How to find Balance in Parenting and Working
"So are you working?" my friend asked, on a wintry afternoon two months after my second son was born.
My friend was perched on my couch, between a pile of board books and several toy dump trucks.
My youngest was clawing at my neck as he nursed. My toddler was pushing all the dining room chairs into the small hallway, barricading the bathroom.
The question made me feel ashamed. Which wasn't my friend's fault for asking the question--it was my fault for having unrealistic expectations about how much I could accomplish while caring for two kids under the age of two with no childcare. But even though I sensed my expectations were unrealistic, they've still been hard to shake.
I know there’s no such thing as a perfect mother, who has time to do all the work and parenting she wants. But I still struggle with how to live that acceptance. I struggle with how to figure out if there's no perfect balance, how do I decide to spend my time?
My friends and I talk about it all the time: how we try to balance work and parenting and never feel like we actually achieve any balance. Moms who work full time sometimes say they don't get enough time with their kids. Moms who are at home full time with their kids sometimes say they aren't pursuing the goals they've always held dear or they aren't contributing as much as they'd like to the household income.
Either way, it can become a ripe ground for resentment and guilt to build.
The word "balance" itself can bring to mind a tightrope walker or a juggler balancing several different balls in the air at the same time. These images are stressful and tense; they suggest that the one doing the balancing act always needs to be performing at an optimal level.
As a new mother, I definitely didn't feel like I was performing at an optimal level. Not only was my time shattered by constant requests for more milk or Cheerios, but my focus was splintered by the myriad small tasks that filled my day, from diaper changes to cleaning spit up off the floor.
The other day when I was sitting on the floor with my infant, he grabbed my shorts and pulled himself few inches toward me. Summer, I realized, would be the season of his crawling.
Infants pass through stages so quickly, that each season of their first year may correspond to a different stage. Fall was birth. Winter was holding his head up. Spring was sitting with support. Summer is crawling.
And with each stage he goes through, I go through another stage. As my kids get a little older and have a little more independence, I get a little more time to devote to work. And I know that decades from now, I'll have too much time to work and not enough time with them, as they slip out of the house to see their girlfriends or go to their own jobs.
Balance doesn't have to be doing everything at once, keeping all the balls in the air. Balance may be allowing your life to have natural seasons.
Balance may be impossible to achieve on every single day. You may not feel that each day you've done just the right amount of work or parenting needed. So while you may not get perfect balance every day, you may get balance over the course of your life when you add all the different seasons up.
And hopefully, years from now, you can step back and look at your life and see that you had what you needed in it. Some time for the kids. Some time for work. And a chance to accept every season that came your way.