A Balancing Act

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So after the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the past few years.  It’s been a pretty hectic ride, went from miserable wife, to single mom, to single mom working multiple jobs to a long-term relationship working one full time job.  The one thing I have to admit is that I’m horrible at finding that balance between mom, girlfriend and employee.

I’ve always had a hard time trying to spread myself out equally among each aspect of my life.  Honestly though, now that I found an industry I’d like to build a career in, I’m having the most difficult time yet.  When I was freshly-divorced, I was working 2 and sometimes 3 jobs with an odd (and often revolving) mixture of full-time and part-time.  I had to learn how to go from a Stay at Home Mom to a single mom busting ass with no child support.  For some odd reason, I didn’t have a problem at all back then.  It might have been because those jobs were all quick blow through jobs.  You know, shitty jobs that I didn’t care about.  That I didn’t dwell on once I left after my shift.  I could go and drop my kiddo off at childcare, go to job A, finish and go to job B and finish my shift.  Then Work-Me was switched off, and I was back to Mom-Me.  I didn’t let work related stress react with the way I was parenting (I tried my best with financial stress, but sometimes that leaked through. Now that I’m older and have “mom friends” I realize that this is normal).

Now, I’m having a hard time balancing.  I can’t seem to lock out the stress from the office from my home-life.  I can’t seem to balance all the different aspects of me.  Work-me stays stressed out far past when I should be in Mom-me-mode.  And girlfriend me?  Well… girlfriend me shows up eventually. Girlfriend-me comes in last here, with working full-time, I try and overcompensate and smoosh as many activities into the time I do have with my daughter to make up for the time I miss with her at work.  It seems like I can’t win sometimes. 

Thankfully, my boyfriend knows what has been bugging me at the office and he also knows how much it bothers me that I’m not able to be at home with my daughter.  He’s heard my rampages regarding how I wanted my family to work and how I feel like shit that I have to work.  (And yes, even when I’m pissed like this… the divorce was totally worth it!!)  So he understands, most definitely, and knows I’m making an attempt to spend time with him too.

I’m getting better at it though.  The stress from work is still following me home, but it’s quickly chased away with iced coffee (or wine) out on the back deck while my kid plays.  Ry and I have taken to spending half an hour together after work and before dinner to just vent about our days or talk in general.  It’s like taking half an hour to shake off the stress.  Usually during this time, the kid is either playing outside or working on her homework (since when do 1st graders have homework 4 out of 5 nights?!) so she gets her stuff done.

I’ve learned no work talk during the weekends.  None.  Absolutely none.  Not even during our morning coffee.  It creates a mini-vacation.  We’ve also been making it a point to go somewhere each weekend, even if it’s just to the forest preserve or to wander around some downtown area each weekend.  If I’m busy, Work-Me takes a hike and I can focus on my family, instead of the 20 voicemails I’ll be walking into on Monday.  These new rules for the weekend are one of the many reasons I try to not work Saturdays.  I’m away from my house on average 50 hours a week.  It doesn’t sound like much to most people, but to a former Stay at Home Mom, that’s a lot.  My weekends are mine.

I honestly think the biggest improvement I’ve made?  I sit down and help my daughter with her homework or read a book (I have a big time reader thank god!) every night.  I put the chores off and sit down and do it.  Working with her, reading her stories, or even going outside to play puts the work-stress right out of my head.  (And I most definitely would put off folding laundry to read a Dr. Seuss book any day of the week!)

I’m not perfect, and I’m most definitely still learning the art of balancing.  I do have to say though… being a stay at home mom was hard.  It was HARD, I know a lot of people don’t think it is.  I know with staying at home I felt like I lost my identity and almost lost myself.  Being a Stay at Home Mom is most definitely a trying and a full time 24/7 job.  However, being a working mother?  It’s a whole different set of hard.  I don’t think it’s more difficult than staying at home, but I do think that it’s a whole different kind of difficult.  Even after, what, almost 4 years or so?  I still don’t have the hang of it.  That’s okay though, I’ll figure it out one day… until then, wish me luck!

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