Thursday, February 17, 2011

Balance

The other night, I found myself baking cupcakes at midnight.

I promised my son that along with the special treat bags and Valentine's Day cards we made for his classmates, he could bring in chocolate cupcakes for everyone, too.

Of course, our weekend was so busy that the only time I had left to bake was at midnight, and I had to get up the next day at 6 to get ready for work.

The perfect work-life balance is intangible, in my opinion. It's an elusive phenomenon that we grasp at, but one that keeps sliding from our hands, like a slippery bar of soap.

Should moms put their careers on hold and stay home to raise their children? Or work outside of the home to help support their family? There is no perfect answer, and everyone has their own unique situation.

The one thing most of us have in common, though, is the constant questioning."Am I doing the right thing, staying home?" "Should I really be working full-time?" "How can I do what I love, get paid for it, and be actively involved in raising my children?"

I work full-time outside the home. I work because I need the money—I have a little shopping addiction, you see. I work because I enjoy getting getting dressed up every day and driving downtown. I love working in a nice office building, and I love the luxury of drinking my Starbucks in peace at my desk, reading my emails and planning my work day. I love that I can shop, do my hair, or meet up with friends over the lunch hour. I get a lot of done during this time, allowing me more quality time with my children when the work day is done.

There are a lot of benefits to working for the federal government, but it's not a job I'm totally passionate about—I'd rather spend my time writing, working in the media world, or being home with my children. (Or, fine, shopping.)

I was recently offered a radio job anchoring and reporting. Although I do want to get back into the media world again, I didn't accept the job because leaving the comforts of the government isn't a risk I want to take yet. Trying to balance work and life and passions is extremely difficult, and so is making the right decision for me. There are always a million things to consider, and of course, there is the feeling of guilt.

Being a working mom means I don't spend as much time with my children as I'd like to. I used to think that when I had children, I would be the one driving and picking them up from school, going grocery shopping during the day, going home to cook, writing in coffee shops, and then sitting down with my family to a home cooked meal around the dinner table every night.

That is how it was for me, growing up. Coming for a Greek family, dinner time was of the utmost importance, and we'd never miss a night to sit together, eat, and talk about our day, followed by homework and extra curricular activities, like dance class, guitar lessons, and Greek school.

I am thankful that my children receive the best care there is while I am at work. My mom, my in-laws, and my grandmother all share the baby-sitting duties.

Every day, someone comes over in the morning and I kiss my boys good-bye and leave for work. At five o'clock, when I pick them up, I have dinner served to me, because by then my boys are starving and, well, coming from a Greek family, dinner is always ready by five! Cue the mommy guilt!

When I'm rushing to work, or standing in line at the coffee shop, I notice other moms with babies in their strollers and my heart aches. Moments like those make me wish I was at home with my boys, enjoying the simple pleasures that each day brings. It's funny how many moms you notice when you're not with your children—in restaurants, walking to and from the office, in the mall.

Every time I catch a mother's eye, I smile, wishing I was in her shoes.

Perhaps she's wishing she could also trade places with me, too—maybe she's had enough of changing diapers and dealing with tantrums for one day, and would love the luxury of drinking just one cup of coffee in peace.

It seems we'll always want what is on the other side.

I look forward to Sunday night because I know another work week is about to begin. Cue mommy guilt, again. But come Monday morning, the good-bye hugs to my children are extra hard.

It's a constant struggle, trying to find the perfect balance. All I know is I'm determined to make it work. Sleeping only five hours a night is something I've gotten used to, anyhow.

How do you find your perfect balance?

I wrote this post and then found out that it was also one of the weekly writing prompts over at Mama Kat's!


20 comments:

zchamu said...

I don't think there is a perfect balance.

I was - am - lucky enough to be able to stay home with my daughter. Do I miss working? Not in that I yearn for it, although I do miss having certain creative outlets and feeling a more immediate sense of accomplishment. And endless days with a toddler can get really long and brain-numbing, no matter how much I love her.

But I do like my life. Mostly, as you can tell from my last blog post. Ha.

MommyLovesStilettos said...

I can totally relate. I work, and I enjoy working but I have moments where I feel sad that I can't stay at home. When I take a vacation day and spend it with my children I think to myself "I could get used to this...." but at the end of the day I need my job to live the lifestyle I live and also to keep my sanity. I like having my own thing even if it induces a little bit of mommy guilt here and there.

Avitable said...

Wait - can you cook and would you be able/willing to cook dinner and clean the house every day? If you wouldn't be happy or satisfied doing that, you shouldn't have guilt about it.

Kim {The Fordeville Diaries} said...

I'm convinced there is no perfect balance. I work full time and it's hard. Some days it's incredibly hard. Other days I love it. If you find the silver bullet, let me know!

Allison said...

I relate to you very well. When my kids were just born and up to the age of 2 and 4.. I worked all the time! Overtime and all. I was never with them.. I felt like I missed out on a lot. I met a great man, who allowed me to stay home and be with them! I am now working again, but I am able to be with them when they aren’t at school because my work allows it. You will find the peace and balance one day.. Just spend the most time you can with them whenyou can! Thats all that matters!

Jessica said...

I don't think there is a way for moms to have perfect balance. We have to make decisions on what we are going to spend our time on and what we are going to put off or ignore. For me, I stay up late at night to get things done so I don't get a lot of sleep. That's my balance.

Mari said...

I was very often having this exchange with a friend of mine: she works full time and misses her kids so bad and she would like to have a part time job, but she can't.
On the other hand I am a full time mom, I have (and will have) difficulties finding a new job and wish I could just stay away from home (I am not so perfect anyway). Well, I loooove my kids, but there is something missing in my life.
Whenever I get sick of the situation, I threaten to leave and regret my words (after I calm down, that is).
There are -unluckily- people who have extremely difficult family lives and I consider myself a privileged woman and mother. Hopefully, complaining about my life is the first step toward a change.

Erica said...

Ha ...balance you ask? I have none! Im in the same boat!......my heart aches with jealousy when im on lunch breaks and see the mommies casually walking around with their kids withnothing else to do ! I wish i could afford to stay home with them ....even if i could ....I love to work so i dont know what i would do

Elaine A. said...

I don't think there is any "perfect" balance or situation. I think you personally have it pretty good because you have family to watch over your kids while you are at work. Most people are not that lucky. I assume you don't have to pay for childcare (not really my business, just an assumption since it's your family members), which is also not typical.

Sometimes I personally do miss the adult interaction and feeling of being valued in a work place but for the most part I am so happy to be home with my children, but that's for me, not necessarily everyone. I worked with my first and then stopped after G was born and feel so blessed that we were able to make it work. But there are still days that I could go running from this place, trust me! ;)

Anonymous said...

I struggled with the elusive work/life balance when I went back to work full-time as a lawyer in the private sector. I would regularly cry on my way to drop my son off at daycare on Monday mornings, and it killed me that by the time I got home, it was 6pm and dinner still had to be made, etc., leaving little quality time with the kidlets. My husband and I had no time for ourselves, since we would postpone dinner clean-up and laundry until the kids were in bed so we could actually spend time with them. After I had my third child, my husband and I re-evaluated things in our life, and decided we were prepared to make sacrifices to allow me to stay home for the next four years. I too, love to shop, but there will still be plenty of shopping to do in the future! You really need to decide, what is more important to you. For me, time is precious, and I don't want to have any regrets later in life. I realize not everyone can afford to have a parent stay home, but I think a lot of people would be surprised on what you can actually do away with and still live well. Many of our expenses went down when I left work - no mortgage-sized daycare, gas, parking, etc. I now work for myself on a part-time basis a few hours a week drafting contracts - not a huge amount, but enough to let me splurge a few times a year at Holt's:)

scaredy_kat said...

I could have wrote this post, nearly word-for-word myself. A few little differences like childcare, jobs etc. but the weekly struggle to balance what makes me happy and the guilt that ensues from never being where I'm not are so true. The heartache when I'm downtown at work and seeing a mom push her little girl around... not fair. But I love the break I get from her too. I 'need' the break.
Just this week I had to choose between a contract good for me/my career, or good for my family in that it offered better work/life balance. I went with the balanced one. Maybe in a few years I can choose the one better for me again.
~ great post

Issas Crazy World said...

I'm not sure I have it in this moment. I'm not sure I've ever had it. When my girls (6 & 9) were babies I worked all the time in the corporate world. I lived for vacations. When my son (2) was born I stayed at home full time. Now? I'm divorced and working full time at home. I am home, but I still have my son in daycare and my girls in aftercare. I can't do field trips or volunteer in their classes.

I do know that I make the most of the time I have. Also? I have really great kids, probably despite me.

I guess what I'm saying, is perfect balance is something that may not exist. You just have to find what works for you.

ModernMom said...

You are so right there is no perfect balance. I always thought I would be the Mom who would never ever give up my career. I held on tight to both worlds after the first baby came along, but after the second...with no family to help, I gave up that career and now Stay at home!!
Do I miss working? Some days. Other days I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Great post Lou!

Wink! Reviews said...

Balance definitely exists, but I measure mine in the smile of my son and husband when I come home from work.
:)

Lady Mama said...

I love this post - you've captured it so well with your writing. I truly think everyone struggles with balance - whether you're a stay-at-home or working parent. And like you said this "balance" thing is an illusion - I agree. I'm starting to accept that my reality is just what it is, that's all - that I may never find this balance thing, and that's okay. As long as everyone's healthy, happy and safe and you're spending quality time together, then all is good as far as I'm concerned.

WAHM Solution said...

We are actually dedicating the whole month of February to balance on our blog. We find scheduling our days including work and personal together works well. It sure took a while to work out the bugs, but we finally figured out a great system.

Nancy@ifevolutionworks.com said...

I am lucky in that I have my own business which affords me the ability to get my work done around my first priority...being a mom.

If I had to make the decision to leave home for work hours that conflicted with things on my son's schedule, I'd have a very hard time with it.

But...there are times where you just have no choice and I commend the moms who make the best of it.

Mom2Miles said...

Will you adopt me? I want someone to serve ME a homecooked meal every night!

I think you're right about the constant questioning on both sides. I try to squeeze p.t. work into raising my 2 boys f.t. and "balance" is just a pipe dream at this point. I do envy moms who work outside the home because there's more division between their work and home lives. I feel bad for ignoring my sons sometimes while trying to get work done or dragging them along on boring errands. And I would LOVE to have family nearby to help out. There are pros and cons to every mom's situation, I've decided. There's no one perfect choice.

Mommyfriend Lori said...

Oh Loukia, you know I'm right there with you on so many levels. I could have written this post. Just know, I know EXACTLY how you feel. The perfect balance, I don't think it exists.

Mama Kat said...

I have a shopping addiction I need to fund as well...oh and a mortgage to pay. I don't blame you for sticking with the government job...my husband works for the city and we get amazing benefits. No way would I want to sacrifice that!

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