After a week of working in the new year, I’m sorry to report that work life balance seems to be the same illusion in 2012 as it was in 2011. I’m not quite sure why I expected this year to be any different. I didn’t change my schedule. I didn’t dial down my hours at work. I haven’t found any magic time-turner to lengthen my days or allow me to spend quality time with my daughter and get my job done. “Try to find more work life balance,” seems like such a great New Year’s Resolution. Unfortunately, that little gem didn’t come with a plan of action and it’s not easy to change simply by wishing that things would be easier.
This morning, as I was pulling out my laptop and settling down to report on the celebrity parent antics of the weekend, my daughter stared angrily at my computer. “What are you doing Momma?” she asked me, eying my pretty Mac with disdain. “I have a little work to do babe,” I said, after settling her down with some breakfast and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on Demand. After about a half hour of checking email and reading news, my daughter was done with screen time. In a trait that I know I should be eternally thankful for, Brenna isn’t a “sit and watch” kind of girl. She’s a mover and a shaker. And she was ready to start doing something.
Even if I tried to set up her art supplies, she wanted me to watch her while she painted. If I got out her new “Drill And Fill” Play-Doh set, she wanted help making the braces for the teeth. (I’m not joking, that’s a present she got for Christmas! Play-Doh dentistry.) If we pulled out the Barbie mansion, she would need someone to play Ken. She’s a toddler and she wants interaction, so much more than she wants anything else.
After trying to get her to play and finally capturing her attention with an elaborate set-up of armored dinosaurs and superheroes, I returned to my computer. After about fifteen minutes of uninterrupted work, my daughter turned around and said, “Momma, I miss you when you’re working.” And my heart melted into an uncomfortable pile of mush in my chest.
Weekends in my house are a horrible amalgamation of work and family time. My husband works on weekends. I have a small amount of work to complete. And we have a beautiful little girl just begging for our sole attention. Then, of course, there’s the multitude of social and family obligations that pull us away from the house before we’ve even gotten a chance to create some lasting family memories.
This is our problem. And it’s an issue that no resolution is going to take care of for me. No matter how many times I hope that I’ll find a quick fix for our hectic schedule, it’s just not that simple. I’m never going to get away from those heartbreaking, “I miss you when you’re gone,” moments.
Sure, the longer my husband and I work in our respective fields, the more flexible our schedules will hopefully become. And as my daughter gets older, she won’t require quite as much attention. (Maybe.) But my home life will always have a stronger draw on my heartstrings than my work, no matter how much I enjoy my job. And unless my husband or I win the lottery some time in the future, work is going to be a necessity to help us provide for all these lasting family memories.
My New Years Resolution centered around creating a better balance for my profession and my family. Unfortunately, that type of plan requires real change and it’s not easy to implement. It’s an attractive goal, but it’s going to take a lot more than hoping and wishing to rid my weekends of work and get more time to concentrate on my beautiful little girl who needs help making Play-Doh braces. Instead of a New Year’s Resolution, this really needs to be a process of rearranging and prioritizing. I’ll have to sit down and make of a plan of action later though, Ken and Barbie are supposed to be having a pool party this evening and I would hate to be late.