Balance has been a topic for women for a long time. How do you balance being a mother and working full time? How do you balance housework and your job?
How do you get it all done?
There’s a trend now, I’ve been seeing, where famous women are refusing to answer those questions. They are inherently sexist. How many men are asked about balance?
If you’re a dude with a family, how many times has this come up for you?
I think I know the answer.
In the 1980s when women joined the workforce in droves, I remember the myth of the super woman. A woman who somehow managed a stressful career, fed the kids, cleaned the house and kept her man happy all while looking radiant.
Or at least put together, 80s style. Let’s just not talk about the shoulder pads, ok?
While the branding behind that story died down, shifted to more subtle ways of being, the idea of the mom who did it all never died.
It wasn’t all that long ago when my ex took paternity leave for our second and third babies. I couldn’t take maternity leave because I was self employed, but he could take up to 35 weeks off.
And oh the shit he was dealt from the guys at work. A lot of shit. They eventually made up an emergency which ended the last leave weeks early, leaving me with deadlines and infants at hand and no help.
My work, which for the bulk of our marriage earned 2 to 3 times more money than his, always came second to the pressures of raising those kids. Hell it was second for importance in general until I was the only source of income.
Now, as I face doing the final bit alone, I’ve decided to put down the facade.
There is no work life balance, it’s a bullshit fucked up lie to sell us vacations and other crap we’ve “earned”. Hurrah for marketing.
I get the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else gets. If I choose to do one thing, something else simply doesn’t get done, or gets less time. I used to sleep four hours a night to get more done but at what cost?
Yesterday, it meant less time logging hours for work while I dealt with the issues of one of my kids. That translated into working later in the evening, but only after watching another one of my kids learn to roller blade. Laundry? It’ll get done at midnight. Maybe.
I’ve stopped searching for balance and finding only exhaustion and disappointment. What I look for now are the trade offs. The priorities.
I’ve decided to cherry pick the important stuff. The stuff that will help my career, give my kids good memories about growing up, allow me to be gentle with myself.
I’m going to fail. Oh definitely, there’s going to be failure. And I’m going to own it. To forgive myself. To try again. To adjust my expectations. To wear mismatched socks because who cares?
To remember that there is no work life balance, there is only life.
None of us gets out alive, and no one will remember if my house was clean or not, only if it was full of love.
And that’s my balance right fucking there.