It’s Mother’s Day, and I’m working from home.
I hop out of the shower and I hear my five year old call out to me from downstairs: “Mom! You have to come outside with me. It’s beautiful out here!”
I finish drying my hair, grab my laptop, and step outside to join him at our large picnic table on our deck. I can see the mountains in one direction, and on the other side of me I can hear the creek rippling softly.
He is quietly playing with his Legos. No phone support today, so I am enjoying the comparatively leisurely pace at which I can answer emails, uninterrupted.
Batman’s cape gets stuck, and I unstick him. I contemplate what a “Mom Signal” would look like if it was broadcasted across the sky, and I decide it would be audile rather than visual. It would just be an alarm screaming the word “MOM” over and over until I arrive (no cape, ain’t nobody got time for that) with an exasperated “WHAT??” met by a description of the problem that contains about 120-too-many words.
I get thirsty and I grab us both a cup of juice. I start to hunch over my keyboard, but am reminded to sit up by the novel smell of greenery in the air as I breathe in and out.
I remind myself to continue to breath. I write it on my wrist to make it easier to remember.
When I first became a mother, I was struck with the crushing reality that my time was now no longer primarily my own. I had donated it to my son, in full, until he was able to take care of himself. Now that he’s five, he can do most basic tasks for himself (after some arguing and whining) so I’m finally getting my balance back. But it took a long time to get here. It takes time to get used to scheduling things that used to always be there, effortlessly… like eating and taking a shower. But that’s what you have to do.
Working parents are expected to work as if they don’t have kids, and take care of their kids as if they don’t have a job.
Those of us who are lucky enough to have perfectly healthy bodies and minds can do this fairly well for a little while, but none of us can do this every day for 18 years. The reality of being a working parent is that you have two full time jobs.
Sometimes you have to tell your kid “No, I can’t play with you right now” and sometimes you have to use one of your sick days to clean someone else’s barf off the bathroom floor. Because of the expectations, this feels like a failure. But it’s actually what success looks like.
Real work-life balance doesn’t mean “doing it all”. It means doing what you need to do, when you need to do it.
Some days this means hunkering down and meeting that deadline with the home office door closed. Time for you to learn how to play independently, kiddo! Look at that brain growing. Beautiful.
Some days that means cuddling up and watching Finding Nemo for the hundredth time. Kids have a high need for closeness and a sense of safety, especially when they are sick or are going through something difficult.
Work-life balance means having an employer with whom you can build trust; if you show up on time and are amazing at your job, there should be no fuss when you need to leave early for that doctor’s appointment. It also means letting go of the finer aspects of child-care duties when you need to. So they’re having microwaved corn dogs for dinner… again? That’s ok. Allow yourself to be an imperfect parent, because you will need to be sometimes in order to be a great employee.
I won’t lie; it’s hard for me to leave work some days, and it’s hard for me to leave home on others. But the strength and resilience I’ve built while being a working parent has taught me that I can handle the seemingly impossible.
I’m a super hero!
This post is a part of the Spring 2017 Support Driven Writing Challenge.