June 7, 2012

.(Attempting) Balance.

Through reading others' experiences, I was able to see that there are many successful and functioning ways working mamas keep life together after baby.  Joanna had a great series of how mothers find a balance (a few I found especially interesting are here and here!) and I found comfort in these stories; inspiration and motivation.  I get many questions of how exactly I fit all my roles in, so I thought it might be helpful to share my attempt to balance motherhood, marriage, and career... 

To give the context, I work 32 hours a week as a therapist in an outpatient day treatment center, 8 hours a week at the attached outpatient clinic, I have an assistantship as a research assistant, and I am at the end of my doctoral studies, which I am also pursuing full-time.  "Normal" days can look very different from semester to semester, but currently this is generally what my days look like:

7- 830 am: G has already left for work by now, so this time is for Dylan and I to get our day started, coffee, play, The Today Show, getting presentable, and packing our gear needed throughout the day.

9 am- 5 pm: Dylan has been dropped off at her grandparents' and I'm (hopefully) walking into my office. My work day consists of individual, crisis, and group therapy sessions, consultations with treatment team staff for client treatment planning, staffing meetings, and general program maintenance.  I work through lunch, and am always talking to someone in some fashion nonstop.

Evening classes for me can begin anywhere from 5- 545 (G picks Dylan up on those days) which last generally about 3-4 hours depending on the semester and professor.  After the commute, that gets me home after 9 (and sometimes 10!) where I will try to spend a bit of time with G and unwind/ clean/ do homework/ answer emails/ read before bed.  Bedtime usually doesn't happen before midnight, but sometimes I make myself lay down earlier to give my body and mind a break.  Those nights, I usually still read in bed at the very least :).  At the most, I've had classes 3 times a week, but this summer I'm taking my last class ever on Monday evenings.  It feels glorious to have the rest of the week to do everything else on my list!

On the days I don't have class, I pick up Dylan at 530 as I get off much earlier than G (such a hard worker!), and we'll usually hole ourselves up in her room and make a huge mess playing and reading.  Dylan goes to bed at 7, so depending on when Garrett gets home, we either play together as a family and catch up from the day, or put the baby to bed and start preparing dinner.  Many times we don't eat until 8 by the time we've figured out a meal plan and completed it (we're trying to get better at that!). 

9-11 pm: During this time I'm either doing schoolwork, research, brainstorming, or other obligation (i.e. boring, horrible chores), or on a good night I get to spend time on the deck with G talking and relaxing, we watch our favorite tv shows cuddled on the couch, or I catch up on my google reader and blogging.  If I do have to work during this time, even being in the same room with G is very important to me so we can still have some dialogue and proximity to each other.  The distractions may cause me to have a later night, but it's worth it to get to hear how G's day went and keep conversation.

11 pm- 12 am: G has a strict bedtime of 11, so when he goes off to bed I'll usually retire to our room as well, but spend that last hour to myself just reading, contemplating, catching up on personal stuff, doing my nails, watching tv... whatever I like! I generally get a full night's sleep (more later on our sleeping adventures with Dylan!).  If she does happen to wake, she usually goes right back to sleep, but there are nights that my sleep can be quite interrupted between her and our pups!  Luckily, I don't need much sleep to function which is good as G is very fond of his sleep routine :) 

Although chaotic, we've found a system that works for us where we all feel like we're getting what we need and want (for now).  You'll also see that because of this chaos, weekends are sacred to us.  It's our time to just be together, to not have strict schedules and obligations and commutes.  You've read the word "catch up" a few times, and yes, it always feels like I'm playing catch up.  I am never ahead.  Working to "have it all" (whatever that might look like for you) is a constant battle, but with support and determination it is possible.  Don't sell yourself short of your dreams.  My biggest challenge is remembering to take care of myself in the mix of everything, but there's always sacrifice with the important stuff. 

I hope this is helpful for anyone who feels stretched thin.  Decide what you want to do, and then just go do it!  The minor details always find a way of working themselves out somehow.  Don't get lost in the trees and forget to see the entire forest.  I might be stressed daily, but my life is also so full of fulfilling opportunities and when I want to complain, I have to sit back and think, "this is everything I've always wanted."  Now, I just have to keep doing the work to keep it.  Because it's worth it to me.

And the most beautiful thing is, I don't have to do it alone.

P.S. Thank you for all the thoughtful birthday wishes.  It was pretty special and I'm grateful for all who took the time to recognize it!

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