You ever have one of those moments when someone holds a mirror in front of your face and you see, really see for the first time a reflection of your life.
Well, I had one of those moments last night.
I finally, after years of gentle nudging (read: subtle nagging) from several girlfriends joined an organization for black mothers called Mocha Moms. Oh, I’d had my reasons for dragging my feet on joining up…not the least of which is an already overcrowded schedule and my worry that I wouldn’t be able to contribute to the group.
Which brings me to last night.
I finally joined and, after working a 50+ hour week, arrived at the suburban home of a fellow mom with my little brood in tow. The gathering was chocolate utopia! I rejoiced at the site of so many black moms and the thought that my little ones would finally have more little brown playmates. Considering my preschooler asked to turn our African American nanny pink this week (that’s a whole other upcoming post), I would say the gathering was not a moment too soon.
The guest speaker was not only a wise mom who’d raised a brood of three, but a life coach and organizer. She opened the floor for questions, and I leapt right on in with a breathless plea for help in trying to carve out personal time.
“Give me a sense of your schedule,” she asked, adding that my busiest days would be the best example.
Up by 5am. Get ready for work, play with and read to the kids until I leave the house at 7:15am. Blog and or work on other personal writing during my commute. At work by 8am. Work my first job as an editor. Leave between 4:30-5pm (I stay a little longer every day to justify taking time off to volunteer once a month in my daughter’s school). Grade papers on the way to my second job as an adjunct writing instructor. Teach until 7pm. Home by 8pm. Bedtime and stories for the kiddos. Clean the house, cook meals for next day, and prepare next day’s clothes, backpacks, lunches, diaper bags, etc…until 10pm. Crash into an exhausted heap shortly after. Awake at 1am to spend time with hubby (who works nights and gets home around 12:30am). Up again by 5am. Do it all over again.
The fellow moms were aghast. They looked at me in shock.
Was it really that bad, I wondered.
“Oh Lima,” whispered a friend.
Uh oh, I thought.
The organizer advised that, given that there are only 24 hours in a day, something had to go or I would not recognize myself in the midst of all of this chaos in a few years.
Another mom helpfully offered that I looked really good though (which I appreciated :) )
They’re both right. ;)
But looking good and making it work are not the same thing as everything being “all good.”.
And this, right here, ain’t okay.
It’s not as if I was unaware that this schedule was grueling.
I’ve been wrestling with how to fit in exercise (it’s going to take more than a few sun salutations and the quick walk from the train to my office to get rid of my post-preggo pounds).
I’ve agonized over how to finally find time to make more progress on my creative writing projects.
I routinely turn down invitations to happy hours from colleagues and sources (not great for career advancement) because I’m trying to balance long work hours with spending quality time with my kids.
I’ve turned down some prestigious job offers because the positions required me to be on-call during hours I’ve reserved as family time or had an unpredictable schedule.
And, when my three year old sobbed, as she did this week, that she misses me at night and wishes I didn’t have to go away for so long, I’ve also turned down additional teaching and writing assignments.
Even with these boundaries in place, I feel as if I’m circling in on balance but haven’t quite hit the right note.
Since last night’s forced epiphany, I realized that advice I’ve received from everyone at the gathering (and frankly some other mom mentors) to let some of the housework go is dead on. This is hard for me because our household functions best when our home is tidy. However, as part of her pay raise, I did ask the nanny to pick up some light housekeeping duties, so this should help.
And, I can try again to reserve the 5-6am block for my creative work…though when I tried that before the kids sensed I was up and awoke with big smiles and playful little spirits wanting me to join in the fun.
And I guess attending a once monthly happy hour or work-related networking event couldn’t hurt. I could check my coat and mommy guilt about time away for a few hours.
And I could go back to eating lunch at my desk and using that 30-min block to exercise at the office gym. This used to work quite well for me at a former job.
And, finally, but certainly not least, my husband and I have started a nice tradition of sneaking off to our newly repaired hot tub on weekend nights when the kids are in bed. We could and should certainly add a once monthly date night to those rendezvous.
Sounds simple enough, right (don’t all agree with me at once).
Wish me luck as I endeavor to strike better balance.