While on vacation week before last (by the way, how is it possible that it now seems so far away?) we met a couple whose girls became fast friends with our daughter. Sitting by the pool, sipping all sorts of tropical drinks, the mom and I got to chatting about juggling full-time work and motherhood. She has worked full-time for most of the time after her kids were born, although she did take a year off earlier on to stay at home. As we were comparing our commutes (my 25-minute drive started to seem like an absolute dream compared to her 1.5 hour train commute each way) she told me something I didn’t expect:
“When we get back from vacation, I think I am going to quit.”
Her older daughter is now in kindergarten and her younger will be there next year. She told me that when they were younger, she was absolutely fine with having an awesome full-time nanny and being there with her kids at night and on weekends. But as they get to be school-age she is having a harder time missing all of the day-time events (she can’t get there mid-day and go back to the office because of her long commute) and outsourcing homework and all post-school activities to another caretaker.
“For me, juggling full-time work with being a mother has gotten a lot harder as my kids got older,” she told me.
This gave me serious pause for thought because to be honest, I’ve had similar feelings often since my daughter started kindergarten. When she was little, I missed her a lot during the day, but I trusted our nanny completely and let’s be honest, her needs were pretty simple and limited: She needed to sleep, eat, and play. Sure, it would have been great to do all that with her, but our nanny was great and our daughter was totally happy. Now her needs are much more complex and I don’t just mean getting around to tons of after-school activities. I mean things like her asking a lot of questions that I would love to be there for vs. our wonderful babysitter, her needing encouragement and support with her piano and other practice that I would love to be the one to give, and so on. (We practice piano every morning, before work and school — it makes the morning routine a bit insane but it’s the one thing I’m committed to doing myself.)
The woman we met on vacation has a husband who can support the family and thus the luxury to opt out of working. I have zero judgment for her but I realize that it’s not a realistic scenario for most of us. In my case, my work isn’t the kind of work that can be done part-time, so that doesn’t seem to be the answer.
What do you think about the work-life juggle and kids’ ages - does it get easier or harder as they get older? I’m curious to hear your perspectives, so sound off in the comments!