Sleepycat asks: Do you think it’s really do-able for those of us with work and school and family and an attempt at a life?
That’s the $20,000 question, isn’t it? I’m not sure I have a life actually. I work. I take care of the kids and the household. It’s rare that I go out to the movies or for a drink with friends. Most of my friends are parents, so even if I could go out with them, they probably couldn’t go out with them. I don’t feel that stressed out by it all, actually. I do miss going out with Mr. Geeky more. We used to spend time at friends’ houses mostly and they at ours. But most of the time I enjoy my life. I know working on the Ph.D. is temporary, lasting until December at the latest. That time will go by quickly. I think the thing that nags at me most is the way the kids’ lives encroach on mine. Mostly their school lives. The school, you see, is still built around the idea that someone is at home. I am deluged with papers, having to keep up with bake sales and talent shows and homework and field trips. If I didn’t have my own life to manage with its conference trips, project deadlines, reading, and writing, I could keep up with it. Mr. Geeky’s in the same boat. Because I don’t want to punish my kids for having working parents, I have let them participate in afterschool activities (chess club, floor hockey, band) or big events (talent show). But these things mean not only that I (or Mr. Geeky; we split the duty 50/50) have to come home early sometimes, but have to remember when all these things are going on.
And then there’s keeping up with homework, making sure there are clean clothes and that the kids brush their teeth and hair before walking out the door. And looming on the horizon: worries about sex and drugs and keeping up with academics and college tuition. That all leaves me with a nagging sense that something needs to be done, even if it’s just increasing the amount we’re putting into college savings.
What makes this unbearable (which is rare) is when I get “the look” from some PTA mom because I explain that I don’t get home from work until 6 or I’m going to be out of town for 4 days. “The look” is filled with judgement, with “How can you leave your children like that?” I can usually ignore it, but when I’ve had a tough day at work, I can feel the guilt bubbling up, the thoughts of “Is it really worth it to damage the children over a crappy job?” Then I remember that I can’t afford not to work. That’s just the way it is.
Generally, I’ve come to the position that I can’t be perfect at everything. I’ll never be the perfect parent, the perfect employee, the perfect student. But I can always do my best. And I always try to let go of things that aren’t important (laundry and dishes can wait) and ask for support when I need it. I think we (meaning women of a certain age, maybe still?) have been led to believe we should be able to do it all without any help. Well, of course that’s not true. And it’s taken me a while to say to Mr. Geeky, “What I need right now is x.” Because he’s always been willing to help and support me, but it’s not always clear what’s nagging me and keeping me from getting something done.