I work at a job that I love. After a disappointing undergraduate experience that I barely passed, I finally found my passion in my late 20s and decided to go for it. This meant another 3 years of graduate school, teaching part-time at 3 or 4 different community colleges for a few more years as a "freeway flyer," and finally landing a tenured position teaching (as opposed to "publishing") at an institution of higher learning a full 11 years after I finished my undergraduate degree.
I remember sitting in my office in my first semester and the president of the college, a good 'ol boys' good 'ol boy, came in to see me, and, in the course of our conversation, he said, "You know, this is the best job in the world. And even more so for a woman (as an aside, what you need to know about this guy is that he later was removed from a Chancellorship for sexual harassment and indiscretions. Not really the most tactful with the ladies). There's a lot of flexibility when you have your children." Well, of course I was offended. "What?" I thought. "Do you have any idea what I went through to land this job? There were 120 applicants for my job. If you think for one minute I'm going to throw it away for a life of wiping snotty noses, you've got another thing coming, buddy." Besides, I was single--no sign of a husband or children on the horizon, so I was good, I thought.
But I did get married, and I did have children. And he was right. I took off for 6 months after the babies were born. I taught at night so I could be home with them during the day. I taught online, logging in at night and on weekends and in snippets of time between feedings and diaper changes. I do work outside the home now, so I use the after-school program a few days a week. I can mold my schedule so that I can stay at work late a couple of days and still be available to drive the kids around to their throngs of extra curricular activities.
This is dreamy, is it not? It's the ideal situation that so many working moms crave--a chance to be fulfilled and stimulated intellectually while still being able to be the nurturing, available caregiver. I presumably have the best of both worlds. If that's the case, then why do I feel like I'm floundering in both of these areas for which I have a huge responsibility? The balance I'm so craving seems far outside my reach right now.
I recently read a report on the myth of multitasking. The report states that people don't technically use their brains doing more than one thing at a time, but rather, their brains are actually shifting in rapid-fire succession between things. I feel like this is what I'm doing all the time. I mean, even in the course of writing this post, I've had to get up to let the dog out and pause to give my son some homeopathic drops for the cough that is keeping him up and in my face. Not only am I physically torn away from the moment, but my brain is rapidly moving back and forth like a schizophrenic metronome. I am, therefore, failing a little bit at everything I do. I don't want to be perfect, but I would like to feel a little more peace.
Recently I found myself wanting to retire from my job--not quit, not get another job--retire. Obviously a momentary lapse in reasoning and logic, right? I was longing for more time to read and write for my own personal fulfillment, and retirement seemed the only reasonable way that this could happen? Clearly I've got to make some changes. What those need to be, I don't know.
But I do know this. I have an obligation to both my job and my family. I have to keep the job (without it, the family would not have health insurance) and I have to raise the kids. I have a responsibility to be present and wholly focused on each one when I'm engaged with it. I need to make space in my life for those little moments that absolutely make time race.
How can I do this? Am I just chasing the mythological life of the Supermom? Will my brain explode as I try to tweet about my kids' morning routine while preparing for my class while driving in the car? Something's gotta give.
How do you balance personal fulfillment with parenting?