In no particular order:
- Get back on track for diet and exercise (ie: gym, cooking meals, bringing lunch to work)
- Finally get through unit five of my distance education macroeconomics course
- Finish/keep up with a gazillion various things at work
- Pick up kids from daycare/aftercare on time (while accomplishing above bullet)
- Grocery shop (because we need to eat)
- Go out with friends Tuesday (because it’s important to maintain and nurture friendships)
- Make sure 4-year-old remembers her item for show and tell
- Math Is Fun! night out Wednesday with my 4-year-old (because individual bonding time with each of your children is important + school flagged math as area for improvement)
- Keep house looking like a bomb hasn’t gone off
- Practice with 4-year-old for show and tell
- Get back to searching for that new car we can’t afford (head in sand; head in sand; head in sand)
- Renew various memberships and purchase course extension re bullet 2 (because, really, who are we kidding?!)
- Get eldest to swimming lessons on time (for once; just ONCE)
- After heart to heart with eldest, write response note to teacher explaining that, no, 4-year-old didn’t forget her item for show and tell, but rather was too scared to present and so just failed to take it out of her bag and told you she didn’t have it. Confirm with teacher, via back and forth discussion over two days through agenda that, YES, we got the list, and YES, we are actively working with our child at home on her “homework”.
- Read with my youngest before bed (because individual bonding time with each of your children is important and the youngest is totally getting the short end of that stick and will eventually figure it out if I don’t up my game)
- Date night with husband Sunday (because it’s important to keep your identity as a couple after kids)
- Blog (because me time is important!)
- Catch up on sleep (?!)
- Get through all this without going nuclear
That’s a pretty average week at the moment.
And this is usually how I feel about mid-way through:
There are days where everything goes swimmingly, with military-like precision, and I think YEAH! I rock this working parent thing!
Then there are the days when the socks are crooked, and she can’t wear THAT top, and I used the WRONG hair elastic, and we need to find bunny (BUNNY!), and we ignore eating breakfast until the moment it’s time to leave and then we’re starving, and by the way it snowed last night so we need to dig the car out from under that and so we have to rush to make bus drop off. And suddenly I’m yelling, and they’re crying, and once they’re dropped off I’m rushing to work; so the traffic fairies inevitably pull something like this:
Then computers and printers will spend the day crashing against deadline and the last thing I will feel like doing by the time I get home and get the kids in bed is unit five of my macroeconomics course.
These are generally the days when this puppy comes out:
And there goes the good diet and exercise intentions of bullet one as I soothe my harried soul and hope that tomorrow goes more smoothly.
How much do I accomplish from my list each week?
Looking at it? Surprisingly, more than half.
And eventually it all does get done.
Just not all in the SAME week.
And that’s the adjustment I struggle with now that I have kids.
I don’t know how to do … this.
I’m use to making it all work and getting it all done.
And it generally just doesn’t HAPPEN anymore like it use to.
For one, things just take longer.
If you don’t have kids, or maybe if it’s been a while since you’ve been at this stage (ours are 4 and 1 – I’m told life gets a bit calmer again in a few years. Right? Right?!), you’re probably thinking “Yeah, but you just plan a bit more, right?”
Sure, but when I tell you “things take longer”, that’s kind of like when my parents told me that “living in London, England would be expensive.” Sure, I understood it would be more expensive than home, but I didn’t really get how much more expensive until I ran out of money half-way through the school term.
For those interested in learning more about this aspect, I offer you this helpfully crafted visual aid:
Then, there is the issue of “your time” not being flexible or quite as … voluminous as before. There are days where I really CAN’T stay at work for 15 more minutes to get X done. The overachiever in me desperately wants to; but the parent in me knows if I do, I’m late for daycare pick-up and my provider is late for her second job.
It isn’t just about me anymore. And so it isn’t just about what “I” want to accomplish. Like the time bit above – I understood this conceptually pre-kids – but the functional realities of it (ie: running like a mad woman daily to make daycare pick ups and drop offs) were a bit blurry.
I’d never “undo” my choice to have kids. I can’t imagine life without them. It’s just a tough adjustment to make.
And so now I find myself trying to figure out how to make it all “work”. How to do … this. Relationship; kids; career; friendship; personal fulfillment. And how to enjoy all those aspects rather than sometimes just see them as points on my “to do” list. Like if I successfully “get through” show and tell practice, or date night, or project x, I’ll be a happy, poised, better me. And so will my kids, family, workplace etc….
I know I can’t “have it all” at once. I know you need to take the mundane and work through the irritants to also get the good stuff. But I’d like to grab as much “it” and “good stuff” as feasibly possible while minimizing the rest. Who wouldn’t?
My blog friend Lizzi asked me a while back what my most recent Kairos moment was. The thought process that ensued reminded me you simply can’t seize and love and appreciate every moment. But, where possible, I need to slow it down a bit and try to enjoy small things as they are happening, rather than mainly seeing them as things I need to do in order to move on to whatever comes next. I need to enjoy story time with my girls (it’s not just a literacy exercise); enjoy my gym time (even if it’s only once a week and don’t count that as a failure because it wasn’t three); and just enjoy a movie on the couch with my husband (without making “to do” lists in my head).
Every now and then I catch a news article about the whole parenting/how to make it all work issue. Mostly? They don’t give me a lot of hope about achieving “it” all.
One of the more recent ones – speaking more to the generation after me – that I caught was this one:
Are millennials too realistic to have children? http://t.co/ApDtsoaysK
— HuffPost Parents (@HuffPostParents) November 9, 2013
Among other things, it references a new book called Baby Bust which “reports that Millennials are stepping into life after graduation from college with their “eyes wide open” to the difficulty of integrating paid work and parenting.” It then goes on to say:
Compared with their 2002 counterparts [that would be me], the 2012 grads appreciate the potentially irresolvable conflict of dual-high-powered careers demanding up to 72-hour workweeks, plus the attention offspring need, demand and deserve.
Living in the trenches of those who have made the decision to try to do both, while some of this rings true, some of it also seems a step too far. The main bit in the quote above that threw me, for example, is the seemingly accepted fact that 72 hour workweeks are required for success. I’d humbly submit that signals a larger problem than trying to balance family and career.
Because while there are weeks where I certainly don’t manage it all, there are moments where I realize, I’m likely my own worst critic and others don’t really notice all the little things I think I’m failing at.
For instance, I was out with a (childless) friend last week (one of the items accomplished from that initial list above), and one of the things he said that stuck:
It’s great that you still make time to come out and spend time with friends. So many of my other friends with kids don’t.
And in that moment, I once again felt that, yes! I can totally make this whole working parent thing WORK. [I also simultaneously UNDERSTOOD the urge of fellow parents to not voluntarily leave the house to be social.]
But, getting back to my initial list, did I get it all done?
Of course not.
But the important stuff – the stuff that needed doing – got done.
What held me back from doing the rest?
Likely my own inability to manage my expectations of myself and my reality.
Rational me KNOWS that list ain’t getting done.
Forever hopeful me?
Figures I’m just one secret life-hack away from FIGURING IT ALL OUT.