the nest

the nest

Monday, February 9, 2015


So there are sometimes nights when my brain is so busy, sleep eludes me.  Tonight is one of those ~ the current brain buzz has to do with life balance.  Just a small little topic.  I'm reading "Overwhelmed-Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time" by Brigid Schulte.  It was my Christmas book from Jeff this year~ he thought it fit well with the work I'm doing on bringing balance to my life and he's right.  Although what's it's really done is make me think about so many of the choices we've made over the 20+ years we've been raising a family and has my brain spinning about why our country hasn't made more progress on the homefront.

When I look back at the life we created, I forget that it has not been typical.  We got married at 23, had our first child at 25 just as I finished graduate school and the deal was whoever got a job first went to work and the other one stayed home with our son.  I got the first full time job, Jeff had multiple adjunct teaching jobs, so he became the stay at home dad and we would trade off when he would head out to teach in the evenings.  He was one of very few Dad's at home and when I look back, given both of our childhood's as children of corporate Dads, it was pretty balanced and forward thinking!  Jump forward a year and additional jobs for him and different childcare arrangements for Andrew, life began to be more complicated, but it worked for us.

Almost 20 years ago I changed jobs, Jeff took a full time job and we got pregnant with our second child.  Both of us working full-time was intense, but it seemed like what we were supposed to do.  We were paying off loans, thinking about a house, moving fast and living the dream.  When Katy came along, I was reluctant to leave her and her intense attachment to me made it difficult to find anyone to leave her with.  I negotiated with my employer to start back part time and gradually increase my hours.  I did some work from home and was able to bring her to work with me part time until she was almost 9 months old.  I juggled my hours, so she was with me when I wasn't seeing clients or students, Jeff would pick her up on his way home from work, pick up Andrew from preschool and head home.  Again, life was complicated, but it never really occurred to me that this was an arrangement that wasn't available to anyone who asked for it.  Why wouldn't employers work with employees to create reasonable schedules that allowed them to both be productive and raise their families?

Life moved along and I was gradually back to full time with Katy in childcare and Andrew in school. It was less balanced and more exhausting.  We got absorbed back into the "must work hard", "must get ahead" mentality.  There was very little time to play.  Very little time to be.  16 years ago this month, our third child came along and despite the possibility of creative work options, the constant juggling of childcare and the realization that most of my income was going to the cost of childcare, meals out and taxes, we realized we had reached the breaking point.  I left my job and picked up bits and pieces here and there.  I was terrified to be a full time parent, but it made no practical sense for me to keep working.  I wanted to have a career and a family, but the way our system was set up made this difficult if not impossible.

The life we've created since Helen was born is so very different from what I envisioned when I was in college, but it has worked.  I have been lucky enough to have a life partner who has supported my path both professionally and personally.  Creating my own business that could ebb and flow as my family's needs changed and evolved has provided us with more balance than many families are able to experience.

But.... there is always a but.  The pressure to get ahead, to do more, to have more is always there.  It is pervasive in our culture.  People are perpetually stressed out and overwhelmed - it can be like a competition on Facebook.  We either post about how stressed out and overwhelmed we are OR how amazing our lives are and how much we are doing.  I see other peoples posts and feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed when I see the burden's others carry, and intimidated by the successes and accomplishments of others.  Awareness does not bring immunity.  I'm aware that these pressures are out there and am aware that we've chosen the life we live with all it's pros and cons, but I can still get absorbed into the "I'm not doing enough" or "we don't have enough" thought patterns that keep me awake.

When is enough enough?  Our income hasn't really made a difference.  No matter how much we have made in any given year, we are perpetually on the edge like so many others.  The more money we make the more money we spend.  It only comes into balance when we give our budget attention and make deliberate choices about where our resources go.

We both do work that is valuable and that we love ~ I can't really speak for Jeff, but I envy his satisfaction with his work sometimes.  He is so good at what he does and most of the time it's enough.    He takes time to read and cook and play tennis and these things rejuvenate him.  I have an incredibly difficult time just being satisfied.  I want to do more, be more, make more of a difference.  I feel guilty when I take the time to just play or to just be.  I know I'm not alone.

Everything out in the world tells women that we are not enough.  We need to look better, work harder, keep cleaner houses, cook better, be the PTO mom, blah, blah, blah.  WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!

What makes it harder is we try to do it all alone - finding our "village" or our "tribe" can be incredibly difficult.  Not only are we isolated in our homes, we isolate each other with our judgements.  We need to find each other and open our arms and hearts to those whose do things a little differently.  There are a lot of ways to be a good mom, a good woman, a good person.

What can unite us is our common goal to find a way to create a life with room for work, love and play.  A life with room for work and family.  A life with room for work and dreaming.  Employers who have found ways to support their employees efforts to both work and raise families have discovered that this makes for a happier, more loyal, more satisfied workforce.  This has been talked about as long as I've been in the game.  I ask the question again, why have we as a country not made more progress on issues of family leave, childcare, early childhood education, etc...
When do we acknowledge that so many of the difficulties faced by families and children are rooted in these very issues?  When do we force those making decisions to actually hear us and work on issues that matter to us rather than bickering endlessly about partisan bs?

I'm going back to bed.

No comments:

Post a Comment