by Michelle Brennan
The need for a good work-life balance is a shared struggle for so many of us.
Annoying inside-my-head smug voice:
Wait, you signed up for this right?
Me: Well yes…
Nobody forced you to have two children, did they?
Me: Well no…
You knew you’d have to go back to work right?
Well quit your moaning then Doll Face
(Yes my annoying inside-my-head smug voice calls me Doll Face, so it’s not all bad).
“Parenting (like Ronseal) – does what it says on the tin”.
OK, OK, I’m not really allowed to moan but can I just for a bit, a teeny tiny bit, please?Since September this year we have been adjusting to a new routine with one child now at school and one at nursery. This is nothing short of a massive pain in the ar*e. Kindly allowing me the opportunity of arriving late at not one but two separate locations in the morning *sigh*. A standard week is like a full-on military operation. Involving meal planning, online shopping, bag packing, shooshing, rushing, sighing and swearing (under my breath). And transportation by various combinations of car, train, pushchair and foot. Mixed with some pulling, pushing and on occasion, dragging.
By the time I get to work I’m completely exhausted, from just existing.
In all seriousness though, the biggest stress, I find, in the life of two working parents, is spreading yourselves so thinly. The feeling that in doing so much & performing so many different roles, you end up not doing any of them very well. The feelings of frustration and guilt (more guilt, just what we need) are there daily. Sometimes you want to ask (politely) if you can get off, to just catch your breath for a bit.
Yes, I want the bloody moon on a stick, who doesn’t?
I want to feel like a better parent. I want to be able to carefully answer all my daughter’s questions each morning without rushing her or stopping her half way through by shoving a toothbrush in her face.
I want to have more energy for her reading and writing.
I want to let my son play for longer in the morning. So happy with his trains before I engulf him in shoes, hats & coats and plonk him in a car seat.
I want to give more to my job. I take pride in my work, I’m not a person that can just clock in and clock out (thanks, Mum & Dad for making me annoyingly conscientious). I care and I want to be the one to make good suggestions, come up new ideas but some days I’m so drained I can just about remember my system password.
I want to do more on my blog. Much more. I want to write more, promote more, interact more, take all the opportunities that it might bring but there is just no time.
I want a clean & tidy house. It’s filthy, honestly, I cringe at the thought of this. I can just about manage a little tidy each day but cleaning is a nightmare. No, I can’t afford a cleaner and I just, you know, don’t like the idea of it….
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you get to win, God I love those weeks, feeling like Super Women. I arrive on time, I forget nothing, I eat healthily, I answer questions, I write (I still don’t clean, but hey ho…). And there are very limited amounts of rushing, sighing, swearing and dragging. And for us, the weekends bring welcome down time. But in amongst the sometimes overwhelming stress of what it takes to ‘exist’ as part of a working family of four, I find there are all these moments, where you feel like you’re actually doing a good job. Happy, sad, challenging, all different kinds of moments, where in your head (or maybe out loud?) you give yourself a little high five, a tiny fist pump or do a little jig, whatever works for you.
Some moments are big and some are very small…
Recently my son had a nose bleed in the middle of the night. After cleaning everything up, despite being a major Daddy’s boy he wanted me and only me.
So I cradled my son in my arms, heavy now at 18 months. We rocked back and forth in the subtle orange glow of the night-light in his bedroom, a room that I know so well now. I’m pretty sure I could rebuild it with alarming accuracy anywhere. We listened to the soft lullaby of Ewen The Sheep, the only other sound was the padding of my bare feet on the carpet.
He was very unsettled, I kissed him on the head and stared at his half illuminated face. My arms hurt and I felt brain dead until suddenly I realised that this was one of those moments and I smiled to myself, a smile just for me.
Because as I rocked this small boy that couldn’t sleep, in that moment, right there, I was doing a good job.
I was everything I needed to be.
And it felt good.