Day 23,681: The Roller Coaster Ride.

Ever since women have gone into the workforce, and maybe even long before, work/life balance has been an constant.  Books have been written about it, and pundits have provided advice, and yet the balance eludes most of us most of the time.  After several discussions with colleagues, and watching my own out-of-balance tight-rope act for years, I’ve come to the conclusion, it’s a balancing act over the long haul.

When I was in my thirties with a full family and full career, the budget was always tight.  My brother advised me that I had unrealistic expectations to think the budget wouldn’t be. It was the time of life, accordingly to him, when you went into debt and stayed there for awhile.

Throughout my career, I always had jobs relatively close to home that allowed me latitude to come and go pretty much as needed within reason.  I was lucky that way, and thought it gave me some family time balance, although my kids were known for patiently explaining to teachers, coaches and trainers that I would be wherever I needed to be, but to just expect me to be the last to show up. I’d meet all commitments, but at the very last minute.

Now, the kids are grown, and time is more my own. At first it’s an odd feeling, but now I feel it’s a time to explore self-discovery projects that really took the hit of my out-of-balance life to date.  So balance, for me, is a long game.  There were the travel years, career years, the family years, and now perhaps the getting to do what I was always expected to do years. Some periods overlapped with others, but at no time did I do it all, because that just wasn’t possible.

The danger in this line of thinking is that life is short, and you can lose the opportunity to do many things if you wait too long. One co-worker who recently retired was dead three months after retiring, only haven collected one month of his well-planned pension.

As a working mother, it’s likely a disservice to make one believe you can do it all. It’s even a disservice for the mother of a newborn. Your life is immediately out of balance and you really have no choice. Something’s gotta give, and it ain’t goin’ to be the kids.

Many years ago, when I was struggling with keeping the house in order, my wise mother advised me to just let it go. “Your family can either have a clean house or a sane mother. The latter is more important to the overall welfare of the family,” she’d argue. She was really speaking about herself and imparting knowledge on how she learned to compromise in her own life with a family business, a husband, a wide array of displaced family using our home as family central, and three kids of widely varying ages.

And now, balance still eludes me, but I’m making my peace with it. A balanced life might be too flat and evened out and if life is  roller coaster, we all just have to enjoy the ups and downs and try hard to scream with joy and exurberance rather than throw up too much during the journey.

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