Full-time, all the time

Categories: Career, Making Time, Parenting, The Juggle

2 comments

So, how do I manage to squeeze 36 hours into my day? The way I figure it, I spend about 12 hours a day at the office, commuting to or from the office, researching work-related projects, telecommuting, or doing freelance work at home. But I spend 24 hours a day being a parent, a spouse, and “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” (or, as I like to see it, “Chief, Cook, and Bottle Washer” — it’s all in the punctuation). So, 12 + 24 = 36.

If my budget could take the hit, I might consider cutting myself some work-related slack. Then again, I might not. It’s a moot point anyway. But I’ve been working for so long that I suspect that I don’t really know how to stop.

My first job was at my mom’s restaurant when I was about 10 years old, pushing a cake-laden dessert cart from table to table. Since then, I’ve been a waitress, a cook, a dishwasher, a babysitter, a lifeguard, a security guard, a cafeteria worker, a playgroup teacher, a nanny, a writer, a reporter, a teaching assistant, an editor, or some combination of all of the above.

Once I graduated from college, I winnowed my workload down to one job at a time. That changed when I had kids, of course. Because, as you all know, having kids — any number of them — is a full-time job in its own right.

My first three children — S., A., and G. — came into my life in one fell swoop, when I started dating their dad in 1999. I married all of them in 2003, and then my husband and I decided to have a couple more: L. was born in 2004; O. came along in 2006.

I never thought about how immersed I was in my career until I had kids in my life. Pre-parenthood, work was work, and I wasn’t really sacrificing anything if I decided to do more of it — as a matter of fact, there was plenty to gain. And then? All of a sudden, there were times when I cared less about the news and more about why G. was sleepwalking. Dealing with S.’s questions and A.’s tears was as important as the story I was editing. Working late was no longer about racking up coveted OT pay, it was about the time I didn’t get to spend with our kids (and feeling like I’d get penalized for admitting that at the office). It took a while to find my footing in this new territory. I discovered that, for me, it wasn’t about balance; it was about juggling.

Then, L. and O. came along, and my daily juggle became exponentially more complicated. It was like keeping three balls in the air and then having someone throw a dozen more at you.

That second full-time job — parenthood — it affects your first. Especially if you’re a woman. There’s no way around it. You have to rethink your priorities, reallocate your energy, rearrange your schedule, reasses your goals — and learn to accept that, career-wise, things might never be the same.

But you know what? It’s OK. It can be hard, but you can make it work. And, after a while, you can’t really remember a time when you didn’t know how to juggle.



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2 comments so far...

  • If you’re really fortunate, you have an employer (like I do) who understands how hard it is to be a mother and a full time employee. My current boss is so understanding if I have to be out sick with my kids, but I haven’t always been so lucky.

    It’s funny, but I used to identify myself with my job, too. I’ve worked since I was at least 13. And I do still get satisfaction from my job, but it is no longer my identity.

    Leandra  |  November 12th, 2007 at 4:21 pm

  • Hi, Leandra!

    That’s how I feel, too — I get satisfaction from my job, but it’s not my identity. A few years ago, though, I was Ms. All Work All The Time, scrambling up the journalistic ladder in 3-inch heels. It took me a while to understand that I couldn’t keep up that pace and be a parent (at least, not be a parent the way I wanted to be a parent).

    Lylah  |  November 12th, 2007 at 4:33 pm