I was chatting with a friend I worked with before, and the conversation was taking many turns, as conversations generally tend to go. It continued along the pathways of work and what I’m currently doing, her French lessons, internet connectivity, preparing meals, public transport, the cost of petrol and diesel, and family life… and yes, this was all part of one conversation! I’m sure many can relate to how one subject just melts into another life a hot knife to butter!
On the topic of family life, she mentions how it seems you can’t turn off the mommy-switch, and having an 18-month old, I couldn’t agree more! There is so much said about work-life-balance and how we should leave our work at work and our personal life at home, but here’s the thing: that is pretty much a pie-in-the-sky notion and removed from reality. The fact is that our professional and personal lives blend so much into each other that many a time it is really difficult to separate the one from the other. Maybe I’m wrong, or maybe working in consulting is just different, but I think the on-off switch between personal and professional doesn’t run on a scheduled clock; it doesn’t have a 9-5 timetable or an automatic stop-start. The truth is that we don’t have completely separate professional and personal lives, we just have, for the most part, lives. Lives that are filled with so many facets – a multidimensional whirlpool of things that we are constantly navigating, trying not to drown in one part of it but keep our heads above water. At least, that’s my experience.
Professionally, I work as a full-time consultant for a large international organization, which often means that I don’t keep a regular 9-5 schedule. There are periods which peak in working overtime or taking work home. Then enter the other side: the personal side. This side means I’m a daughter, big sister, cousin, niece, wife, aunt, and for the last 18months and a bit, a mom as well. While it’s hard enough being most of the former roles (especially when you a very involved family, which I state with only love and respect :)), the dynamic of being a wife and mother adds a different kind of complexity to the mix. It means that I split my time by spending quality time with my husband and daughter, doing date-nights (yes, for those who aren’t married yet or don’t have kids, you actually sometimes need to schedule time in your diary to go for a movie or dinner with the hubby!), pulling my weight around the house, running errands, attending school meetings, and in the whole pot of stew still trying to find some me-time.
Admittedly, my pot of stew could use some salt. In fact, it could use more than that! I am still very much going at it trial-by-error, trying to improve things here and there, trying to make sense of it all, trying to be a better life partner, a better mom, a more well-rounded individual and a better person in general. Truth be told (and is this really such a shocker!), it is a darn difficult job to juggle, and I often get it wrong – the balls fall, they bounce off my head, they land far from my feet… but what can you do but pick ’em up and keep trying. It’s the classic case of practice makes perfect (or as close to perfect as we can get it).
I am, like so many women out there, a clown in heels – trying to juggle it all and constantly tipping the scales so that the balance makes sense at a point in time, going through the motions, catching balls, dropping them, wiping the sweat off my brow so that I can still see clearly (coz heaven knows the sweat stings) and calculating the next step.
And… it’s sometimes an overwhelming experience – a wonderfully brain teasing, thought provoking, nerve wracking, emotionally assaulting, character building experience. But alas, we can’t always overwhelm our senses with such an onslaught. It’s okay to take a break, to breathe in the fresh air, to take in the taste and aroma of a good cup of coffee and not fill a hole in the gut… it takes me back to about a month or so ago when a local GP I went to asked me what is the worst thing that could happen if I left things for tomorrow? My response was that it wouldn’t get done, and I would need to do it the next day. A somewhat poor response on my side, I know, because her point was more around whether it would kill me to leave certain things for the next day, because stressing over doing it right then and now has a greater potential to fry my brain circuits and pull the heart strings the wrong way…
But in some ways I still think it is easier said than done, to leave things for the next day. Darn it Benjamin Franklin for saying “Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”
Sigh… what I’m trying to do is to sometimes leave for tomorrow what I don’t need to do today. And in some ways I am doing that, but kinda for the wrong things, like packing away clean laundry, or unpacking all the groceries when I get home from shopping…
Do I think striking the balance gets better, or easier? It hasn’t quite worked that way yet for me, but baby steps – start with laying the foundation of at least getting all the pieces of the chess board (which I’ve mostly done: family, friends, work, parent committee, and hey, starting a blog), and then placing the pieces and moving them strategically to get to the desired point. Now this is the part I’m still getting to – I don’t play chess well at all, so stands to reason this part will take me longer. At least I realize that there’s more than win way to place your pawns, knights and bishops; more than one way to win a chess game.
I might not be great at chess, but I’m a quick study. So, as I take my hat off to all those clowns in heels out there, I prepare to play my own life-sized game of chess (hopefully with less shrapnel than Harry, Ron and Hermione did), and win it too! 🙂