Friday, August 23, 2013

Woman's Work: My Balance

Last week, I was lucky enough to have four amazing guest bloggers share their work/life balance.  I loved reading every last one, and found it really refreshing to be reminded that there really is no right or wrong way to do it. It is SO hard to balance it all, and every one of those mamas is doing an incredible job. Thanks to each of you for your honesty!

At the Phoenix Children's Museum

What is your work schedule?
I work as the Director for a non-profit private day school for children with autism.  I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, so much of what I do at the school involves conducting functional behavior assessments, writing behavior plans, training staff, monitoring the fidelity of the implementation, and collecting data on behavior change.  Besides working as the school's Behavior Analyst, I am the Program Director, so much of my responsibility is fielding parent questions and concerns, managing staff, basically what you'd think of a School Principal doing.

I work M-F, 8-4:30 or so.  My alarm goes off at 5:30-6:00 am, because Evie sometimes wakes as early as 6:30 or as late as 8. It's a bit hard to predict. She is going through a major "mama only" phase right now, so it is almost impossible for me to get myself ready once she's awake. I prefer to be ready by 6:30, and if she stays asleep longer, then it's just bonus time.
I am lucky that I have the flexibility to leave the school as early as 3:00 pm if I need to, but often I will stay until 4:30 or 5:00 to meet with staff or get other work done.  
Often, I will have a meeting here and there on Saturdays, but I am trying to get away from that.  Now that Kemi works a regular 9-5 too, weekends have become sacred family time.

I love that I get to eat lunch with her in her little nursery :)

What works really well about your current schedule/situation?
This year, for the first time, I have had the incredible blessing of having a babysitter for Evie on-site at SDSA.  I gave up my office, so now she has a little nursery at school, and is cared for by a woman that we have known for a very long time who is like family.

Having Evie at school has a few challenges, because if Evie sees me or hears me, she wants me. It's hard for me too-if I hear her crying, I really have to force myself not go in and intervene. But overall, it is of course a huge blessing and I am so grateful.  It is more than most working moms can even hope for.

Having Kemi off the road helps immensely too. He is a million times cleaner than I am, and honestly, a much better "househusband." It has done wonders for our family just to have a routine each night. Before, on the nights he would travel, my exhaustion would just compound night after night without help.  By the time he would get home, my nerves would be completely frayed, and I struggled with feeling resentful too, and it would sometimes get in the way of us just enjoying the little time we had together.  I think our family dynamic has really improved with Kemi coming off the road.

When Kemi was on the road, this is what I would be met with after I put Evie down to sleep

What do you find challenging/awful/crazy about your current schedule/situation?
It seems crazy sometimes that Kemi and I only see Evie 2.5 hours a day. Kemi commented the other night that you get married, are so excited to start your family, have a baby, only to leave the baby so you can go to work all day and only see her for a few hours each day. It doesn't seem right, but we don't really have any other solution, so I try not to dwell on it.  

Before Evie, I was a total workaholic. I was energized by working all hours of the day and night, because I was building my own business. I loved the problem-solving aspect of being an entrepreneur.  It was exciting to me that no matter what I was doing (writing content for our website, reading a book on language acquisition, shopping online for new curriculum) I was bettering my business.  On days Kemi was traveling, I loved to stay at work until 7, 8, or 9 pm so that on the nights he was home I could leave at 4 or 5 and not feel bad. Kids change all that. The school was my baby, before Evie.  Now, there's nothing more important than her needs, and our family, and as I write this, I am questioning myself once again.

I really believe that one of the secrets to happiness is finding what is fulfilling and wonderful about your current situation and focusing on that. I try very hard (I can tend towards negativity) to focus on what is wonderful about my life, right where it is. Kemi and I were both especially exhausted the other night, and talking about "when things slow down." After awhile, I said, you know, one day we're going to look back on these as "the good old days." One day, not long from now, Evie won't want anything to do with us, and we'll say, "remember her dancing in the living room?" "remember her sweet open-mouth kisses?" "Remember when all she wanted was our attention, 24-7?" The days that she wants me to snuggle her and kiss her and play "This Little Piggy" a trillion times are fleeting.  I need to soak it up now, because it's not going to come again.

I hope that Evie as she grows will see an example of a mother who put her vocation as a wife and mother first.  I hope she knows that she is everything in the world to me.  I hope she also grows to know that her mother used her gifts and talents to better the lives of others, and that it's important to have knowledge of our God-given gifts and to use them in the ways we feel called.  I also feel proud that she will grow up around individuals with developmental disabilities. I know she will be a better human for it.

How do you handle childcare?
Until recently, our childcare each week was pieced together the previous month.  Kemi just recently stopped traveling for work and accepted a new position. Until then, childcare was sort of hairy for us. On the days he wasn't traveling, he stayed home with Evie. If he was out of town, we scheduled either my mom, my sister, and sometimes friends to watch Evie. It was a crazy situation because we had to look at the calendar at the beginning of each month, and ask everyone if they could babysit the days he was out of town, and hope for the best!

Now that Kemi is working regular hours, I have been blessed to have a childcare provider on-site at the school to watch Evie each day.  I feel so thankful that I get to have her with me at school. We've only been doing this for two weeks, so we are very slowly getting into a routine. We eat lunch each day together, and if there's a question, or something catastrophic (nothing yet!) then I'm right there.
 She's been working with me since the very beginning!

I don't think she minds too much!

When do you get family time?
Saturdays and Sundays are really important to us. Because we both work outside the home, having a full day to spend together is huge.  We try to not schedule much at all on those days. Kemi and I are both homebodies, and would rather bum around the house all weekend in our jammies than do anything remotely exciting. So that's usually what we do. We have a Saturday morning pancake tradition, so we usually wake up, have pancakes, and once Evie goes down for her nap, I usually go grocery shopping for the week or run any other errands while Kemi does stuff around the house.  Once Evie's awake, we might go do something-the Public library, the mall play area, or go visit my sister or my mom, but often we'll just stay home and hang out.

How do you fit couple time into the mix?
We've actually been talking about improving this a lot lately.  We try to have a standing date night at least once a month, but I think every other week would be better, so we're working on that.  If we have to choose between family time or couple time, family time always takes priority. But I do really believe in the importance of couple time.  Neither Kemi or myself grew up with parents who went on dates much, but we've both always felt it's important. I want our kids to see that example and know that mama and papa make each other a priority. I think it makes kids feel stable.

It helps too that neither of us cares at all what we do. It could be a walk around the block, going to the gym, In N' Out burger, doesn't matter. It just has to be time out of the house to look each other in the eye and have a face to face conversation.

Do you have time for yourself? If so, what is your favorite way to spend it?
This is usually the area that suffers  and it can be a bit difficult, because I actually really like to be alone.    If I did have time alone, I would get a Havana Latte from La Grande Orange and walk around Anthropologie and Home Goods.  I also get maybe two pedicures a year, so to me, a pedicure or manicure is a super-luxury.  Well, at least I know what I'll do when those magical few hours arrive :) 

How do you and your husband share household/family responsibilities? Do you have set “chores” or do you each just do whatever needs to get done?
We have never had set "chores" or jobs around the house. I bought our house on my own when I was single, so I'm pretty comfortable with most home maintenance jobs. But, like I said, Kemi is naturally a much cleaner person than I am.  We both are fine with doing whatever needs to get done, but Kemi mainly handles yard maintenance and car maintenance on his own, and I typically do all the grocery shopping and cooking on my own. Everything else just gets done by whoever gets to it.

If you could change one thing about your current situation, what would it be?
I would be able to work fewer hours at my job, without having the company suffer. Like, I'd have a bigger, faster brain that would allow me to just know everything I need to know and convey it perfectly without having to look it up/read up on it/etc. So basically, not gonna happen.

I question myself frequently. Sometimes I think, what if I just walked away? What if we just said forget it and one of us stayed home with her and we got a tiny apartment and had no money, but tons of time together? Would that be better? And in some ways, yes, of course it would. We would have all the time together we wanted. But when Evie is six years old and wants to take ballet lessons, and I have to say no because we can't afford it, that will be hard too. It's a give and take.  Or when she's 40 and Kemi and I are 68 and we depend on her financially because we have no retirement savings...I don't want that. So Kemi and I work really hard.  There's truly no one-size-fits-all, and no perfect solution.

What advice would you give other working moms struggling with the balance?
I have absolutely no idea. I'm the one who needs advice!  Haha.  I guess delegate. Anything you don't HAVE to do, don't do.  While it was different when SDSA first opened, now I try to allow others to do the things that don't require me, because there's enough things that only I can do.  And have good boundaries. I don't feel badly at all about saying "if you want to meet with me, here's when I'm available." If it's so important, people will work around your schedule.  When I first opened the school, I found myself making crazy exceptions and just all around bending over backwards for everyone around me. Before I knew it, I was holding several parent meetings at night and on the weekends, and had no boundaries whatsoever. I was never home, and I was resentful.  Having better boundaries has helped with that.  Now, family time is family time and nothing else.

Do you have any thoughts on the editorials regarding whether or not women really can “have it all(Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer,  Anne-Marie Slaughter)

One of the biggest take-aways for me in regard to the Slaughter-Sandberg debacle is that in order for women to be successful at home and in the workplace, we have to have a strong support system in both places. Having a husband who manages at least 50% of the household responsibilities is crucial, and having an employer that wants to find solutions and can be creative and work with you is key too. Without those variables, I think women are really fighting a losing battle unless major changes are made in the corporate world.

1 comment:

  1. Life must be balanced. All works, no play, is not healthy. You should really know how to manage your time...