NaBloPoMo Day 7

Prompt: "Making family time is important to me. How do you balance your children, relationship, and work life?" - guest prompt by Ricki Lake

First of all, I heart Ricki Lake. If you haven't seen her documentary, The Business of Being Born, go watch it. Now. Seriously.

Now that that's out of the way...

I don't actually feel like I have a great balance. I have lots and lots of time with my kids, which is awesome. But that time definitely comes at the expense of a vibrant professional life. I work by myself - during naps, after bedtime, and on random mornings or afternoons in the office when P can take time away from his job to cover the childcare. I'm lucky that his job is flexible (for now, anyway), so this arrangement mostly works in terms of allowing me to finish what needs to get done. But it doesn't allow much time at all for networking events, doing the legwork that would be necessary to really grow my practice, or just meeting casually for lunch with other professionals. My business phone goes straight to voicemail most hours of the day - by necessity, because I can't really answer a call that might be from a client or a court with a toddler shouting in the background. Being at home with the kids inhibits my professional life in a lot of ways.

This doesn't mean that I'm complaining, exactly, because this is far better than when I worked for a big firm and my work obligations came at the expense of my family. I will never, ever forget the time that I spent all night in the ER with a 3-month-old Nora, very sick with RSV, and then stayed up the rest of the night writing a memo for a partner at my firm while I watched her breathe laboriously next to me. I will never forget how horrible it felt to leave my tiny, helpless, extremely ill infant with just her dad, unable to nurse her (obviously) to make her feel better, so that I could haul my exhausted butt into the office to hand-deliver the memo and print off copies of the cases I'd cited for the partner in question. And I resent, to this very day, that when I told the partner what the situation was, he made me stay at the office anyway. I wasn't participating in the call, I had done the work he needed, and my baby needed me - but I had to sit there, just in case he had a question about any of the cases while he was on the call. And of course the call got pushed back later and later, so I ended up spending most of the day there, practically falling over from fatigue and worry. I have never, ever had such a wrenching feeling in my gut that something was wrong.

So yeah, all things considered, if things must be out of balance, I prefer the balance to favor too much time with my kids over too much time at work. I miss the money from that job every single day, but I have never - not for a single second - missed the job itself or the stress that it put on my family.

But then there's my relationship. Things are way, way out of balance there. I can count on one hand the number of times that P and I have been out without the kids in the last year: (1) for a day trip to DC last October for a friend's wedding; (2) out to a comedy club with friends for P's 30th birthday; (3) out to lunch and coffee for an hour and a half on our anniversary in August; and (4) out to dinner and a movie while my mom was visiting this October. Hey, look - that's one hand, with a finger left over. Ouch.

To be blunt, we can't afford to spend $15/hour on a sitter, so we only get to go out when my mom is available to babysit. My mom lives 5 hours away, so that's not often. We did have P's parents babysit for that hour and a half anniversary lunch, but it went so poorly that I will never leave my children alone with them again. Also, P has since told me some things about his parents' actions when he was a child that make me hesitant to even let the kids out of my sight when they're around, much less leave them alone together for any period of time. So.

To be brutally honest and blunt, the lack of couple time has been really hard on us. This has been, by far, the worst year of our relationship. P would agree with that, I know, and I don't think he'll mind me sharing it. We've been under a lot of financial stress, we don't get any time together, and staying connected and remembering that things won't always be this tough has been really, really difficult.

This is not the fault of the kids in any way - they certainly aren't the reason we don't go out (i.e., they're well-behaved for sitters, don't freak out about us leaving, etc.). It's a money thing - related to the lack of work-home balance for me, sure, but mainly a money thing. It's a problem that I'm trying to find a way around, but so far I haven't really found a solution. I've suggested a babysitting swap with a friend a few times, and she always says that she's interested, but I don't think she really wants to do it (and they have lots of local family help and don't really need us to babysit for them, so I don't want to force the issue too much).

It's tough, this balance problem. Everything impacts everything else and I often feel slightly helpless to do much about it. I'm mostly trying to be proactive with the work stuff - carving out space to work on my business, applying to grad school, etc. - and hoping that with that will come more income, and thus more disposable income that can be used to fund couple time. It's hard, though. Tough, tough stuff.


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