Sunday Reflect…. Getting the balance right

The girls and I went away for the weekend with some good friends I know from high school days and their families.  It was nice to get out of the city, despite the fact that I got lost twice on the way there and got stuck in outer suburban hell for nearly an hour and a half on what look like it would be a ten minute detour to get us back on track.  I love watching the kids all playing together regardless of the age difference, mine are somewhere in the middle and at the younger end.  They are all sweethearts and the older boys, though a little cheeky, are really sweet with the younger (mostly) girls.  In the evenings my girlfriends and I generally just chat, about out lives, our families, jobs, ‘home’ and anything else going on with us.  Of course there’s also a political debate or two and we’d do a pretty good job of solving some of the big issues given the opportunity At one point over the weekend we were discussing the balance, of life, work and family and it got me thinking.  We all do it differently, in different circumstance and for difference reasons, but I’m not sure I’ve managed to get it right yet.

I’ve tried lots of different ways of getting this balance right.  Firstly being the stay at home parent, which I’ve done for two 12 month blocks after each of the girls were born.  To begin with this is the only option for us (I don’t earn enough for Mr Good to take on this role), but then we made the decision not to put the girls into childcare until they each turned one.  The second six months of these periods I tend to start getting frustrated with the monotonous nature of being home with kids and my patience wears thin.  I need something else, that is very apparent to all of us.

After Miss Three turned one I took a part time admin position at a university I had work at previously.  My thinking was that I wanted/needed to work, we needed the income and it would be a job I could leave at work, unlike teaching.  The problem was that this role gave me no fulfillment really at all and I worked for a VERY difficult woman.  The best part though was that I never brought work home, I didn’t need to do overtime and the hours were flexible.  But I just wasn’t satisfied.

Once Miss One turned one (now there’s a confusing phrase, she is nearly Miss Two) I decided I would go back to teaching, a job I loved.  However, my plan was that I would work really efficiently at school and not bring work home.  I thought that because I was only teaching juniors (not Year 11 or 12) this should be possible.  And it was, I didn’t work from home except for on the very rare occasion.  However, my lessons weren’t planned as I would have liked, my marking was rushed and late and innovation was missing entirely from my teaching.  It was the most dissatisfying semester as a teacher I have ever had.

This semester I have decided that in order for me to find that passion for teaching I used to have I need to re-think the whole work/life balance in favour of a bit more work.  I now bring work home pretty much every day I work (which is still only three days a week) and do something, either planning or marking, at home three or four times a week.  This has eaten up most of my down time on those night.  By the time the girls are settled it is already pretty late so I work until bedtime (which just seems to be getting later), and then take another half an hour at least to shut my mind off before I can even contemplate sleeping.  On the other hand I really am loving my job and am getting a huge amount of professional satisfaction out of it.  Mr Good, though, has been complaining about how grumpy I am some nights and he does seem to be copping the brunt of my frustrations and fatigue.

So after all these attempts I am still really at a loss about how to get the balance right for us.  Being able to fit in family/kid time, work time, alone time (non-existent at the moment, hence the grumpiness) and relationship time has alluded me, something always seems fundamentally compromised.  Is it deluded thinking on my behalf that I can somehow fit in time for everything (especially when you throw in selling your house!) or does it just take practice to get right?

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7 Responses to Sunday Reflect…. Getting the balance right

  1. Catherine says:

    I don’t know if I will ever find a balance either!! But I think that it is all about the behaviour and attitude that we have when we are spending quality time with the loved ones in our lives. Hopefully it gets easier as the kids get older but who knows, I guess that’s what life is all about 🙂

  2. rcra says:

    I suspect practise! But mainly because your needs may be seasonal and demands upon will change. I hope it’s not all trial and error for you though and that you find a flow 🙂

    • Barbara Good says:

      Sadly, I think it might be trial and error… as well as practice and flexibility to change as circumstances do or as I realise how unsustainable each attempt is in the long term. Anyway, big changes ahead so it will all be different again by the end of the year.

  3. Liz says:

    I’ve tried to compose numerous comments on this post but I think in the end I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as work/life balance – there’s just no enough hours in the day when part of your life involves pre-schoolers. For me I think the key is to work out which corners I am personally most happy cutting and get out the metaphorical scissors.

    • Barbara Good says:

      You’re dead right Liz, by so far each time I’ve cut something fundamentally important to me has been snipped away. I think the balance I have at the moment is the best (with more professional fulfillment, quality time with the girls and just enough time to keep everything else ticking over) but long term I don’t think it’s sustainable. There’s no time left for me and definitely no time for Mr Good and I together.

      I worry too that this will actually get harder for the next several years as I will need to work more, the girls will have all sorts of other things in their lives requiring time and transport and will still be pretty much dependent for most things. I look at my friends with older kids and they don’t seem to have any more time (and many have less) than I currently do. Anyway, I think I will just have to change things up regularly to that the cuts aren’t too permanent.

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