The juggle

January 17, 2011 at 8:39 am | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, the 'burbs, the firm, Uncategorized, weekend | 6 Comments

Yesterday morning, I drove the children to a suburb north of the city for a playdate. My friend has three children — a little girl just a week younger than Little Bug, and twin 17-month-old boys. She and I were classmates in college, and while we were friendly then, we didn’t know each other well. We reconnected a few years ago when our girls were infants — we lived just blocks from each other in the Back Bay and were both attorneys. Because she went right from college to law school, she is now a partner at her firm. Nevertheless, we have many of the same experiences being mothers and lawyers. Our girls play really well together, and Little O had fun chasing after the “big” boys. As the kids traipsed around her sunny playroom, we caught up in bits and snatches, and I found myself saying, “Now that we have such a great nanny, it’s really pretty doable.” And I believe that: with quality, reliable daycare, the working parent is free to pursue his or her career with much less anxiety. If the children are happy and well cared for, you can spend your days at work focusing on work, as opposed to worrying about what is going on at home. Our excellent nanny has made that possible for me.

But, then, there are the weekends. And holidays, such as today. When there is no nanny and, yet, because of the nature of our particular careers, we still have work to do. On weekends, Tim and I find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending negotiation about who gets to work when. Today, for example, he is going into the office from 10-3. He asked his mother to come over and help me out, which just means she and I will probably take the children to lunch at the local diner, and maybe she can stay with the baby while he naps and I can take Little Bug to the market with me or something. Fine — I’m grateful for the company and the ability to get some errands done. But I also have about three or four hours of work that I should do before tomorrow — two hours of which I absolutely have to do before tomorrow. When will I do mine? Before 10 or after 3, I suppose. When Tim works on weekends, I don’t begrudge him the time away from our family so much as I feel guilty that I should be working and I’m not. I don’t actually work all that often on weekends — but I always feel like I should be doing so (everyone else at my office seems to be) — and so when Tim steals away to put in a few hours himself, it reminds me that I’m probably slipping behind.

If I weren’t working at all, would these weekend tensions ease? Maybe not because I might feel like the weekends were family time or my time — a break, perhaps, from a long week spent taking care of the children. That would be a different negotiation between my husband and me. But I wouldn’t feel this constant sense of inferiority to my own colleagues, one that I fear manifests itself in my relationship with my hard-working spouse. In a two-career family, does one spouse’s career necessarily take priority over the other’s? And is that the career of the highest earner? It seems that things would shake themselves out this way, but I don’t feel like I’m in the type of job — junior associate at a big law firm — where my career can take second fiddle and maintain any sort of longetivity. Just as I’m starting to feel like maybe I am doing the right thing (and have the childcare to make it possible, at least during the week), I’m reminded that — while many of my colleagues are in the office on weekends and holidays — that will never be me, and I’ll probably never really¬†measure up. This is frustrating, and I feel terrible that sometimes my family bears the brunt of this frustration.

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  1. We are juggling this weekend too. And we are all sick, which means napping is not going well, and we’re all cranky. If you have nothing to do, don’t feel guilty, and don’t mar it by angsting. (I know that coming from me, this may make you laugh). But there’s an ebb and flow, and you’ll be working all weekend again soon enough.

    • Oh, I have plenty to do this weekend. That is the problem!

  2. I know I can’t relate to this exact predicament, but all I can say is, be more gentle with yourself.

    I know you well enough to know you are built to do the things you do very well. That is a great character trait that can sometimes also become a burden, or at least an obstacle to one’s peace of mind.

    But the decision to have a family and to be ambitious about your personal life as well as your professional one (and I am using the word ambitious in the highest sense of the word – being willing to make sacrifices to excel at something) was a wise and wonderful decision.

    I know sacrificing time with your family is difficult and sacrificing time at work is also hard.

    Wonderful problems to have – means you are living a full, if somewhat complicated life.

    So I just got back from yoga and my only words of wisdom, coming from a singleton who has the opposite problem – spending too much time at work to fill in the space where my family ought to be – is to be gentler with yourself.

    I’m trying to take that advice on my end.

    Love to you and the wee ones.

    • Aw, JDJ, you are so right. And you remind me why I need to get back to yoga. And you remind me to put things in perspective. My mother told me (and I hope she comments here, as well) that at some point you have to pick your poison: if I were at work, I’d feel guilty about that, too. I wish I could remember to be gentle, and I’m grateful to you for pointing that out ot me. I hope you are doing the same – I think of you lots, and just know how much you touch and warm the lives of those around you… xo

  3. I had this thought: I bet Tim had some guilt about having to choose the office over you and the children on Sunday. You had guilt about having to choose the children over the office. One way to look at it is that you have to pick your poison (i.e. at this stage of your life, you will feel guilty, but you do get to choose what you are going to feel guilty about). Do you think you would have felt less guilty if you had been “free” to go to the office from 10-3?? I honestly don’t think there is a real solution. I think one simply has to learn to manage the guilt. In retrospect, I wasted so much energy when you girls were young feeling guilty that I was staying home and not “accomplishing” anything with my life! I wish I had had the courage to trust that I would “accomplish” when the time was right, which is what I did.

  4. K, I know exactly what you mean. I feel inferior at work all the time now, and it makes me feel like a slouch, which definitely affects how I act at home. I think the trick may be to work at a place where people don’t generally work on the weekends or all night (or bill 1900+ hours per year, regardless of whether they are billed during the week or on the weekend), taking the lower salary in exchange for the balance and happiness with your family.


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