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Work time vs. family time. How do you manage it all?
Welcome back to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop! If you’re new to the series, the authors included are grateful for your reads and appreciate, even more so, when you share our writings with your friends. If you’re new to the series, welcome aboard. The authors engage and impress weekly. Be prepared to become a regular reader.
There are no hard and fast rules about how to conduct your work and business life. There is a lot of writing surrounding it, however. Much of that writing revolves around guilt. Guilt is measured by what you should view as responsible balance. Not being an expert on every family out there and their unique family dynamics, all I can respond to this question with is an answer about how I decided to handle balance.
As you may know, I work during the week, and that position has a lot of responsibility and time away from home. Though travel has been delayed while baby is maturing into a robust one year old, the expectations remains that I will have someone watch her, while I go off around the state doing my job at some point soon. For single mothers, such as myself, that is far more problematic than the average person, bosses included, surmise. Katie has only one parent. I’m lucky enough to live near my parents who are always eager to have time with her. I also believe it is important for her to forge a relationship with them. This understanding alleviates some of my concern around her feelings of being without me at those times. My parents did not travel for work. Although they may have had the occasional overtime, and dad was Army National Guard so he traveled for a couple weeks once a year, I always had one of them, and wasn’t ousted from my home. Is that good or bad? I know that I am a homebody, and perhaps this reality of my childhood forged some of that. The house was isolated, and I always had my parents to lean on. That said, my brother moved away from home in his twenties to live in Tennessee, and now Virginia. Therefore, I’d say, the comfy nest probably didn’t have much to do with my staying close. My innate personality dictated that. Still, I’d like my baby to experience some time apart, so that when she grows up, it’s not so difficult for her. That said, there will be cues from my daughter that I will respond to, as much as I am able.
When I punch out at night, I am through with the day job. I made that rule well before having a baby. It simply is something I believe in strongly. You leave work at work. Any job that asks you take work home with you is a life, not a job. I’m not signing up to make a job my life, not even when I care very much for what I do, which I do. You might point to my writing, and I will get to that now.
Writing isn’t a job. It’s not a career. It is something I chose to be when I was young. Yes, there is labor involved. Just like I leave work in the late afternoon, I make a rule of coming home and spending the few hours I have in the evening with my daughter. These years will never come back. There’s no second chance on them, and I do not wish to miss a minute of her, as long as I can help it. Even the writing is set aside. She comes first. Many of the self-help books preaching work life balance will reiterate the importance, but there’s always a flavor of guilt with it. I don’t have guilt. I have a greedy desire to remember every moment of Katie’s childhood, because I waited a damn long time to have her and be a mom. Other mom’s will feel differently, especially if they’re blessed with more children, had them younger (they’re grown now). The dynamics of those families are just different. I highly doubt their children love them less, in almost all cases. (Remember, I am not talking about abandonment, but balance between work and life.)
The whole idea of work life balance is based on choices. I choose to set aside my writing for after Katie’s bedtime. If something is dearly pressing, then I wait for a visit from her grandparents, when I am free to leave her in their care and take a few moments to address the need.
Some folks might say, it’s not so easy to choose. I agree. But, it was easy for me. I planned her. That means I took into account what she would mean to my writing and career. I thought long and hard about my priorities, and the way those priorities would affect her. At the heart of my choice is Katie’s well-being. The way she will be raised, and the Mom I want to be for her, so that she turns out to be a great adult, all matter to me far more than my writing. But, I realize that I do not have to give anything up to be a great mother. I’m already a responsible adult. While planning her, I planned out the writing I wanted to have set up for the next few years so I could have time to attend to her with my full attention, and, if that attention wasn’t always needed, that I could take those snippets and plan further out. Monkey wrenches certainly do land in the works, but I planned pretty damn well. Not only is my blog a couple months ahead, but I have three books on deck that should take me to her 3rd, or even 5th, birthday.
Absolutely, kids happen without planning, but I remind you, this is about how I handle the situation of work and life, not about anyone else.
Kids become independent far quicker than we would like to allow. She’s only 8 months old today. Yet, she is standing up, practically on her own. She crawls fast as lightning (not quite The Flash, but close). She entertains herself (with constructive toys, like baby musical instruments). Still, that little dolly wants her mama when she wants her mama. No blog nor book is getting in the way of that. Katie is way too precious to me to deny. Yeah, it is exhausting. I’ve had to be the bad guy who put her down for a nap, and walked away while she had a fit. But that kid needs rest as much as she needs cuddles.
What if you find your timeline falling behind? Then it falls behind and I rethink my plan around the blog, even if that means a leave of absence. And if I find that my job takes me away too much, then I look for a new position that doesn’t, and hopefully find one in as short a time as possible.
When it matters, you will stick with what you value the most. I value my time with my daughter. Others may view bringing home an income as their best means of expressing their affection for their loved ones. People work damn hard to provide for their families, and hard choices are made. I don’t believe that one way is right, unless those in your life are made miserable by your choices. Like I said above, I will gauge my plan by Katie’s cues, as well as the timelines and feasibility of accomplishing the goals I set. And, no, I am not saying she’s going to run my life. I’m running on intuition about what feels balanced, and my girl is advancing beautifully under that strategy.
I wonder what the other authors have to say on the topic of family vs. work time…
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