I’ve been mostly posting on my lazy blog, so my apologies if you’re using Google Reader to keep up with me.
This month has been trying for our family. I have had the luxury of having a job with a lot of flexibility in my hours. Basically, I work until the job is done. Sometimes that means I leave the office at 3:00PM, then resume work at 8:00PM when Ainsley goes to bed. Sometimes I start work at 6:00AM, then pause at 8:00AM to take Ainsley next door and commute to the office. Sometimes I work through every one of her naps.
I’ve had it all. I’ve done most of the cooking and cleaning, but have allowed myself to give up on doing every single bit of housework (e.g. ironing) because I would rather pay someone to iron and spend more time with Ainsley and Carlton. When my wonderful friend Khyati lived with us, it was approaching nirvana: we shared the household duties and I could really enjoy the time with my daughter.
I’ve had a great marriage. My husband respects me and shares in the joy and difficulties our daughter has brought to our lives (mostly joy). He likes my cooking and has been very flexible around my work schedule.
This month, I managed a very large project at work, creating a conference for many people from around the world. I had lots of help from lots of great people but shouldered a lot myself. Carlton and I had discussed that this conference would take me away from home and he would be the sole parent and the sole housekeeper and be responsible for everything. Part of the difficulty is that with a young child, you can’t just wander in from work whenever you like, then stand in front of the fridge munching on whatever’s convenient. She’s depending on us for nutrition and for structure. Carlton and I both knew it would be busy; I even asked our housekeeper/cook/nanny/superwoman to come in for extra time to prepare meals and clean. But I was so absent it was ridiculous. It started about a week before the conference and I worked 10-16 hour days for a week and a weekend, then 16-20 hour days for a week. Let’s face it. I’m exhausted.
I arrived back into my normal life on Saturday. I was still living a surreal dream. Even as hard as my job is, it is so much easier than maintaining a household and family. There’s direct feedback from work and direct rewards. Plus, any effort I make is mine alone and I can feel a personal sense of pride. I was completely surrounded by the conference and felt very gratified by the results of my efforts. I wandered back into my old life and I saw how hard it was going to be. I felt totally out of place. Carlton and my sister had run a tight ship while I was gone. Every time I tried to do something, from laundry to cooking to playing with Ainsley, I was doing something that was out of step. I didn’t feel needed and to be honest I didn’t want to be there- like I said, work is easier. The lack of sleep and the physical/emotional rollercoaster finally got to me. I snapped.
I’m still not back to normal. I’ve lost my patience with my sweet daughter more than once, something I never did before. I am going through the motions of resuming my household chores. I’m realizing that I can’t have it all. I have to choose my career or my family.
It’s not a hard choice, is it? I choose my family. But I want to have a career too. It means I’m going to have to work twice as hard to maintain any sort of work-life balance. I’ll be shuttled out of my current role (a role designed to be temporary) and into a different role at some point. Can I strike a balance? I have to constantly step back and evaluate if I’m letting my family responsibility slip just because I enjoy my work. I will never get this time with my daughter back.
I’m going to take a moment to tell you that I’m not going to whine about gender roles. Nobody forced me to choose between my career and my family. I have a basic desire to run my household and be the support system for my husband and my daughter.
It says something that this post, designed to be about Ainsley’s milestone of being one year and two months old, is mostly about my job. I missed a few weeks of her life. It’s not as though she was sent to the gulag; she was with her aunt, some of her cousins, her grandparents, her father. But I don’t want to miss a few weeks at a time.
Ainsley has been growing. She says more words and has developed quite a spunky sense of humor (Amy says it serves me right). When I walk with her to the bathroom, she likes to close the door between us. She giggles and puts her plum on her head instead of eating it. She will give me any object I request… unless it’s a cookie, in which case she squeals and runs away. She hugs Sunny and Mr. Kitty and Silo and rocks them gently. She runs as fast as those little legs will carry her. She delights in playing with her friends and she concentrates on her work as well.
What’s next for us? I don’t know. I’m going to let Ainsley guide me on this one.