While I write this from my
dining room table home office my almost two year old son Jack is running around through the three connected rooms as fast as his two chubbo legs will carry him shouting "WHEEEEEEE!". It is at once incredibly adorable and also incredibly distracting as I flinch each time he comes around a corner just a tad too sharply. Welcome to my life as a work at home mom.
Now, I am very lucky to have Sean at home part time to help out, and he is a very hands on dad for sure, but there are days when I am faced with getting all of my work done while also keeping an extremely active toddler entertained. One that learned how to walk and talk before he was 1.
Let me talk about the good parts first. Of course, I feel so lucky to be around my son all day (my older two are at school for most of the day and mercifully a bus picks them up and drops them off so that part of my day is easy peasy once we get past the get dressed/eat breakfast/find shoes/hat/backpack/library books madness). Jack is the best little co-worker I could imagine. I love getting to eat breakfast with him, pick out his little outfits, take breaks to play on the floor with him, and just in general soak up all of his adorableness. Like when he finds his stuffed hedgehog and pushes him around in the toy bus. So cute. Or when he feeds the dogs their treats when they come back inside after our walk. Even cuter.
So that being said, I feel SO lucky to be able to work from home. Now for the not so easy part. As I stated earlier, when I first started this piece Jack was doing laps full speed throughout the house. Now he is wearing a colander on his head, holding my riding crop (his new favorite toy to attack the Christmas tree with), has a dirty diaper, and is alternating shouting "KI-YAH" while doing karate moves with pointing at Levy's bag of Swedish Fish and insisting "THIS!!! THIIIIIIISSSSSS!!!".
He will come stand next to me while I'm finishing up some emails, tug on my
pajama pants sweatpants and tell me "Come on, come on" and then will lead me to his train set. I can't play for long, I have phone calls to make, pieces to write, lists to check off. And so I play for as long as I can and then I let him indulge in what I call "Controlled Chaos". This includes letting him knock all of the pillows off the couch over, and over, and over again. Or dumping out the entire box of blocks and getting them scattered so far I only find them on those real "cleaning days" (ie when people are coming over). I will blithely hand over a sippy cup and snack, not caring (at the moment) if he will make a mess, just to buy myself a tiny bit of time to finish stuff up. The mess can wait till after "business" hours when all my work is then "mom work".
Am I neglecting him? I don't think so. Do I feel guilty anyway? Of course I do. Right now he's walking past me with a pink baby hanger and one of Sean's work gloves. Is he happy? Looks like it. Am I happy with my work/life balance? Maybe "happy" isn't the right word. In fact, maybe "balance" isn't the right word, either.
I love what I do, that is for sure. 100% sure. And I love being a mom, I couldn't imagine my life without these children. But I don't love being a work at home mom. It's difficult. Sometimes I have about fifty things going on, fifty things that need to be done, and then *poof*, enter crying baby. So my priorities shift immediately and need to be re-organized. This can happen numerous times in the same day. It's not a juggle, it's a constant shifting of things to do. Sometimes things get lost in that shift, and I wake up in the middle of the night and scroll through the list in my head that resembles a train station flapper board, constantly changing as new tasks arrive and completed ones depart (or get forgotten). Sometimes it changes so fast I can't keep track. And it leaves me feeling defeated. I think this is true for all moms, not just working moms like myself. There is a feeling for some of us that there always something being left undone.
We see it on Pinterest, on our friend's facebook pages, on blogs (once in a while I DO actually craft, but not often), hear about it from other moms, see it at birthday parties. The Sport of Mom has become a fiercely competitive one for some people, just when you think you've done an awesome job at the school snack another mom slides in with some ridiculous fish themed snack complete with "fishtank" bags and your ants on a log looks like crap on a stick all of a sudden. And not only do you feel outshined by Pinterest obsessed super moms, you also don't have ANY time to do anything, let alone make a frigging rainbow cake and design a birthday party around a theme for a three year old. There is this fear of missing out as a parent, that you are missing out on what you SHOULD be doing, that your kids are missing out on stuff you don't have time for. That someone is missing out because you have too much to do.
The list goes on and on. The cupcakes you could have made for that rainy day. The Elf on the Shelf craziness. The soccer game you missed. The laundry still on the bed upstairs. But the thing is, no matter how much time management you try to practice or how hard you work, there will still be more to do tomorrow. There will still not be enough time to do all of those little crafts and activities and special tea parties or movie nights. Especially with growing children, time is not something parents will ever have enough of.
Both of my parents worked while I was growing up, my father worked long hours especially. But you know what I remember the most? Not that he was at work all day, I remember going to get him. We lived in NJ, not too far from Manhattan, and my father was working at Columbia University, not too far from the George Washington Bridge. We would drive to the NJ side of the bridge, park the car, and get out and start walking to meet my dad who would start walking from the NY side. It was always so fun to see where on the bridge we would wind up meeting, sometimes in the middle, sometimes closer to home, sometimes closer to work. But we always met. And that was the best part of the day, spotting him among the other walkers on the bridge, running up to meet him, getting wrapped up in a hug.
Although I still do worry about how much time I get to spend with the kids, what I think about most is making the time we DO have matter the most. Being there when I'm there. Just being in the little moments. Listening to the little stories. Making the simple sandwiches and sitting down for just a few minutes to listen about their day. Reading them their bedtime stories when I can. Being at the soccer games and tennis matches when I can make it. Even if it's just singing to our favorite songs in the car for a short trip, it's about making the minutes count, adding extra ones when I can, cherishing the moments even if they aren't perfectly Pinteresting. Whatever part you are there for, it counts to your children, more than you imagine.