Today over lunch a couple mommy friends and I were answering questions from a pregnant friend about the whole elusive work/life balance. We told her it’s so cliched but so true … pretty much everything changes when you have kids … even for people who genuinely didn’t expect it to. Which means something has to give if you want to maintain happiness in spite of said changes.
We told her:
You can (and should!) still carve out time for your own passions … but it requires some effort — whereas before it might have been a given.
You can still have a career … but if the school calls and your kid has the flu, you’ll likely need to put work on hold.
You can still hit the gym… but it won’t be on a whim anymore and probably won’t be every day.
You can still have date nights … but they will not necessarily be every weekend anymore.
And you can still go away … but the types of vacations will likely change.
After lunch, I kept thinking of our conversation about work-life balance and coming back to the biggest challenge I’ve found being a working-outside-the-home mom: there’s just not enough time at the end of the work day to really get the quality time I want with my family.
It’s rush-rush-rush from the moment we get home, and there’s little time for play. Granted, Maya’s at school all day playing and learning and when the weather is nice, we do get some time outside to play … but it still feels rushed. Before you know it, it’s the cycle of dinner, bath, book, bed … Repeat.
Which leads me to this [impossible!] proposal: I would like to reconfigure time so the hours of 5 PM-8 PM actually last a good six hours instead of three. It’s the time of the day that flies by quickest … and it’s the time that’s most sacred to me.
In this utopian world where time lags, I’d have time to come home from work, play, cook a real dinner (vs. heating up leftovers or whatnot), work out, and leisurely go through our bed-time rituals without pressure.
Since that world doesn’t/can’t exist … I’m left to navigate family time on a measly 2.5 hours a day. I try to make the most of it but it’s messy and lord knows it isn’t ideal … but it’s what we’re living with. And it’s probably what many Americans are living with, actually. For example I know if I still lived in D.C. I’d have an hour-long commute each way, so we’re fortunate to have short commutes to work and Maya’s school is super-close to home, which really helps get us home before 6 each day … but even then, it’s go-go-go. And I know lots of women have it much tougher: women whose husbands travel a ton for work or women who are parenting solo — props to each of you because I know that makes my situation pale in comparison.
I know an easy solution would be working part-time … and believe me, it’s something I’ve considered … but right now that isn’t the best decision for our little family, for a variety of reasons. I love my job and the company for whom I work … just not ready to make that leap yet.
So I try to make the most of our weekend time and make concessions elsewhere. To keep my family time as sacred as possible, I only go to the gym one to two nights a week for Zumba and otherwise work out in the morning, before Maya, Luis and Rocco wake up. And in terms of “me” time, my digital scrap-booking hobby waits til Maya is in bed and we’re just vegging out watching CNN at night (yes, we’re dorks).
Still, I’m wracked with guilt constantly … and though I hate to say it, I think guilt is just inherent to motherhood. And I think it keeps us on our toes — forcing us to assess and reassess our choices and decisions, how we view situations and how we react — or, better yet, respond — to them.
I want to be the best mom I can be to Maya, and sometimes I worry I’m not making the cut. But then a week like this past week happens — when I got the call that she was running a fever and left work on the fly to bring her to the doctor and stayed home with her the next day. I hated seeing her not feeling well … but loved the extra snuggles that remind me no matter what, I’m her mama. I didn’t feel like a failure as a mom, at all.
I won’t know until she’s much older if my choices have helped or hindered her, but I hope that no matter what, I’m the mom she needs me to be. That mom might change … as will her need for me … but that’s OK. I’m in this for the long haul, whether we have two hours a night or ten.
If the guilt is a given, well … I’ll take it in stride.
How about you? Do you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day after work and before the kids go to bed? How do you make the most of the time?