I Finally Figured Out What I Needed As Soon As I Lost It

Work-Life Balance on 04.06.11
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Photo Credit: Sarah Fernandez

This week I started what I think must be the 72nd incarnation (in five years) of my attempt at balancing my work schedule and spending time with my children. I have attempted everything from being a 40 hour per week working mom with several hours of commuting to being a full time stay at home mom as the result of a layoff. I have worked schedules that were 3 days a week, 3 days a week plus a day from home, working from home full time, and bringing my babies to work just to name a few. Point being, I've just about tried it all. So why this time is it throwing me for a complete loop?

Since January, my two pre-school age children have been going to school three full days a week and two half days a week. With my daughter's second birthday last week, she was able to move into the next class up at her school, but on a different schedule.  She goes to the same school as my son on three days and to a friend of mine's house on her two half days. With the move to the older class, there were only spaces available on different days than she has been going on and my friend is now only available to take her one morning a week instead of two. I am only losing a mere three hours of week of care, but for some reason it is so much more than that.

Work, Work, Work

I work entirely from home. As it already stands, I easily work more than 40 hours per week, but only have childcare for about 32 hours per week. I have deadlines, usually multiple ones on a daily basis, and even though the day that I am losing those three hours of daycare on is one of my generally less busy days, it still hurts.

Part of the reason is that I actually like to work. I like to spend time with my kids too, and I know that most moms would love to have a day during the week to spend at home with their kids. But I'm a much better parent when I'm a working one. I also have to work which of course adds another level of pressure to getting it all done. Working from home, I am lucky to have the flexibility of being able to take my kids to the park at 3 p.m. for a play date, and I pay for it by working until midnight most nights of the week. But the trade-off is ok with me. That being said, I do often feel like I never have a break, and that a lot of things just keep getting pushed down on my "to do" list.

Aha Moment!

 What has been really nice the past few months is that I've been able to find some me time by doing little things like stealing two hours on a Friday to go to the grocery store without my kids and without my husband rolling his eyes at me as I walk out the door on a Saturday and leave him with them, finding an hour a week to go to a Weight Watchers meeting, or I might even be able to take an hour and have coffee with a friend. Ultimately, I can usually squeeze out a few hours in the week that make me feel a little more in balance while spinning on this hamster wheel that is our life. And I don't feel guilty about it because I know I'm putting in the time on nights and weekends. But now, those few hours are gone. As soon as I get my daughter down for a nap, my son will have just walked in the door and need to be entertained. And I now have to figure out another arrangement to attend my weight-loss meeting as it's on the same day. Having a small block of time every day of the week that is mine to do work, to not listen to "mommy, mommy, mommy", and to feel like I have some sense of autonomy and direction is what makes me feel balanced.

This has been a rough week for me, and I thought I was just in a funk, but I finally realized that it was because this small change was really shifting my entire balance. The good news is that for the first time I've finally come to realize what that thing is that I need. As with each of the other incarnations of my work-life balance, we'll get through this one until the next one comes along. But here's to hoping it's soon!


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