and not worry too much about the rest. And I’m perfectly OK with that, it’s the rest of the world that’s not! But it’s still true that you can’t have it all.’

‘I have to leave my corporate job and return home to Cornwall’

Mother-of-one Gemma Heard, 41, from Cornwall, is the CEO of GEM Consultancy UK, and is a finance expert for UK female entrepreneurs

Mother-of-one Gemma Heard, 41, from Cornwall, is the CEO of GEM Consultancy UK, and is a finance expert for UK female entrepreneurs

Gemma, who is a mother to Sonny, nine, said before she conceived her son she was working in a corporate earning over six figures a year

Gemma, who is a mother to Sonny, nine, said before she conceived her son she was working in a corporate earning over six figures a year

Mother-of-one Gemma Heard, 41, from Cornwall, is CEO of GEM Consultancy UK (Finance Expert for UK Female Entrepreneurs).

Gemma, who is a mother to Sonny, nine, said: ‘Becoming a single mum when my son was two months old was never in the plan. When I conceived my son I was working in a corporate earning over six figures a year financially secure. I lost my son’s father to addiction and subsequently have had to provide on my own ever since.

‘The separation meant leaving my corporate job and returning home to Cornwall where the reality of employment and child care costs did not stack up. 

‘It meant that running my own business was the only way I could be a present parent and also provide financially. So I started my own Accountancy business. Just like so many mothers who want to be there for their children and contribute financially have started up in business as well.

‘Divorce, separation and single or co parenting impact the ability to be the CEO you want to be and also the best mother you can be.

‘We need to be creative in how we grow the business we dream of but also be there for our kids. Coming to terms with the struggle made me passionate to empower other women in business to achieve their own financial success. But the fact remains that we feel a pressure to work like we have no kids and be mothers as if we have no business.’

‘I feel as though I really do have it all – but that doesn’t mean to say I do it all’

Mother-of-one Liv Conlon, 25, who runs The Property Stagers, is from Scotland, living in Marbella

Mother-of-one Liv Conlon, 25, who runs The Property Stagers, is from Scotland, living in Marbella

Liv, who is mother to Cash, one, is running two seven-figure businesses, and says you can have it all but only when you are not doing it alone

Liv, who is mother to Cash, one, is running two seven-figure businesses, and says you can have it all but only when you are not doing it alone 

Mother-of-one Liv Conlon, 25, who runs The Property Stagers, is from Scotland, living in Marbella.

Liv, who is mother to Cash, one, said: ‘As a 25-year-old mother-of-one running two seven-figure businesses, I’m more than familiar with the phrase ‘you can (or can’t) have it all’ – as people have often said it to me over the years.

‘While I was building my businesses to the scale they are now, it was hard work and long hours. And now, I have a one-year-old, it’s still disciplined work and long hours.

‘But the beauty of it is that I feel as though I really do have it all – but that doesn’t mean to say I do it all.

‘By this I mean I have help both in my business and in my personal life, which gives me the flexibility to expand my brands further – as well as spend quality time with my son. And it allows me to spend time enjoying the life I have created for me and my family.

‘I’m up at 4am every weekday. I don’t always want to get out of bed, I’ll admit, but I do – as the rewards for me are worth it. It means I can schedule in self-care such as going to the gym, deep work, which allows me to focus, and then time with my little man.

‘My brilliant mother Ali is involved in my business, I have a wonderful nanny and a housekeeper too – which means I can focus on what I need to do. And to me, that really is having it all!’