I am of a generation of girls who was raised to value strength and intellect and fairness. I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be, as long as I focused and worked hard. I’m the generation of Title IX sports, where I could play baseball and football and organize races with the kids the neighborhood. I was raised to believe I was equal in every way to boys, and there were no limits to what I could do when I was a grownup.
And so, when I got my MBA nearly 15 years ago, I decided I’d be a CEO. To that end, I spent my first years in business working as many hours as possible. I changed careers – picked accounting because I knew it would be recession-proof, and it was intellectually challenging. I loved it those first years, before I started burning out. There was just so much WORK. Busy seasons were grueling – I worked every weekend and most days from 7 in the morning to 9, 10pm.
And then I finally got pregnant with Owen. And I worried. How would I make those hours work when there was a baby at home? I mean, honestly – I worked 80-90 hour weeks up until the day I delivered my son. It was my last day in the office, and I was squeezing in doing a friends’ tax return at lunch when my water broke. I spent the afternoon in the hospital waiting for him to be born, on my Blackberry, letting my clients and managers know I wasn’t coming back that day because I was having a baby.
It became clear to me that I needed a change. So I took 6 months when he was born – an extended maternity leave. I figured it would give me a chance to try out the stay at home thing, give myself a break from the working hours. I figured it would be refreshing not to have to go to work. I’d surely be on top of everything around the house!
There were a few things wrong with that picture. I was not a confident parent early on in Owen’s life. I wasn’t much for schedules, and he was an abysmal sleeper and therefore a fussy baby. I spent that time with him completely sleep deprived and stuck in the house, because we never really had a “good time” to go out. And there were days I never even got a shower.
Quite honestly, I hated it and assumed I just wasn’t meant to be a stay at home mom. So I went back to work.
And for the past four and a half years I’ve spent my days working while Owen is in daycare. He is thriving, and I have no regrets about the decision. For us, it was what was best for our family.
The thing is. Being in the business world is HARD. It’s 24/7, and it’s a constant stress, even when we’re home. Not just that, but it’s hard parenting when you AND your husband consult. We aren’t always in the the same place, which makes things hard to plan. Our days right now are spent juggling meetings and being at clients and our work schedules. We’re fortunate that Jeff is working from home right now, so when I’m needed at a client site we have a little more flexibility, but that will go away this summer.
And Owen goes to kindergarten this fall. And for some reason, I’m feeling strongly that I want to be there when he gets off the bus every day. Maybe it’s because I can hold him accountable for homework and studying. Maybe it’s because time is going by so quickly and I want more time with him every day. Maybe it’s because I don’t find accounting rewarding anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of sitting in my car for 2-3 hours a day stuck in traffic. I’m not entirely sure.
But here I am. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that I should just quit my job.
It is so interesting to find myself in a place where I feel like I have a lack of motivation – or drive. I can’t really believe I’m thinking about hanging up my CPA and my MBA in order to stay at home and raise my family. Where I’m CEO of my house, not a corporation – or even my own small business.
Plus, I have an only child. Often, I think, Really, Karen, how hard is it to coordinate the schedule for your ONE kid to get to and from school?
So many working parents have to content with multiple kids and multiple schedules – and I can only imagine the logistics required to make that work.
But as I sit here, looking at the piles of mail that we’ve stacked up because we’ve been too busy to go through it and recycle/shred it, I am realizing that it’s not really POSSIBLE to have it all – at least not in the definition I’ve lived for the past 37 years.
I recently read this article by Beth Woolsey: 20 Things Every Parent Should Hear. And it was #19 that got me: Balance is a myth. Parenting isn’t a tight-rope walk; it’s a dance. Strive for rhythm instead of balance, and trust yourself to move to the ever-changing beat.
It’s impossible to be everything at once: Super Worker, Super Mom, Super Wife, Super Friend, Super Organized, Super Volunteer, Super Baker-of-Cookies-Just-Because, Super Writer, Super Painter, Super Runner, Super Cook, Super Blogger. I can’t be all those things – if I tried I’d keel over from stress and anxiety and exhaustion.
So, really, then, it’s a matter of focus. Focusing on what’s needed in the here and now. If that means my career takes a backseat in the coming years so I can focus on other things, then so be it.
How do you find rhythm in your family life? What choices have you made in order to maintain the dance of your life?