24/09/2016 6:49 AM AEST | Updated 24/09/2016 6:49 AM AEST

If You Are A 24-Hour Woman, You Need To Stop The Clock

I am tired of not taking an hour off.

Life shouldn't look like this.
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Life shouldn't look like this.

It's 2 pm on a Friday afternoon.

I count the productive minutes left in my day before my children are home.

Ninety minutes. Ninety minutes.

My fingers tap against the desk. I need to write... dates and deadlines approach too fast and the heartbeat in my ears sounds more like the second hand of a clock. My eyes sting. I stifle a yawn and tell myself it's too late in the day for another coffee. I waste minutes as I watch geese shuffle past the window in their clumsy line.

I feel wrecked. Overwhelmed. The week had already thrown enough at me, made worse when my husband decided he wanted to lamb-mark before the rain. Which meant I had to drop everything and cook food. Lots of it. Because for the rest of the week, not only did I have to feed four growing children, but also four fully grown, working, hungry men.

And so my mornings have been spent wading through muddy sheep yards and marking lambs, before a couple of hours of writing time grasped in the afternoon. Then school pick-up before the rest of my day is spent in the kitchen baking copious amounts of food, making dinner, preparing lunches, helping with homework, doing chores, sorting and folding washing, cranking the fires, feeding the animals, paying the bills, etc.

When the evenings have slowed down I've reached for a glass of wine, somehow synonymous with calling it a day, and have fallen onto the couch. Except, I haven't called it a day. I've remembered messages I need to reply to, emails I need to return, plans I need to confirm. I try to fool myself into the belief that sitting on the couch with a glass of wine is conducive to relaxation time, but as my fingers quick-fire against my phone in virtual conversations I'm too tired to have, I know this isn't true.

Eventually, all four kids have made it to bed. I've told myself I should write for another hour, but instead berated myself as I inch upstairs with vague promises of writing tomorrow night upon my tongue. I've washed and moisturised, brushed and flossed, checked everyone is asleep, then forced myself to read one chapter of my book, which I'm too tired to absorb and will have to re-read again anyway.

The next day the alarm goes off at 6.30 am, and I do it all again.

I recently read an article by Kristi Coulter called The Real Reason Why Women Drink , that confronted and challenged me.

Yes, it was ultimately about why women are compelled to drink, but she makes reference to the 24-hour woman, which I thought of again today after I went to bed too late, woke up too tired, and struggled to work this afternoon, too exhausted. She writes: "We can't afford to act like it's okay that 'Girls can do anything!' got translated somewhere along the line to 'Women must do everything.' We can't afford to live lives we have to fool our central nervous systems into tolerating. We can't afford to be 24-hour women."

The 24-hour woman. I am her. She is me. And she is in the faces of most women I know as we hurry past one another, shopping in one hand, children in the other, both eyes on the clock. We are scheduled, organized, programmed, committed.

And we are exhausted.

We're tired of not taking an hour off. We're tired of striving to accomplish more than we can fit into each day. Tired of working as hard as any man for less pay and recognition. Tired of running our houses, running our businesses, raising our families, building our careers, and feeling the pressure to do it all with shaved legs, shaped eyebrows and three days a week at the gym.

We're tired of the lie that women can do it all, and should do it all, and there's something wrong with us if we don't do it all. But most of all, we're tired with ourselves for perpetuating the lie in our desperate pursuit of being that woman.

Because if we're not that woman, then we have failed.

It's time to call bullshit.

It's time to realise our limitations do not diminish us, they preserve us.

It's time to allow ourselves some much needed grace.

It's time to no longer give power to the lie of the 24-hour woman, and instead claim the power back for ourselves.

I'm not sure yet how that will look for me, or how it will feel or how it will sound. Maybe at first it will stick a little in my throat, maybe it will feel like an unfamiliar stranger or a new pair of shoes that don't quite feel right, and I'll feel a little clunky and unsure of myself.

I don't know.

I just know tonight I'll pour another glass of wine and not think about the reasons behind it and wake up tomorrow and do it all again.

But then maybe I'll remember I no longer want to be a 24-hour woman.

And maybe, dammit, I'll put on my new pair of shoes and learn how to walk in them.

You can find Kathy Parker at her blog, This Girl Unraveled, Facebook and Twitter