I had lunch with a friend the other day and it really stuck with me. I can’t stop thinking of her. It was such a sad time for me to see this wonderful person just break down and become so upset over trying to find balance in her life. And I can relate.
Or I think I can.
I’m a consultant part time at a job. I make my own hours and try to keep it to a three-day week, but things have been so busy lately, I’ve been doing four… and some weekends. The money is great, but I find when I’m at work, I feel like I should be home.
Not when the kids are at school (even though apparently they think I should be sitting around the house pining away for them and waiting for them to come home every day), but when I know they are home and I am at work trying to finish a project… or on the weekend when I’m so swamped and just need to go in for a few hours to clean things up. Or early in the morning when I’m not there to ship them off to school with a hug and a hearty breakfast in their little tummies.
Other than those times, I’m enjoying being downtown and working for a wage that allows us to pay down some of the debt we accrued during my years staying home with my boys. And the fact that I can leave anytime I want (within reason) and not feel obligated to be there, like a full time employee, is such an amazing freedom. I really am lucky.
But back to my friend. Who is a full time employee and trying very hard to juggle kids and home and all the stuff that goes with it – cleaning, shopping, school work, activities… not to mention fitting in an 8 hour day at the office. And don’t forget a 45 minute commute each way…
We started talking and she just broke down.
Sometimes it all just comes crashing down on you, doesn’t it? And it all seems so overwhelming. I could almost see the waves pulling at her, all around her, and my friend trying to stay afloat through all the obligations and responsibilities of being a full time mom and a full time employee.
And not being understood by some people in her company. Again I go back to how lucky I am to determine my own hours and actually have a company be flexible enough to accept my hours that I can give. Not everyone has it so lucky and I acknowledge that and no matter how busy I get, I always remember this and know that the pressure is not there for me to put in a certain number of hours if I have family commitments, etc.
As long as the work gets done, I’m good…
Of course the work is never ending, but I think that’s usually the way it rolls in a job. If you’re ever completely done everything, I’m pretty sure you might be unemployed soon…
September is hard too. As much as we pine for school to start again so the juggling of kids throughout the summer can finally end, the proverbial can of worms opens up with the inevitable onslaught of activities and homework and play dates and frigging groceries (what? We’re completely out of food? Again? What’s that you say? Only mustard and orange juice left in our house?)…
And as busy as it is, I am trying to slow down once in a while and enjoy my boys. And also be thankful that none of them are in hockey.
Then we would never ever see each other.
At least now, play dates are happening constantly with my boys, we have freedom to go for walks after supper (which we should really do more often, and once in a blue moon we manage to do it – but the option is there at least, right?)… we have our weekends to head out to our trailer and see friends and work on our house (again, something that really should be tackled way more than it is, but hopefully with cold weather coming soon – and my income working for us – renovations started a year ago will actually come to fruition sometime… soon… ish…)…
So my friend.
Who is swamped and stressed.
And misunderstood by people in her company too. Not only is oil and gas still very much an old boy’s club, but I think it becomes that much more difficult to be in a company when you’re the only one with a young family.
You can’t pull twelve hours like some single employees. It just isn’t happening. And I wouldn’t want that to happen. Neither does my friend. So where does that leave her? In a metaphorical Siberia.
And some of these executives (who aren’t that much older than me nowadays) don’t always seem to appreciate the fact that while they can go home and have their dinners made and laundry cleaned; this friend of mine is going home and still having to do all that.
When I mentioned this to hubby last night, he asked, ‘well, doesn’t her husband help out?’
He raises a really good point. It is all about partnership when both adults in the house are working.
And we’ve had a few blow-outs ourselves over who is doing what and what we thought the other person was doing.
Example? My favourite.
My jaw clenches a little even thinking about our battle of the school lunches which wasn’t even really about that, but don’t tell hubby that because he just doesn’t see it my way. I don’t see it his way either. So we’ve kinda let that one go and just moved on and sucked it up.
Sign of a good marriage? Letting things roll off your back.
And having a fully stocked bar.
So I’m sure my friend’s hubby is helping. But really, more often than not, who is the one worrying on the way home from work about what to make for dinner when all you have is mustard and some orange juice in the house?
As much as both of us would be thinking ‘take out’, I can usually pull something together that is edible (not always according to all three boys, but the whining doesn’t bother me so much anymore).
Yet another valid argument for wine…
But in my house hubby can cook and will cook. And when he doesn’t, he cleans. Actually, I’d much rather cook than clean and he knows this and is fine with it and really pitches in and does so much in the house.
And the kids help too… sometimes. There is usually more whining involved, but I’m almost immune to it now after so many years of listening to it.
Would you look at that? Wine apparently helps a happy marriage AND raising responsible, well-adjusted kids… I bet it helps with other things… gargle with it and it kills germs? Use it in the garden?
Maybe I’ll just stick to drinking it. After two glasses, my garden starts to look pretty anyway and suddenly I don’t seem to care so much anymore about having germs.
Who is wondering whether to stay at her job. And struggling with the age-old issue of being torn in different directions all at the same time.
She has responsibilities at home that she is giving up for work. She needs the money and needs to work, so things at home need to be put on hold.
But when a company professes to be family-oriented, where does it begin and end?
Don’t you hear that so much nowadays? All these companies are so in touch with everyone and feel absolute empathy to parents that they’re just so darn flexible because family comes first…
At what point is it okay to say that you need to leave early to catch little Billy’s assembly at school and when does it become too much? Can you volunteer for fun lunch day or just limit it to a graduation ceremony? Go with your child’s class to the science centre or can you only leave work because of a broken arm?
Forty hours a week dwindles pretty quickly when you leave for very important family commitments. Like dentist appointments. So when you are invited to the Mother’s Day Tea… do you go?
What will the backlash be?
I dunno. I don’t have any answers.
I felt like a schmuck sitting there at the table too because I wasn’t sure if I should give her a hug or if I should make a joke…
So I told her I know how she feels.
And I do.
There have been tears of frustration and exhaustion in the Pigeon Coop as well.
As much as I find work to be an escape from home where I can use another part of my brain after ten years of being a stay-at-home-mom, it is really tough to manage absolutely everything.
Like getting the orders in on time for those frigging Entertainment Books that every single school seems to be selling right about now…
Remembering to look at my kids’ classroom blogs every single night.
Remembering to take something out of the freezer for dinner the next day so I’m not stuck making orange juice smoothies with mustard on crackers for supper…
So as wonderful as things are right now with my boys being such awesome ages and being able to work with people I enjoy seeing every day and where I call the shots on my hours worked so I have time to volunteer at school and be home when my kids get home… phew… it really is still a daily juggling act, isn’t it?
I guess we just suck it up?
Some days it is easier said than done.
Just know all you Mommas out there – you’re not alone. Does that help at all? It helps me to know that I’m not the only one feeling stressed… hope it helps you too.
Take care of yourselves. You’re doing an awesome job.
And when life beats you down and things get too busy and everything is just too much…
I dunno… can’t help you there. If I ever figure it out, I’ll pass it along.