There has been a lot written recently on women “having it all“–that is, being able to have a fulfilling career and being a present, involved mother with a strong home/family life. It’s a hard balance to strike. I never considered myself much of a career person. I pictured my mothering days as ones in which I would stay home, or maybe work part-time. The circumstances of my life have led me a different way, and after some struggle and adjustment, I think it’s a good one. My job is in general rewarding and fulfilling, and I’m thankful for it, and that I can always support my family through my work. Still, I have moments when I don’t want to work full time, when I start to resent how much time it takes, and that I could be doing so many other things at home with that time. I have been thinking a lot recently about how much I have to juggle on a daily basis to keep everything in my life going as it should be. Most of the time, it’s manageable, but there are times when it feels like it’s not. In this crazy full life I have, I am learning to be gracious with myself and my loved ones, and to stop worrying so much about all the little things, and focus more on the big things.
So, what are the big things? Well, making sure my daughter feels secure and well-loved. Taking time to read to her, to give her extra hugs and kisses, to let her sit on my lap even though my lap’s getting small and she’s getting big. Taking time to answer her questions and not to be impatient with her, and to soften my words to her, instead of always hurrying her along and speaking sharply when I’m feeling stressed. I don’t get to spend a lot of time with her, since she’s in full time daycare. A friend told me recently–it’s not the quantity of time you spend with your kids, it’s the quality, and it was a good reminder. Also, making sure that my relationship with my husband is strong. Taking time to relax with him in the evenings after the kid is in bed. Remembering to thank him for cooking a delicious dinner for us, every day. Appreciating him for who he is. Letting him work on building his boat rather than asking him to do more household chores. Laughing with him, and loving him in the way he wants to be loved. Letting him be alone, which he needs so much more than I do.
I also have to take care of myself, and this is maybe the hardest one for me. Sisters, do you constantly have a long to-do list in your head, and put taking care of yourself at the end of that list? I do a great job eating well because food is so important to me. Eating is a necessary thing, though. I hardly ever do something unnecessary just for me–like a craft project, or calling a friend or family member just to talk, or taking a walk, or sitting down to read a good book. I tend to make everything else a priority, and never take time for just me. I’m not sure how to do it, with a full time job and a family, and a house that just will not clean itself. I sometimes try to relax, but then I end up sweeping the floor or cleaning the bathrooms, or sitting down to pay some bills. On the weekends I take a long hot shower and shave my legs, and that feels like a luxury, and the only “me” time I ever really get.
So, if I have my priorities straight, I feel a good strong connection with my family, and I take care of myself, and I am a productive, happy person at work. In reality, all the little things in my life tend to take over. So, what are those? Oh, you know, all the complexities of modern life. Filling out forms for kindergarten. Making it to work on time. Flossing my daughter’s teeth. Making her do some chores around the house, which she fights terribly. Doing the dishes. Making doctor and dentist appointments. Getting regular oil changes for my car. Giving my daughter her flouride pill every morning. Filing all the important papers and dealing with the stacks of mail. Doing the laundry. Organizing the closets. Getting rid of my daughter’s old, broken toys. Dropping off the dry cleaning. Picking up the dry cleaning. Packing my daughter’s lunch for school every day. Packing my own work lunch every day. Drinking enough water. Eating enough fruits and vegetables. Remembering everyone’s birthdays. Trying to stop biting my nails. Looking for a house. Saving money to buy a house. Despairing that we will never find the right house, or be able to afford the house we want. Sticking with a budget. Mopping the floors. I can drive myself crazy with never-ending to-do lists. I will never be caught up. Thankfully my husband has a wonderful Zen-like philosophy which he attempts to teach me. He moves through life at an unhurried pace, and without the relentless internal clock that I have. He takes time to do things he really loves doing and wants to do. He encourages me to do the same, even though I’m stubborn and I don’t listen to him very well.
On any given day, I can tell you the successes and failures from the day’s events. Today I forgot to give my daughter her flouride pill. I made a phone call to her school about transportation for kindergarten, but only after failing to fill out a form by the deadline given. Also, I made that phone call while at work, because otherwise I would never have time for such things. Yesterday I remembered to take the library books back before the due date. Today I had to throw out a rotten bunch of kale in the fridge, because I never got around to making that raw kale salad I wanted to try. You see how it goes? I tally up the good and the bad and hope that it all works out, and that things in general flow along smoothly. I try not to take it personally when the neighbor kids come over and say that we have a really messy house. I try not to let the mess make me stressed out, though sometimes it does. I love a clean house, I really do. I just know that if I spend all my free time cleaning, I will be miserable and resentful. I have Mennonite guilt that I do not make my own jam and pickles. All that canning and preserving we grew up doing with Mom all summer–I just can’t do any of it, and sometimes that feels like a huge loss.
What about you all, dear sisters? How do you take care of yourselves, and how do you stop the endless to-do list from taking over your lives? Can women really have it all? Is working full time and being a present, involved mother an impossibility? (So far, this question only applies to Martha, but I know many of you will be dealing with it eventually!) If both parents work full time, do the kids get neglected? I think it’s taken me a few years to adjust to this working mother thing, and slowly, I feel like I’m getting to a better place. Just in time to add another kid to the mix–oh boy. Get ready for another huge change, Rachel! You think you’re overwhelmed now, with one kid? Just you wait…