Today is the kidlet’s last day of school, despite my fears back in August we not only survived kindergarten but the kidlet thrived. I look at her and she now looks so much older than the girl I walked into school back in September. Having been down this road before with the college boy, I know each and every day will bring more days of looking at her and wondering where is my baby!
Yet the end of the school year also means chaos in our daily lives until the return of school in September. In theory, you would think a couple where one partner has a home office and the other has a part time position would mean childcare and work life balance is not something we worry about. The reality is nothing could be further from the truth. For starters while the Spousal Unit is technically a freelance writer, he is more a contract worker with his main client and puts in as many hours as needed to get the job done. Some weeks there are calm and balance and some weeks the Spousal Unit is up late into the night getting work done.
I am the director of a community center that offers youth based programming, a position that often makes people comment that I must have a great work-life balance. Blink….come again. Nope, nothing could be further from the truth. Just this week I had planned to work from home at the end of the week, since I knew the Spousal Unit was in the middle of a deadline aka busy cycle. It was a great plan until one of my staff members had a mishap with a can while working that pretty much meant my plans to juggle the childcare were out the window since I now need to be onsite during program time. Never mind I that I am dealing with grant reporting time and tons of last minute details to get the center’s summer programming up and running.
All of this has got me thinking about work-life balance and the idea of whether it’s even possible as a woman to have it all. Lately I find myself thinking that for me having it all means accepting that there is a season for everything. Some months ago, I took my self out of the running for a position that salary wise would have meant we probably wouldn’t be going bankrupt but time wise would have destroyed our family. Even positions such as mine that on paper are flexible and family friendly still require making sacrifices as the family level. I often see the idea of job sharing bandied around but based off the work I do, that would not work at the level I am at professionally. Though I imagine there are careers and positions where sharing jobs is a lot more feasible.
In the end I think most of us have come to accept that work-life balance are simply words that sound good when the reality is most of us are doing a work life juggle. Juggling both these spheres and hoping we don’t drop the ball as I did the other day, when I completely forgot I was supposed to be at a rather important meeting.
The reality is that to have a true balance is greater than any individual position; true balance requires having an entire community that works together to support everyone. Such communities are becoming harder to find as we no longer live near grandparents, aunts and cousins. Often when we do, they are busy working longer and simply do not have the time to assist in helping out with grand kids, nieces, and nephews. As it has become the norm to move away from our hometowns for various reasons, the deeper connections that used to exist simply are absent. For most of us once we are past college, making true friendships that would allow for equal support is hard to come by, especially in this era where so many of us value our individuality. While I have a couple of people to help out the kidlet that I can count on in a pinch their own professional lives don’t allow for the type of shared support system that would create balance for all of us. So I juggle my balls and hope like hell none drop!