We hear and read a lot about work-life balance. And for women, because that’s all I can speak to directly since that’s my experience, it’s an especially difficult concept. We’re given this ideal of what is considered the perfect woman: must be a mom, must be married, must be a professional, must be at every practice for the kid(s), must help with homework, must have a great relationship with spouse, must keep the home, must give back to the community, must be a solid member of their local church…. And there’s only 24 hours in a day.
If you don’t have children because don’t want them, you’re exposed to “That’ll change when you meet the right person,” “Children are a blessing,” and other nonsense. That’s not to say that my sons aren’t blessings or that I didn’t enjoy motherhood or that being married to Bull somehow made things worse (it made things better). Not everyone wants to be a parent. And if that’s you, you’re entitled to your reason(s) and owe no one an explanation. But yall have to deal with that bit of extra bullshit.
If you don’t have children and want them and haven’t been able to conceive, that’s another next level hell. Nosy questions. People wondering if you’ll adopt. People trying to talk you into adoption if you want to keep trying. The expense of treatment and (or) adoption. If you want a baby and have yet to conceive or never could conceive, I see you. I love you. I am sorry for your struggle. And I am even more sorry that people are assholes and will try to be all up in your business. (HaVe YoU tRiEd ThIs eSSentIal OiL? HaVe YoU mADe LiFEstYlE cHangES?) So many arm chair fertility experts, I know…
Purposefully single mamas… I’ve heard some of the shit that gets tossed your way by people who probably didn’t even bother to learn more about you as a person…let alone (if you chose to share although you don’t owe anyone an explanation) why you made your choice. And yet you’re still supposed to be a super human.
And It Is Fucking Exhausting
I know. I worked full time. I went to school part time online to finish my Bachelor’s and work on my Master’s. I had little boys. J was in pre-k when I started back to work (he was so excited for “school.” In fact, he got so excited, he showed he was his mother’s child…social anxiety got the best of him and he threw up every. fucking. where. in the classroom. I had to pick him up about an hour after his first day started).
J and B played baseball one year. J also played (different seasons – I never believed in running the kids ragged) baseball, basketball, and football. B, once he was in middle school, did a couple of years of band. My drive to work was, by then, close to an hour to and from. Plus dinner. Plus church obligations. And my children always came first.
And I worried. It didn’t matter that every male and female supervisor I had (male: law firm, female: career services office, female: bankruptcy data information center) actually understood if the kids were sick. You’d think that would help…but no.
It was the good ol’ mommy guilt. (I still deal with it, but it’s a bit different now…I’ll explain soon). I’m at home with the sick kid(s)…didn’t matter if I had paid leave or not…or a doctor’s note. I worried I would lose my fucking job. And although I was married at the time (not to Bull), I have no clue what happened to his money. I paid everything: house payment, utilities, car payment, insurance, food… That marriage is a story (multiple stories, really) for another time.
And when I went to work, it didn’t matter if they were staying with a grandma because they were sick enough to not go to school, but not like, you know, losing a lung or if they just didn’t have school, I constantly worried about them. All of my employers allowed me to call them (remote work wasn’t super common even a decade ago, let alone before that) and for them to call me. In fact, most of the people I worked with were parents…so there were lots of after-school “Hi mom, I’m home” calls.
There was my homework, their homework, J’s practices, B’s friends, and I (a) kept the preschoolers at church for YEARS (kids are my jam, yall, despite my resting bitch face…toddlers typically love me – I am all about making a mess!) and (b) taught Bible study and (c) helped with street preaching (yes, really…stop looking so shocked. It’s how I really learned how to SELL.)
I was so fucking tired. And it wasn’t the kids. It really wasn’t work. It really wasn’t college. It wasn’t just one thing. You know what I mean. It is the weight of the world.
And Now B & J Are Adults on Their Own
And, yes, empty nest is kinda weird. I’m dealing with it…and BB is still here, of course. We’re told that empty nest is the time when we moms can do what we want…really invest in our marriage…chase our dreams…whatever. And technically, yes. The time is there. You can do any damn thing you can afford to do or commit the time to doing.
I’ve always loved my work. Even as a receptionist waaaayyyyyyyy back in the day, I was the one given the analytical “dry” shit most people didn’t want. I’m good at it. I can lose myself in it.
But now it becomes a making sure I work my schedule around BB’s needs (not a complaint), keep bringing in more work since we’re scaling up (Bull is taking on some work and learning the tricks of copywriting – and he’s doing super well), scheduling deadlines around Bull’s schedule (he also teaches jiujitsu twice a week in a town about an hour away), spending quality time with the doggos, annnddddd… I’m sure I’ve said it before: I have CPTSD, generalized anxiety and panic disorder, and OCD (diagnosed). I’m also incredibly introverted. The Clifton Strengths test summary: leave me the hell alone and let me work and no, I don’t give a flying fuck what you think, fuck-you-very-much. I don’t need a lot of “people” time. My closest friends know that. They accept me. Most of my closest friends are actually extroverted and I was adopted by them….and yet they still understand my need of quiet and that Facebook messenger counts as socialization for me.
Please understand that I recognize how incredibly well I’ve done to set myself up to work from home, with my husband, and kinda do my own thing. I started doing this full time five years ago. I was in my mid-30s. I started working at 16 and pretty much worked in some capacity (such as the time I spent as a seamstress while the boys were toddlers) since then. But, in my head that doesn’t make it easy. I have what is known as an eidetic memory. I can recall pretty much any situation I was involved in or witnessed except for around kindergarten when I was hit in the head with a baseball bat. The event is not blurry…but the following year is very blurry. So, it’s easy for me to take certain situations and recall similar ones and because I am usually looking for ways to mitigate risk, I can be down the anxiety rabbit hole in fucking no time. I also have chronic insomnia. Lately, I sleep around six hours a night. For years, I survived off two or three. And I’ve had a self-record of three weeks of virtually not sleep except for an hour here or there.
We Cannot Balance Work and Life
Work-life balance is a popular concept. And there are some things you can do to try to even them out, sure. And I think maybe a few people could achieve the balance for at least periods of time. In a world where we are always connected, it can be fucking hard to disconnect from either. And as a result, our home life….we’re thinking and worrying about work. While we’re at work, we’re thinking and worrying about home. Currently, I work and worry about the projects I am not CURRENTLY working on or the fact I haven’t vacuumed. And vice versa. Oh, I’m taking some time to clean up? WHAT ABOUT THE PROJECT?!
It’s seriously ingrained in most of us to do everything and be happy while we do it all…and that’s not reality. Everyone would have to cooperate. And they don’t. No one would have hidden motives. And they do. Projects would be straight forward. They’re often not. Kids wouldn’t take Stanley Steemer commercials to heart and jump on top of a chocolate sauce bottle in the living room because they say a kid do it on TV….and…yeah, that happened.
But It’s Not about Balance
I don’t think being a wife / mom / professional is about work-life balance. I think it’s about being centered. We don’t have to say yes to everything (and fuck those who pressure us into thinking otherwise). Sure, if you have tiny humans of your own, it’s important to take care of them and help them become well-adjusted adults. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find ways to enjoy the ride or make it easier.
Life is about being centered. Work, home, and obligations are so much easier when we find a way to be centered in the moment. I don’t know what that means for you. It equates into a number of things for me. If I feel wide awake after going to bed at midnight and sleeping until 3 am, then I’m golden. If I feel like sleeping in until 9, whatever. I’ll do it. Hot baths in the middle of the day? That’s my jam. Ignoring 10 pm messages from clients? Yep, most likely. Meditation? On the daily. Working out? Daily (it increases the happy hormones). Changing any or all of these things if I feel like it? I sure will.
A few years ago, someone tried (keyword) to shame me for trying so many new things and changing my hair and what I do, etc. Seriously, if mentioning (hatefully) that someone changes their hair is the best you can do to attack them, you already know that you suck as a human and have no real problem with that person. You do not have to spend every day doing the same thing for the next 80 years (unless you ENJOY doing that – then by all means, please do it). Do what keeps you centered and what keeps you functional. Ignore the assholes.
Centered, not balanced. Do what you gotta do…just make sure you feel good while you do it.