Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm looking for balance. I'm getting a headache.

When I started working again last year, I thought a part-time job was the solution to end all solutions. I'd still get to spend most of the week with the kids, and then I'd work two afternoons and a morning at the weekend. It was simple. I'd get a little balance back in my life, I'd do the job I'd recently trained for, and I'd earn a little money again. It was a perfect plan.

And in a way, it was. Is.

But you know what happens to perfect plans, don't you?

My plan hasn't exactly been the "breeze" I imagined. For one, childcare has cause me more stress than I wish to share. Two, I've discovered building a practice on part-time hours is crazy hard. And lastly, working part-time has occasionally left me feeling disconnected from my job. In the days that form the gap in between my last working day and my next, I can forget about it almost entirely, wrapped up in my other life - my family.

It's an adjustment, of course. But lately I've wondered if, in fact, working full-time wouldn't be less complicated.

At least with a full-time job, you have full-time childcare - a dayhome, or full-time nanny, say, which tend to be more reliable than part-time babysitters - often students who before long move on elsewhere. With full-time work, you have a fixed routine, a fixed salary, you know where you are and what's expected of you. 

(I'm not suggesting that working full-time as a parent is easy, by the way - NO WAY! I don't believe either option is easy and I'm grateful to have the choice.)

The issue for me is this strange, obscure divide of roles I now have. I have two jobs: first (and foremost), being a mum, being at home with the kids. The second, being a therapist. I now have a full-time job and a part-time job. I love both. I feel like I don't have time for both. But I do both.

In the attempt to find balance in my life, it appears I've created more of an imbalance, and it's going to take me a while to figure it out.

How do you - parents who work full-time or part-time - how do you manage it all?
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Tammy said...

For me working full time is great... for all the reasons that you suggested as well as Dexter loves his dayhome and all his buddies there (this weekend he was disappointed he couldn't go) and also because I love every minute with him and I don't have that (when is it bedtime??) thought all the time from tiredness. I love feeling like I have a bit of my own life still. However I am fortunate with quite a few holidays and a great company that understands if I have to take a day off for him and I really enjoy my job. I think however the total perfect mix would be having full time dayhome and working 4 days a week so you have one day a week when you can run errands, clean or cook in peace or keep them home and spend time with them and you have the option. That is totally my dream...:)

Lady Mama said...

Tammy, it's fantastic that Dexter loves his daycare - I think knowing your child is happy makes all the difference.

Sara said...

Oh Sarah I hear you!
I know the stay at home part and the part time work part. I just haven't experienced the full time work option - maybe that is why it always seems greener to me too.
I think the balance is different for everyone. Or maybe it is an illusion?
Not sure the solution was having another baby but I figure I will be too busy to think about balance for at least another 2-3years anyway and then the kids will be older with busier schedules and it just may be another 14years till I think of it again. Is that insane?

Lady Mama said...

Sara, haha no, I don't think it's insane at all. Is there ever a good time to have another baby? Your job will always be there when you're ready to go back.

Danielle S said...

I totally know what you mean! I am working part-time and it takes a lot of energy to make it work! I work the early part of the week and depend on a lot of help from DH. He takes the kids to day home so I can go in early to work and leave early to pick them up and still have time to cook dinner. I then make sure I get 2 days off in a row with the kids since one day is always busy with trying to "clean up" home life after a whirlwind work week! We are sure to do family things on the weekends, eat dinner all together. But it always is a struggle and I sometimes wonder if it is worth it. For now it's what I want/need but I don sometimes wonder if it could be different.

Sparkless said...

I've done both, work part time and work full time. I found full time work to be easier schedule wise but I always felt like I was missing out on being a mom to my kids. So I went back to being a full time mom,

Each mom has to find her own way though and I hope you figure it out. Parenting is never easy.

Lady Mama said...

Danielle - It's incredible, the amount of work needed just to go to work part-time. I think I'll always wonder if the other way is easier - it probably isn't!

Sparkless - I miss my kids terribly even when working part-time. You're right, it's so not easy.

Mwa said...

It's hard, isn't it?

I was lucky that I'm a teacher, so when I was parenting (one child only then) and working, it was okay for me. I could do a few hours here and there, and all in school hours. When I go back, I will do the same. I am hoping to do somewhere between a third and half time. More than that I couldn't cope with. I tried it when my first was little and I found it really hard going, never feeling like I did enough anywhere. (That was just me, though.)

Good luck sorting it all out! I hope you find the perfect balance for you.

WhisperingWriter said...

I'd like to know the answers too. When Natalie starts full time school, I'll probably get a part time job.

..... Carmen said...

Working part time when Grace was little was extremely hard (and busy!) for me. Not only because I missed her like crazy, but trying to stay connected with what was going on at work when only 3 days a week, was near impossible. I never truly felt like I was part of a team. And of course, we had our own share of childcare issues as well. I felt like you, that sometimes full time would be much simpler. Would love to hear if/when! you find the balance how you did it :)

Lady Mama said...

Mwa - thanks. Yes I agree, you have to do what you can cope with and no more.

WhisperingWriter - I'm looking forward to when both sons are in school full-time so I can work more hours with peace of mind.

Carmen - I'm beginning think balance is just an illusion.

LisaDay said...

I think you are right. full time would be easier (I laughed when you felt the need to clarify. I suppose people are that senstive). Perhaps if you worked three days in a row rather than splitting the time, everything would be easier.


Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

You called it. It is HARD either way. I would love to drop to part time, but now you have me guessing that!!!
Having a set routine is nice though, but there are other UGH! factors.

Anonymous said...

I think life in general is hard when you have kids.

So that's why I never underestimate the power of a good wine and a pile of chocolate. :)

Angela said...

I've done it all - was a SAHM with no income, was a SAHM with work-from-home contract work, was a part-timer (worked a "flex work week in my chosen career and had every Friday off) and now, I'm a full-time Mom with regular business hours, and two kids in full-time school (K and Grade 3).

NONE of it is easy. Trust me on this. As a FT SAHM, I love being home with my wee ones, but I HATED the struggling family budget. As a SAHM who tried to squeeze in contract work from home during naptime and preschool and playdates and weekends and eveings - I was NEVER able to entirely focus on my work. In my FT career job now, I struggle with balancing doctor's appointments for the kids, that occassional call that "your son vomited all over his lunch and you have to pick him up NOW!" (ugh, that was just last week!) and balancing my kid's extracurriculars in the evenings (just HOW do I get my kid suited up and on the ice for hockey at 4:30 PM in a neighbouring town that's an hour away in rush hour???).

I'd say the best I had it was my chosen career job, 32 hours/week, every Friday off. I could schedule playdates and activities on Fridays, and still get dinner on the table.

Thankfully, DH has a lot of flexiblity in his regular-business hours job (moreso than me) and he really steps up to be there when the kids need us. And we have grandparents close by, who don't mind at all carting a kid (or two!) to swim or music lessons or hosting a playdate at my house after school.

If only I could teach them how to gear up my son for hockey.

Hot Cross Mum said...

I now work full-time at home (i.e. my job of 'mum') but am trying to balance a part-time writing career while there. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion there is no balance so I continue to blunder merrily along!

Lady Mama said...

Angela - thanks for your comment - it's interesting to hear how each person copes with different work scenarios. I can see ups and downs in both (f/t and p/t) but I think what it comes down to - as you've said here - it that there really is no easy way. I think the 4 day/ wk sounds ideal - it's what I'll do when the boys are in school full time.

Playground Snoop said...

I completely understand what you are saying. I work 1 day a week, and am the primary caregiver for my handicapped brother (thankfully he goes to a day program during the week) in addition to my third role as a mom to my son. Sometimes it's just so much to try to hold on to and juggle.

I don't know if I'll ever work full time. Even with just my brothers appointments or sick days it would be challenging to juggle a full time job and I'd like to have at least one more kid.

I'm really happy that I do work a little bit. It's nice sometimes just to complete something and be appreciated for something you've done. The laundry NEVER thanks me.