I used to tune into Chopped on Food Network almost every evening. I loved the outlandish ingredients that were pulled out of the mystery basket (Durian and sheep’s hooves, anyone?) and the chefs with their unbelievable knife skills and risotto-making superpowers.

In particular, I remember one episode, not for its culinary wonders or drama, bur for a snippet of an interview that set me on edge. The chef on camera said, “I have two little girls and I have a full-time job as a sous chef. I’m a mom and climbing the ladder in the culinary world. I just want people to look at me and go, ‘Wow, how does she do it all?!'”

I sat there with my bowl of salted caramel gelato, mildly irritated by her over-the-top honesty. She was willing to admit on national television that she wanted the admiration of the world. She wanted to be known as someone who “does it all”.

But then it dawned on me: don’t we all love to be seen as multitaskers who manage to pull off impossible schedules with ease? Don’t we love to look like we have our juggling act together and pretend that not one of our 11 balls goes flying off in the wrong direction?

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OK, my hand is raised. I admit: I like to look like I have it together. I like to think I never lose it. That I never come undone.

That happens for sure. Then I wake up and have to start my day.

I remember a somewhat inconsequential incident when my little people were babies. I wanted needed coffee. Starbucks was calling my name. And so was my desire to show the world that I got this: that I could effortlessly handle two babies without anyone’s help and could get my tall, non-fat, no-whip caramel macchiato whenever I felt like it.

I lugged the 18-month-old to his car seat and strapped the two-month-old in hers. With a diaper bag that brimmeth over, the mom-mobile zipped off. Woohoo. We were getting the show on the road and I was actually wearing clothes that Goodwill wouldn’t reject.

We survived. For about 3.5 minutes. Then inexplicable wailing started from the backseat. The two-month-old was shrieking in a way that only two-month-olds can. The 18-month-old looked over from his car seat to hers, a little perplexed. He decided the best option would be to exercise his lungs at that precise moment. I tried to stay focused on the road. I was so close, I could smell the coffee. The wailing got super INTENSE. Like, don’t-even-THINK-about-ignoring-me intense.

Two teary babies and one almost-in-tears mama headed back home—without coffee.

My head almost imploded from my lack of independence. Forget doing it all, I couldn’t even manage to get coffee.

I felt like a failure. A de-caffeinated, burnt-out failure who should stay at home in spit-up stained PJs.

Fast forward a few years and I ask myself, why do we moms put ourselves through the wringer trying to prove ourselves? Why do we try to measure up to some standard set by some 26-year-old Hollywood screenwriter who scripts lines for the TV mom who eats right, works out, makes a ton of money and is always nice to her kids—all while looking like a million bucks.

Sitcom moms aside, let’s get something straight—no one does it all. At least not all the time. Something’s got to give. There’s always a cost. If we think we know women who have it all together, then we probably don’t know the full story. We don’t see the struggles and the tears, the fights and the pressure.

I really believe we have discovered the antidote to the ‘do it all’ disease. It’s called do what works for you.

I shouldn’t try to live someone else’s life. I shouldn’t try to meet someone else’s expectations. I shouldn’t have to prove myself to anyone.

I love the song Good, Good Father, especially the line: “I am loved by You;  It’s who I am.”

That pretty much sums it up. I am loved by GodThat’s who I am.

Not the sum of my actions.

Not the checks on my to-do list

Not my salary or my college degrees or if my house looks like a magazine centerspread or if I host Pinteresting parties.

I’m defined by something entirely different and pressure-free.

I don’t need to prove my worth by doing it all. I just have to live loved. That’s who I am.

Originally published on the author’s blog

Susan Narjala

When she’s not smuggling chocolate past her kids or drinking gallons of coffee, Susan Narjala can be found writing, baking and (thinking about) working out. She grew up in India, lived in Portland, Oregon, for the last ten years and is now back in India with her family. She finds nuggets of humor in the everyday, and writes about it on her blog http://www.susannarjala.com/. She also works as a writer for a non-profit http://www.uandi.org.in/ that helps educate underprivileged children in India.