I’m never sure anymore if I am supposed to be leaning in, saying no to more, or just being present.
All I know is I spend a lot of time trying to find that perfect family-work-life balance, aka “having it all,” where I can work on my own schedule and take vacations when I want them; I can be available for my kids when they need me; I can even have some time for self-care.
With this in mind, I fell totally and completely for the Part-time Working Mom trap. It sounded ideal: three days at work, two days available for the kids, and then full weekends where we can all spend blissfully uninterrupted time together.
I’ve come to know this as the Siren Call of the Part-time Job.
Because let’s be real, work doesn’t stop just because you’re not physically in the office, and we never really stop thinking about or planning for our kids, either. Working part-time is deceiving because people at work don’t realize you have a whole life at home you’re also managing, and vice versa. It’s a lot to juggle all at once, and the demands on both ends can feel overwhelming at times.
My thoughts flow so rapidly back and forth between work and home that instead of working two part-time jobs, it feels like I have two full-time jobs; both are ever-present in my mind.
Plus, there’s my husband, whom I haven’t even mentioned yet, and I think that speaks volumes. Yeah, it’s really hard to prioritize your marriage with so much else going on. Not that we don’t try, but date nights definitely don’t happen as often as we would like.
If I sound like I’m complaining, I’m not.
I know I’m “lucky” that I’m able to “only” work part-time, that our family can “afford” that “luxury,” as I’m so often told. And I don’t think I’d want it any other way. I just wish there was an easier way to shut off parts of my brain so I could focus on one task or job at a time and not feel the full burden of all the things all the time.
I wish that I didn’t have to rush out of the office without finishing my work in order to pick my kids up on time (hoping they aren’t the last kid there).
I wish I could be there for ALL of my kids’ after-school activities, field trips, and games.
I wish that by volunteering one day per week in the classroom I wasn’t instantly asked to do ten more things and feel guilty that I just can’t.
I wish I could take on more responsibilities at work that could lead to further career fulfillment and advancement.
But each of those wishes means a sacrifice on the other end. And how do you know when you’ve sacrificed too much?
Will my kids remember me being at most of their practices and games, or will they lament the few times that I missed or was late? Will I regret not pushing for that promotion or extra education to really maximize my career?
The truth is, I just don’t know. I find myself stuck in the middle, feeling pulled in both directions and never fully present or adequate in either realm.
And maybe that’s just how it is. Maybe life isn’t this fun wonderland where everything makes sense and we’re always on time and my kids never feel short-changed and my boss never feels resentful and I never doubt myself for feeling like I’m dropping all the balls or wondering what can I say “no” to this week while praying that a kid doesn’t get sick.
And if that’s life, then maybe I need to learn how to feel more comfortable with the uncertainty, to accept that I will never have it all together. And that it’s ok. The kids will be ok. I will be ok. Work will still be there. My husband may feel a little neglected but at least he gets it because he’s in the same boat, too. This boat that is not always sailing in the right direction, or maybe doesn’t even know which direction to sail but is sturdy and strong and upright, and the captain and crew all feel supported and part of a team.
Maybe instead of focusing on having it all, I should focus on having “enough”.
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(This post originally published on Mid-Peninsula Mom’s Blog on April 23, 2018).