If you read enough work/life balance posts or articles, someone will point out that it’s not really about choosing career over family. Over the course of a lifetime, you focus more or less on different things. That balance even changes daily. Some days, career takes precedence. Some days you focus more on family. At the end of the road or at retirement, you will probably have carved out enough time for work, family, self, friends and hobbies.
Right now, I’m experiencing the classic tug and pull between career and family. I do not have much time for myself, friends, hobbies or exercise. I know that. Recently, a friend of mine questioned my lack of alone time. I told her that my alone time is lunchtime at work reading a book or magazine or an exercise class on the weekends. In a good week, I eat lunch alone 3 times a week and work out once a week. I often run errands during lunchtime, too. On a hectic week, I may take shorter lunches or even work through lunch. Anyway, my friend basically told me that I don’t have enough alone time. In a way, she’s right. Everyone tells mothers to take care of themselves first. I’m not doing that because I really don’t have that much extra time.
Years ago, I remember telling an older friend, a first-time mother, the exact same thing. She was sort of bragging that she didn’t need friends anymore because she only wanted to spend time with her kids. Strange that she would tell that to a friend! Anyway I remember questioning her single-minded devotion to motherhood. Now I get it, sort of. I don’t think I’m in that same category of self-sacrificing all-encompassing motherhood, but I get the pull. I could spend hours playing and cuddling with my kids. Notes: This may not be so true if I stayed home but it is true for my evenings and weekends! Also, spending time with kids actually means a lot of diaper changes, dealing with tantrums, cleaning sticky stuff out of hair and less glamorous “duties” (just a reality check for those who imagine otherwise!)
I guess what I’m saying is that my life is very imbalanced right now and I’m mostly OK with that. In my 20s, I spent more time with friends than family. I went back to school in my 30s and worked on my career, although that was never my sole focus. My husband and I did all the things that couples without kids can do, from traveling with only carry-on luggage to waking up late almost every weekend. I do want to find more couple-time again but that’s another story. As for me-time? I had a lot of me-time in my 20s and 30s. For now, I have to count exercise and lunch hour at work as my alone time. Will I emerge years from now without a sense of identity? I don’t think so. By the time I had kids, I think I nailed down my identity. Identity is fluid on some levels but I don’t think I’ll lose myself in motherhood, as I might have if I had kids earlier.
I’m sure that as the kids get older, I will have more free time again. So despite my friend’s concern, I am not making any plans to find more me-time. For now, I just want to enjoy this time and getting lost in their childhoods.