Working-mom-struggle bubbling up. Work life balance. Feels like I’m sitting in a circle; there’s no corners to hide out in. Problem is, this circular spot happens about every 7 days. It’s Thursdays I’m talking about.
This Thursday I was away from home for 14 hours. I left for a talk before the boys awoke, and arrived home well after bed time. During those 14 hours, I was able to hear an incredible talk by Perri Klass on reading & advocacy via the Reach out and Read program, I completed a long day of clinic and saw over 25 patients, I completed an interview with a potential medical assistant, and I had two 30 minute commutes. I am really glad I had those opportunities. For one patient and his mother, I wouldn’t have missed the day. Hands down, good decision to go to work. But these long Thursdays eat away at me. Intellectually I understand trade-offs in life exist (duh). I understand with opportunity comes losses (duh). Despite this acknowledgment, I seem to go through an emotional evaluation every week. Something about Thursdays seems an utter failure on a personal level. A day starting and ending with zero time with my children seems simply preposterous. Outside the scope of travel, having a day go by on planet earth without a glimpse of my children, while coexisting in the same home, seems a minus. My motherhood isn’t supposed to look this way. Yes, I know mothers leave and travel; I know children divide time between parents. I know plenty of parents work harder and longer hours than I do. I know many other mothers and fathers carry more than one job. I remember my co-residents with children (while in training) left their homes for upwards of 30 hours at a time, every week. Yet every Thursday I feel this 14 hours-ish toll. Even though I know my kids endure these long days well, I don’t. The balance between our time at work and our time enjoying our personal lives remains tricky.
On Thursday, when I got home, I rushed into F’s bedroom. He was asleep, his right arm hanging off the bed forming a relaxed fist, as if he was holding onto a rope. He had a green IKEA circular carpet sitting next to his bed that he had dragged in from the bathroom. I sat down on the green spot. It was quiet; the light was warm. I listened to him breath. I kissed his cheeks. I kissed his hand. I kissed his cheeks. Hand. Repeat. It was one of those precious parenting moments, proximity and intimacy in the most innocent way. And then, something about it seemed symbolic.
There I was again, on a Thursday, trying to figure out how work became a tug away from “life.” Recently numerous people have mentioned (in real life & on Twitter) that the concept of work-life-balance shouldn’t exist. That if you love your job, the flow (and ebbs) between the two should not represent tension. I entirely disagree. I adore my work and am impassioned to do what I do. But work takes me away from my children. There is no question I want more of both: work and personal life, time with my boys…
This is circular.
Sometimes when families ask me about the benefits of preschool, I list “learning to sit in a circle, ” as a one tiny example of how kids acquire school readiness and how they learn to function in a school environment, learning to relate to peers, fostering creativity and appreciating structure, etc.
I think I may be learning to do the same, all over again. I’m learning to sit in this circle.
And with this, I push the drudgery aside…with my coffee in hand, there will be more writing this week on booster seats: the why, the new “best” list, and one great idea from a NY pediatrician.