Mommy, do you love your computer more than me?
Before having children, I imagined “work-life balance” like an old-fashioned scale. When things were out of whack, you just toss in a hot bath for yourself, a movie with your friends, and a date night with your husband. Now, I see it more as a tug-of-war with two giants pulling either of my arms in opposite directions while I try desperately not to get split in half.
Let’s get this out of the way: I am extremely blessed. I have an involved and loving husband, three delightful children, and the ability to earn a decent income from home while working part-time, thanks to my degrees and experience in education.
And yet, I am torn between the powerful forces of motherhood and career. As I stress about deadlines and turn down additional work and leave my personal projects untouched, I worry that I am not the professional I could be. On the flip side, I feel terrible every time I miss a bedtime story or pop in a video (despite being very strict about limiting screen time) or hire a babysitter so I can meet a due date. There are days when I feel less of a work at home mom and more of half a mom, half a worker, and not complete at all.
My mother, mother-in-law, and father, all chip in but they also all still work.
Recently, the school changed the date of the Kindergarten graduation–thereby messing up the schedules of all the working parents. Then, they sent home a note, “no siblings, please,” foiling the plans of the parents who have younger children and anything less than full-time childcare.
Are fathers conflicted, too? Sure. I know that all those missed games and plays have to cut, too. However, it is the moms that are more likely to work from home, take a modified schedule, or opt-out entirely. And from the full-time work-outside-the-home moms I know, they are still the ones who manage the doctor’s appointments, write the permission slips, arrange the play dates, and generally keep up with the logistics of the home.
What is it going to take to get us to a place of work-life balance?
I could probably create a laundry list of items that would improve the situation for many families: reform of birthing policies, maternity and paternity leave, on-site daycare, etc.
Until there are profound cultural shifts in the way we view family and the importance we place on the work of raising a family, however, I think we are going to continue chasing this subject around in circles.
In the meantime, moms like me need to take care of ourselves and lower our standards if we are going to attempt to balance work and home life in a meaningful way. Sit down and have a cup of tea, leave the dishes in the sink for later, head outside and play with the kids on a sunny day, and go ahead and pop in the video for a half hour if you have a deadline or just need to take a shower (turn the soundtrack to French if it makes you feel better). Something has to give…just make sure it is not your sanity.
I’ve noticed how women so often feel caught between their interests in family life and their creative or career aspirations. I wonder if it has to be this way. What would have to change—in your life, in people’s attitudes, or in our society—for women to have an easier time managing work-life balance? Share your answer below and like Smarter Life Better Planet on Facebook to be entered to win a Haier microwave for your family along with an additional microwave to be donated to the Food Bank for New York City!