This past week has been a very exciting one for me in the “work world”. A lot of the things I have been working towards are actually materializing. I had some great meetings and left with some so many thoughts and inspiring plans running through my head.
I also have felt like a total mom fail this past week. The kids have been full of so much extra energy that despite playing outside, still results in them wrestling all over our house and me yelling way too much. There are piles and piles of laundry to be put away and I feel like the kids are eating us out of house and home despite visiting the grocery store multiple times a week. I am so behind in my (very minimal) attempts to be “involved” at school and I always have big plans to respond to emails once the kids are finally in bed and then fall asleep at 8:30pm. I could go on and on, but I will stop now. 😉
That’s the thing I didn’t realize, often times it feels like you doing a great job managing your workload or an awesome job prioritizing your family’s needs but it can sometimes feel completely elusive to having that feeling about both things at the same time.
I never really knew what it would feel like to be pulled in two directions, both important but in really different ways. I was a “stay at home parent” for the first four years of having children. I feel grateful it was an option for our family and it was also one of the hardest things I have ever done. I am not writing to minimize the challenges of that, they were just very different challenges.
I slowly went back to work a little at a time as our kids started preschool and things really amped up now that both of our kids are in elementary school. I think it is important to say that I can’t speak to all the challenges of being a working mother. I don’t have experience with having to pump at work with a small baby or managing the completely unrealistic expectations many mothers face of needing to go back to work right away because of the small amount of time they were “given” for paid maternity leave and I know that is a privilege in so many ways.
Staying home when my kids were younger was wonderful for many reasons but it was also very scary. I remember sitting in therapy a couple of years ago and talking about how I felt I would never be able to get those years of “not working” back and I felt completely overwhelmed about how I would get back into the workforce when it was time. While I was “at home” many of my friends were continuing the career paths they studied and worked hard for, which is one of the big reasons many parents go back to work right away, and sometimes I wondered if I had made “the right” decision.
What I have realized over time is that there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it, but it all has its different pros and cons. Work doesn’t fit into a tidy little 9-5 box for me anymore and it doesn’t for many other parents…I, like so many, am often at the “mercy” of the school calendar. This means there are many weekends that Lucas “takes over” so I can fit in my work and we do a lot of “switching on and off” during the summer months so we both can meet our work demands.
I work for many reasons, and one of them is to have an identity outside of motherhood. I also work to contribute financially to the growing needs (and grocery bill) of our family. I am still struggling to figure it all out and I think I probably always will be. I am grateful to have a supportive partner who understands how important and helpful this is to not only me but also our family.
This was more long-winded than I had planned but my point of this whole post was to write about balance and self-care. So in summary, I don’t really think there is a true feeling of having a perfect work-life balance. I think it is totally normal to feel like one sometimes overshadows the other and in the long run it all balances out but it might not feel like it on a daily or weekly basis.
And of course, there is that trendy idea of “self-care” that you are probably hearing all over the place right now. The other day we were ice skating on our backyard pond after school. It was all fine and dandy until it was time to take everyone’s ice skates off. I was floundering around on the ice while still wearing my skates, and at the same time trying to take three kids ice skates off while also trying to avoid being sliced in the face with six sharp metal blades…it wasn’t going very well.
I then said, “hold on, let me take my skates off first and then it will be easier to help you guys”. And it was! It took 30 seconds to take my own skates off and then not only was I much less stressed but it was much easier to help them unhitch and untie their skates that were covered in ice and snow. This is kind of like what self-care does to you as a parent. Taking a little time to care for yourself helps you be able to be a better parent, partner, and person. It doesn’t sound that hard in theory but self-care isn’t always something that is easy to prioritize when the daily tasks of work and having a family are never-ending.
Self-care materializes in many different forms for people but therapy and exercise are mine and I am unapologetic about these two things. I schedule them into my calendar and they are set in stone. My family, friends, and co-workers know this and I know it. Besides a sick child or snow day, if I scheduled it, I am going.
This often means I am waking up a couple of hours before the kids do to get work done so I have the space to fit in my barre class during the workday or dropping off the kids at my husband’s office so I can go to a therapy session in the summer. I cannot tell you what a better person and parent I am because I do these things for myself. It doesn’t mean that I am a perfect parent or partner but when I am filling my bucket too it is much easier to meet the needs of everyone around me.
How do you practice self-care? <3