My Imbalance

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.

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11 responses to “My Imbalance

  1. I feel pretty much the same way right now. With the new baby, work and family will fill up my time. In a few years I can go back to trying to be social outside of work.

  2. I have another friend who acknowledges that she sacrifies “me” time for work & family. She’s not someone I see very often socially, but she says she gets a lot of pressure from her other friends about it.

    My feeling is that something has to give. If you’re adding kids into the mix, *something* else is going to go away, whether it be your formerly high standards for a clean and organized house, your job, a hobby, or your every-night-at-the-club social life.

    The problem is, while the house probably doesn’t care much if it’s got some extra dirt, friendships do take some maintenance, so if I’m making the choice to be less social now, I also have to accept that I may not be able to just resume those friendships “where we left off” in 3 years or whatever. So there is a price, sadly. I’m seeing that already.

  3. My “alone time” is my bus commute. That’s it.

  4. I feel like N&M and sometimes like Tragic Sandwich. However, as Anandi said, friendships take maintenance and I don’t want to lose those while I’m in the haze of early parenthood!

  5. My friends are low-maintenance. We go in and out of each other’s lives without problem, picking up where we left off. Which is nice, because people I’ve lost over the years also tended to be people who were always causing drama when I did spend time with them. I’m too old for drama!

  6. This is a great post. One of the things that I find other people have the hardest time understanding about my life is that I am really, truly, OK with not having a lot of “me” time right now. Maybe because my career functions a bit like that?

    @Anandi- I typically say to people who question whether I can “have it all” that I don’t have it all. Something did indeed have to give to make room for my kids. It just wasn’t my career. It was a bunch of hobbies! I miss those hobbies, but not enough to spend less time with my kids or less time on my career, so I guess that means they aren’t a priority for me now, and that’s OK.

  7. “That balance even changes daily”. This is so so true for me. I can go weeks just focusing on work and soaking up my family. Then I really really want some friend time. Then I get the urge to do something creative (sew, bake). Then I’m back to family, etc… Overall, when something had to give, it was certainly social life and hobbies, but I still try to hold on to the threads, because like Anandi noted, some things do need maintenance.

  8. Yes, re: loss of hobbies! I think I really want to emphasize to younger women that the give/take isn’t always career OR family. You may find that what falls by the wayside are hobbies, sleeping in, TV time and a myriad of other things.

  9. ohhhhh, sleeping in. I miss that so very much. Still.

  10. Yes, I often cycle through other things that aren’t A) work and B) sleep/home time when I feel up to having time or room in my life rather than just permanently giving things up. The blog, unfortunately, is one of those things that has gotten some short shrift despite having been a mainstay for so many years.

    So friends may be out of touch for months at a time but we’ll reconnect when we can by email/phone/text/whatever for bits and pieces and then it’ll fall off again.

    I also miss real, regular hobbies a LOT but that’s a Someday kind of thing.

  11. Pingback: Accidental Happiness? | Oilandgarlic's Blog

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