Tag Archives: juggle

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.

Parental Leave

It’s hard for me to write a coherent post about the lack of paid maternity (or parental leave) in the U.S.  As far as I’m concerned, we’re very short-sighted about the whole thing compared to Europe and most industrialized countries.  While we pay lip service to the importance of family, our policies (or lack of) work against families, especially those with working parents.  Until this changes, individuals have to make the best of it and more often than not, women quit the workforce out of frustration and lack of support.  (Of course I think a part of this has to do with the fact that many people simply feel that women should stay home).

I believe that  the U.S. had at least 6 months of paid maternity leave (1 year would be ideal and also with paid paternity leave).  I think at least 6 months is needed in order to coincide with 6-months of breastfeeding, which is the minimum recommended by pediatricians.  I can honestly say that a huge part of the reason I quit breastfeeding is that I could not muster the energy to pump at work while juggling meetings and deadlines.  And even if you don’t pity me and fellow white collar professionals, I know that it’s impossible for those in the service industries to pump and work.  Pumping takes time and flexibility, which is often lacking in job situations.  Just six months would allow working moms to provide infants with the best nutrition (I’m not “against” formula but do believe that it’s best to give breast milk). 

Working Mother magazine is trying to address this with an effort to get Congress to enact a law on parental leave by 2015 that will benefit women and their families.  You can read details here. (Truthfully I would do more but anything is better than nothing.)

What’s your story?  Would a longer and/or paid maternity leave had made it easier to return to work?  I’m certain a longer leave would have made it easier for me.  After 6 months, I was finally getting sleep and rest again.  After 6 months to a year, it’s a bit easier to leave an infant with caretakers.

Spread the word, and let’s act collectively to help ALL women and families…

Random Thoughts…on the Work/Life Juggle

There is a funny chapter in Tina Fey’s Bossypants where she is overseeing major developments at work while trying to plan her daughter’s birthday party.  I feel like that right now, only even less focused.

Thoughts running through my head:

Work, work, work. Should I use the Friends & Family discount at Land’s End? Work, work, more work thoughts. I want to make lasagna this weekend.  Must email so-and-so back.  Have I emailed C– in accounting? Or should I make chicken with brown rice? Must ask husband to buy some bell peppers and use the Whole Foods voucher. Work stuff.  I have to prepare for 3 meetings today.  I need to call the dentist. When do I get a flu shot? Work, work, work.  I want to read some blogs instead of work.  Isn’t there a big sale at Old Navy? I need to upload photos.  Why is her life so much easier than mine? Back to work…. Ever had one of those days or weeks?

Do It Myself…

Dilemma: Yesterday I noticed the horrific weeds growing around our garage and elsewhere.  Now it has become an issue stewing in my own head while my husband is oblivious about this suddenly “urgent” new project.  I have a few options.

1) Take my own advice about work/life balance and find a gardener. My neighbor has a good one, not cheap, but reasonable and trustworthy. Don’t mention to my husband and hire on my own. Unfortunately I don’t think he would like gardeners showing up without warning.

2) Mention it to my husband, who will likely want to pay less or find someone on his own, meaning that this “urgent” project won’t get done this weekend.

3) Do it myself and hate it because I should be spending the weekend with my kids.

4) Do it myself and say it’s exercise and a chance to get fresh air.

Which option would you choose? Which is the simplest choice?  I think I already know what I’ll end up doing….I guess the title says it all!

I Lied…Work/Life Juggle Is Hard

A week after writing a post about managing the work/life juggle, I had a mini-meltdown, one of those days when that one extra thing on your to-do list is somehow overwhelming.  I realized that my perfectly balanced life was just one oil change or one sinkful of dirty dishes away from imbalance. While on most days, I can work and enjoy parenthood, I could not find time for anything else including husband, friends or myself.

I’m not throwing in the towel yet.  I’m fine-tuning my own time management skills and following my own advice on simplifying life.  I’m also still trying to be good at my job and be a good parent.  However, I realized that it is infinitely harder than I ever imagined!  With the prospect of my husband picking up more freelance work, I also have to adjust to the realities of a true two-income household. I can’t ask him to always take on more household chores if he’s busy as well.

I know that my viewpoint right now is extremely limited.  Kids get easier (in some ways) when they are less needy or when they start school.  I just can’t see too far ahead right now as we’re still in the night feeding stage, (although that is already is getting better with less frequent feedings).

The Work / Life Juggle: The Good, Bad, And Ugly?

I’ve neglected this blog to concentrate on the work/life balancing act and I must admit that it’s hard in many ways but also not as hard in some ways. In my usual pessimistic way, I will start off with the “ugly” truths.

– You will miss your kids.  Even if you have a short commute or call home every hour (which you should not do at work), you will miss the little things.  You’ll even miss changing their dirty diapers every few hours. 

– You envy everyone with a more flexible schedule, and I mean EVERYONE, from housewives to retirees to your unemployed friend driving a beat-up car.

– You will get little sleep and still have to perform at work every day.  It does get better as the child gets older, but the pure bliss of uninterrupted 8-hour sleep is a thing of the past.   

The Bad

– You will have good days and bad days, where you get mad at yourself for being a 9 to 5 cubicle slave.

– Everyone assumes you’re always thinking about the kids and since you’re a woman, you must be plotting your escape to stay at home. 

The Good

– You have an excuse to shower.  For those of you without kids, having the time to shower daily is a BIG deal for parents of infants / toddlers.

– You have time to eat in peace and quiet.

– You’ll have time to blog.  If I stayed home, there’s no way I would bother to login to wordpress and keep writing. However, I do have down time at lunch to write so I will continue this blog. 

– You have more time than you think!  This last one is really important.  Unless you’re one of those rare individuals who was always super-efficent and with a super high-powered job, chances are you will be able to find time for raising kids.  I’m not going to lie and say that priorities don’t get shifted or that you will get as much time with them as a stay-at-home parent.  However, I realize now how much time I wasted before kids.  Here are some ways I save time now:

  • Instead of watching re-runs of so-so sitcoms, I only make time to watch my favorite show. 
  • We no longer watch movies and plan to suspend or cancel Netflix. 
  • We don’t watch much sports (one game per week, if that!) 
  • I no longer sleep in on Saturday mornings. 
  • We’ve paid for cleaning service to do hated chores like mopping and deep cleaning.
  • We are not exercising, which is not a good thing but I haven’t found time for that yet. 
  • On weekends I check emails and browse the web only once or twice and for less than 30 minutes. 
  • I rarely pack my lunch anymore. I spend more and bad fast food are everywhere; however I am making healthier food choices and try not to spend too much.

You will find the time and energy to enjoy parenthood!

In my case, I am fortunate to have helpful parents who are willing and able to help with childcare and a husband with a flexible work schedule.  I am very lucky to return to a job that is challenging and rewarding enough to make it worthwhile. 

I also admit that I don’t feel that much guilt.  Despite some bad days, I’m okay with working.  I knew going into parenthood that my steady income and health insurance would necessitate going back to work.    

I won’t go into my thoughts about our country’s maternity leave policies or the whole working mother/SAH debate right now but I do plan to post up some advice and thoughts at a later date.  I think the whole working mom/ SAH debate is rather useless.  If you stay home, you’re not automatically mother of the year.  You may be less frazzled but you may also be impatient, critical or suffocating toward your kids.   My mom worked and she is the most patient, wonderful and generous mother in the world, no exaggeration.  Those are qualities that are independent of working/not working.