Friday, March 11, 2011

Finding "Balance"

I've started some version of this post at least a dozen times in the past year, but I've always stopped because I have felt it was too, raw and too, exposed. So I ask that you mamas out there who may know my husband and family be kind and not judge. But after being reduced to tears standing in the middle of the gym before 6a, here we go...

In a previous blog I talked about the "bag of guilt" (see: Guilt) I feel weighted by, but recently, due to changes in my schedule and my daughter's simultaneous shift in her schedule I'm here to say that "bag" was super-sized to a tote or overnight bag.

First, let me start with this cruel, possibly imagined, but very real feeling I have lately. While at my professional work experience, I have not felt the pressure of a clock with someone watching my time in well over a decade- I have come to feel that by my husband, my mother, my in-laws and by some of my friends someone is literally holding a stop watch to the minutes and seconds I do or do not spend with my daughter.

When I accepted a new job, a better, more exciting, but equally manageable management position...almost everyone asked if, "It was fewer days...". Huh? I don't want to make this so much about work, but I hold a very senior position, running a revenue generating department- how on earth could that be expected to be a part time job? As I try to explain that, I see disappointment wash over everyone's face. Then, the question is followed by, "Is it less hours?". Again, "Huh?" It is less stressful, and more fulfilling and provides more opportunity, but that doesn't seem to be a satisfying answer for people.

Next up on my minutes watcher is and has been for some my husband. I'm not going to get into a lot of preamble on him- he is very helpful, and has never directly said what I feel is implied, but here's a sample conversation:

Him, "You know if you shower at night you get a lot more time with dd."
Me, "Yes, it is nice to get a few more minutes, but sometimes it is just necessary to wash and dry my hair in the am to look put together...".
Him, "Can't you wash it the night before?".
Me, "Yes, I try."

The point of this conversation that irks me is this, from shower to dry to make up and dressed, I've nailed the routine to 30 minutes. Pretty damn good if you ask me (or if we were to do a poll on this site, right?). But that 30 minutes isn't good enough for him. To me, and how this plays out for me in my head, he "counts" those minutes.

Aside from the getting ready in the am, minute counting has seemed to come into play as I try to use the bathroom to do my business. As I try to relieve myself, I am met with a toddler crying outside the door and my husband saying, "she misses you and wants to see you..." Ladies, if I'm in there 5 minutes- it’s a long time.

And in other blogs, I've talked about the extra weight I feel I'm carrying around with a few (1-2) mornings a week I've been making a point to get up to go to the gym at 5:15 for a 530-6:30 work out. It is exhausting and very hard promise to keep because with o's new sleep schedule - has shaved an HOUR off the morning and 30-45 minutes off the evening. Previously, she regularly awoke at 6/6:30, not so much anymore. We've been greeted with a very annoying and unwelcomed 5-530 curtain call for weeks now. And bedtime, due to all the minute watchers has over months shifted from 7:30 to 8-8:15.

While I am very happy to have more time with her, the result of her longer day, is also guilt for making a decision to not to spend every minute of them with her, making it even harder to keep exercise in my regime.
And my mother...oh how I love her, but she can just be brutal. All of her life she has been watching what she eats, and while she always exercised, in the past 3 years she has become a gym rat. She shrunk two or three sizes in two years, thanks to a shorter work week and fewer home responsibilities; she is in the best shape of her life.

Coincidentally, I am in the worst (well, almost...9 months ago when I got back to exercising was probably my worst). So aside from being one of those people who frowned about my new job (this is the same woman who pushed me academically my entire life) also grills me about my gym time and my (new at home) treadmill time. What am I doing, how long, how much, etc.

Finally, aside from being told I really need more time in the gym and on the treadmill, she also piles on in "jest" at least monthly that, "I rarely cook" for my family. I cook dinner about 4-5 days a week, healthy, wholesome meals...but anytime I reference a prepared meal or take out, the "you should cook more and just take it out of the freezer..." rears its ugly head.

So now: I don't spend enough time with my child, I don't feed my family properly and I'm not the weight/looking as I should look.

But my tear jerker in the gym today was also added to by the fact that my in laws have told my husband we don't make enough of an effort to get together. We see them once a week. Great, so now I need to not only make a special shopping trip every week to cook an entire weeks worth of food, make sure I'm at the gym at least an hour, make every awake minute of my day spent on the weekend with my daughter...but now I need to find not one, but at least more than one day or night to devote to my in-laws AND my own parents (who live a bit further away).

As I stood on the bosu ball this morning, trying to "find balance" I crumbled into a ball of tears. I have days where I actually think I pull it off but more often than not I just feel like a big failure. I can't win...and I also, can't lose (the weight that trudging around).

The love and joy I feel from being with my daughter is more than I ever could have imagined. But the pain, diminished confidence and lack of joy I have felt in every other area of my life is so overwhelming- I don't even know how to start to pick myself up. How do you, "Do it All"?


  1. Oh Mama O, my dear old friend, I want to fly to see you and give you a big hug and kiss.

    I don't even really know what to say to you, because as a SAHM, I don't have that stress of a day job in my life as you do. I seriously don't know how working moms do it.

    Mama Guilt is something that I fear we will be dealing with for the rest of our lives unfortunately. I don't know if one can really have it all - without hired help i think - and feel like they are really living a fully satisfied family existence. I think there will always be that twinge of guilt that you aren't seeing your kids enough, or taking care of yourself enough, especially when they are at this young age when they need so much attention and time.

    With that said, you need to tell your mother, husband and in-laws to cut you not some, but a shitload of slack. Have you talked to them about how you are feeling? Your mother of all people should feel your pain...

    You need "you" time in your life too, and I feel like you aren't even getting that. Are you seeing friends? Doing something just for you - like massage or mani/pedi? You need that life/work balance for yourself or you will go insane, not to mention spending time with your dd as she is growing so quickly.

    Can hubbie cook some meals? Order out some more! I don't even cook every night and I have no excuse not to. Sometimes I don't want to dirty my kitchen for christsakes. And sometimes Mama needs a freaking break.

    I hope some other working Mamas chime in and you realize that you are doing a fantastic job in your life right now. You are a wonderful mother, and your family needs to realize you are doing the best you can do, and you need them to back off.

    XOXO, J

  2. Mama O, big, big hugs to you. It is really hard to manage it all. As someone who has both been a SAHM and a working mom, I know both options are sooooo hard. I think sometimes our parents forget - it's been so long for them, or such a different experience. You are doing the best you can - and honestly, as much as husbands try, they don't have the same experience - they're NOT the mommy. I am SO proud of you as a working mommy - you are doing great and O is doing great. Keep it up!

  3. Everybody has moments where they feel like they are failing even when they are putting everything they have into it. Don't let ANYBODY be your minute counter, your (weight) scale, tell you you're not a Chef or anything else. If someone doesn't like what you cook - welcome them to come take over. It sounds to me like you're trying and that's what matters. Nobody and I mean NOBODY has the life you do which means they have NO idea. Keep your chin up!

  4. Oh Mama, I feel your pain and frustration. A few months after I went back to work I got a call from my mother in law, who suggested maybe we get some additional help or ask our nanny to stay later and help with preparing dinner. Apparently my husband, wisely assuming it would not go well to come to me with his complaints, had told his mom that he was frustrated by having to stop work right at 5:30 when the nanny left and being in charge of dinner. He works from home and with my job requirements and commute I usually wasn't home until about 7pm.
    I swallowed my initial response, which was to ask her if she would be paying for this additional childcare, and politely all but told her to butt out. I then went to my husband and said "I get up with Hannah if she wakes up in the middle of the night. I wake her up in the morning, give her breakfast, get her dressed, get her diaper bag and lunch ready for the nanny, and see them off to the park before taking about 10 minutes to get myself ready and off to work. Usually you are still in bed for all of this. Then when I get home, I do bath time and bedtime, which of course I want to since I haven't seen her all day. While I'm doing this, you are usually watching TV. So please, tell me what it is exactly that is so overwhelming for you about being responsible for our daughter from 5:30 - 7pm?!?"
    The only thing more frustrating and discouraging than feeling like you're trying (unsuccessfully) to do it all is to have someone you love tell you you're not doing enough!
    I will say though, in my experience, it gets better. Your child's needs change, you and your husband grow and change (and get more confident) as parents. You start to embrace the messiness of it and then when you're all sleeping through the night and everyone is happy and well-fed you start to think "maybe it's time to have another baby..."

  5. Do it all, eh? My advice is stop trying in the first place. Soon after entering the work force but (thankfully) prior to becoming a mommy, I had a breakdown - no joke - needed medical intervention and follow up care, breakdown. The details of why are less important than the underlying reason I could allow it to happen. Namely I was entirely too hard on myself. By being my own harshest critic I construed everything in a negative light even if there was no deeper meaning and often just the opposite, a desire to help, was what the people around intended. The point I'm trying to make to you is your family loves you and now you need to take time to love yourself just the way you are today. As for me - I forgot to do all this for a while in the joy, sleeplessness, fun, craziness of having a baby, but the permission to not be perfect and the honesty towards my family and friends when I'm feeling overstretched has recently returned. I am a happier person today because of learning these things which affirms the old saying - what ever doesn't kill ya only makes you stronger.