Monday, March 15, 2010

Work/Life Balance...Huh? by Jamie

I came home from a much-feared Statistics test the other day, and breathed a sigh of relief. I thought I’d done pretty well on the test—and now I had about two hours to myself. My dad was picking Jayda up from daycare and taking her to the library for awhile so I could have some down-time. And what did I do? I raced around the house, stripping my bed and washing my sheets, wiping down my ridiculously dusty bedroom furniture, and then donned rubber gloves and attacked the downstairs bathroom. The following afternoon, when I finished writing a paper ahead of schedule and found myself with several “extra” hours, I manically scrubbed all of Jayda’s mildewy bath toys with giddy satisfaction, sorted through all of her summer clothes, and cleaned out my sock drawer. Literally. Spare time well spent.

A friend of mine recently posted a query on Facebook about work/life balance:”Who keeps perpetuating this myth that people can have a work/life balance? It's not working for me.” And a clever male friend remarked “single people... the rest of us are just making it up as we go…” I couldn’t have said it better myself. I may not be commuting to a full-time job anymore, but between freelancing and school (and stressing like crazy about both), it’s impossible for this single mom to get everything done…let alone actually relax. Factor a Type-A personality like myself into the mix, and it’s almost laughable. For instance, my mother has been offering me a “free” massage (she bought a package from a local masseuse and has one to spare) for months, but I haven’t had the time to take her up on her offer. Oy.

Lest I seem too pathetic, I do make time to go out for drinks with friends every few weeks, or out on an occasional date, but more often, I’m spending my evenings doing work, studying, or desperately trying to catch up on my sleep. And last week, when my plans to go out for drinks with a girlfriend fell through, instead of kicking back with a glass of wine by myself in front of the television—as a person with a “good work/life balance” might have—I cracked open a Diet Pepsi and a textbook, instead, and did some studying. I couldn’t miss the opportunity (or the opportunity to do a load of laundry, too, as there’s always laundry to do!).

I always pay my bills on time, but my filing system sucks—and I rarely balance my checkbook. Mind you, I never bounce checks—but I can’t take the time to nitpick over every number like I probably should. I never leave dirty dishes in the sink, but I also drink out of soda cans and eat out of take-out containers to lessen the amount of cleaning I’ll need to do. And cook? That rarely happens. I do sort through Jayda’s clothing seasonally because that girl is growing like a weed—but I’m guilty of never going through my own closets; I have clothes in there from pre-Jayda years, that I just don’t have the time to go through (or the energy to throw out). I hear about kids who get baths every night and I don’t understand how or why their moms can make that happen. My daughter’s lucky if she bathes every other night (and believe me, if it was up to her, she’d NEVER get into the bathtub). Working moms have to cut corners, somehow—and something’s gotta give. I never have time to watch DVDs, let alone TV. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Wiggles DVDs I order for Jayda, it would probably be more economical for me to cancel my Netflix subscription right now.

The only thing I do have time for is my daughter: we have several play dates every week, and we do things together after school almost every day. And I always have time for cuddling with her in bed. I’m an excellent multi-tasker, and combining sleepin’ and lovin’ all at the same time is my forte. Because there’s one thing I can always balance: Jayda’s head on my chest and her arms wrapped around me. But as for the rest—my life is definitely off-kilter. And with a kid relying on me, and work that always needs to be done, I’m not sure that’s ever going to change.

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