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The endless juggle

A recent comment by Lenny about struggling "with the balancing act of working mother" and my new work situation has got me thinking A LOT about that challenge of mamahood wherein one juggles the little ones, their needs, domestic/household issues, finances, work-life/career, and relationships/marriages.  Needless to say, the email from MomsRising.org came at an interesting time for me.  The Huffington Post is starting a series, in partnership with MomsRising, on the daily juggling act.  And it gets me thinking ...

We've talked before about "Does it work for You?"  But, we ask again:  How do you do it?  The days are so long with doing the stuff that pays the bills.  And, yet, somehow, we fit in time to make doctor's appointments, go to said doctor's appointments, read 20 minutes a day with the kids (at least!) in the evening, make lunch/dinner/snack/breakfast, clean bathrooms, and even manage to spend some kind of down time with ourselves or our partners.... 

How do we do it?  What keeps you sane?  What drives you insane?

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This is so timely. I was just about to submit a question about how working mothers have handled the emotional roller coaster of being "away" so many hours per week. I was just denied my LONG awaited compressed work week, and I'm absolutely heartbroken. I would love to hear some of the cons of working four 10-hour days (which was my proposal), just to help me feel better. I would love to hear some tips for maximizing the weekends with little ones. And I would love to hear from other mamas how they've dealt - internally - with the reality of "being away" during the week. Right now I'm angry and depressed and guilty, but I need to get past all that somehow. I don't have a choice - I have to work. And I don't want to leave my current employer, because there are some unusually generous benefits I don't think I could find anywhere else.

I don't have any answers to the original post, because honestly, I'm not making it work ... yet. I look forward to reading all of the responses!

What drives me insane? My daughter's nursery school starts at 8:30 and ends at 4:30. Who has a work schedule that accommodates that? Luckily I have the flexibility to work at home some days and to go in late if need be (and my husband has the flex to leave in time to pick her up) but sometimes it just doesn't work.

I have lots of thoughts on this one, and don't have them sorted out yet. But, TH, I can tell you that working 10 hour days can be a drag. They're really long days, and I'm not sure the three day weekend was always worth it. The only reason I did it was it was a swing shift, so I didn't mind working until midnight since kids were in bed and I wasn't missing time with them. If I had to take a day shift, I would have moved to 5 8s. Does that help?

Ugh. I just got home from being gone 14 hours. Not a typical work day for me--typical is more like 9.5 hours, 5 days a week. I didn't even see my daughter today and it has left me feeling angry and frustrated. This posting was very timely for me as well. I kind of laughed when I saw it. Much like nonlineargirl, what makes me insane is that my daughter's care situation, which is really wonderful, is only Mon-Thurs. Mon-Thurs??? What about Fridays? The bulk of the world goes Monday thru Friday. Now we are scrambling to find something for Friday (still looking by the way, in NE) and it will be much more expensive this way--like paying for the pieces separately instead of as a set. Being away does make you feel depressed and guilty and like your kid is going to grow up and you won't be there to see it!

I'm on the 4 10-hour days so I can spend 3 days with my 13 month old daughter and also give hubby a chance to get his stuff done. The week is long and hard, especially as the days get shorter and colder (it's much easier in the summer when its light when you wake up and hours of light when you get home). But for me, having the extra day with my daughter is totally worth it. I can run all my errands on Friday and then have all weekend to play. I can even change the schedule to work M-Th one week and Tues-Fri then next, giving me an occasional 4 day weekend.

My time with my husband definitely suffers. I have two stepsons that are older so its not like we have alone time when our little Bean is napping or in bed. But he is an amazing man and stay-at-home dad. He's taken over cleaning, shopping, cooking and laundry. I am very lucky and have to remind myself that it is as important to keep him happy as it is to keep the kids happy.

I have yet to see the mama out there that "does it all" and does it well. Everyone needs help and we all have something that we've had to let slide to keep the young ones at the top of the priority list. Don't sweat the small stuff!

I was laid off when pregnant with my son so I was home until he turned 6 months old. My husband was laid off three weeks before our daughter was born, so like it or not (and I cried pretty hard that day) I was back at work when my baby girl was just 7 weeks old. I was the sole provider of income and insurance for 9 long months.

-TH - I did have a co-worker who worked 4-10's and he once told me that he didn't see his son (who was pre-school aged) for those days. He was gone when he got up and in bed when he got home. Something to consider.

What makes it bearable for me is knowing my kids have wonderful people taking care of them when I am at work. I would love to work part time, but I don't see that as a realistic or practical option right now. What drives me insane in the evenings: doing what I call "The Race to Bedtime". Walk in the door and...GO, dinner, bath stories, bed. And I don't even have to make lunches, yet! What keeps me sane: I am still Mommy and I know my kids love me. I'm sure they miss me during the day. But they love their provider, she's like grandma and they still want to come home at night (most of the time). I have to believe they get things from their daycare providers that I cannot/don't know how to give them. Also my husband is an amazing man who does most of the house stuff (lucky me).

In my perfect world I will be able to work something out in the afternoons when they go to school - or I'll be asking for help w/ afterschool activities. :)

oh geez...those ARE the big questions...and I am(we are) still figuring out ways to get the answers for our family.I have been at home for a year now and now we need to have some extra income (since somehow we managed to live for a year with just half of what we were making before baby). So, I honestly have to say that staying at home was amazing, but I missed the adult interation. There were some pretty rainy/dark days when I felt I was going to just give up, days that when my husband came from work I only had tears and complaints about my solitudes ( because there were many) and also many tears of joy for having the privilege of feeling the silence and the quietness of spending all your days with a baby...feeling happy and sad at the same time anyone??? big dilema for me. No answers yet-the revelations have yet to come, in the meanwhile just plain raw emotions...all so strong and powerfull.
The baby is a year old now, and there is not so much silence any more and the days I am home we pretty much just go around every inch of our small house exploring, walking, touching...drooling. It is sooo much better now. Back to the question ...how do we do it? getting out of the house,as much as we could, reaching out to old friends and having a non-baby related conversations, reaching out to other mothers, planning an "event" every day- even if it was just going to buy groceries, it was our event...and we (baby and mom) got ready for it, going to the park. Somtimes when no one else was available I would make a picnic just for the two of us...( he would have some freshly made breastmilk and I would get something I was really fancying-food related). Having a good support always helps, and having a husband who can listen,love and empathize was key for when I just needed to vent.
Now as we are moving out of a full time -at home- mama and more to a full timemama but-working for money some hours mama- more questions will come and hopefully some answers will too.

As with Emily's comments, let me say that good day care is a HUGE factor in keeping some semblance of balance and sanity in my life. My son has been in day care since he was six weeks old, and we have been blessed to have such good care all this time (he is four now). As for balance... I take care of things whenever I can. That means doing personal stuff at work (making appointments, running errands during lunch, sometimes spending lunch at home to do dishes or laundry), and I do work stuff at home, usually projects or paperwork after my son goes to sleep. I've also let go of the dreams of having a perfectly run house. If we all have clean clothes and the bills are paid on time, everything else is negotiable. My husband and I also have some assigned chores, and assigned "nights" for things like bath and bedtime duties, which has really helped my mental state. It's still a daily struggle, but as long aas my son is happy and cared for and loved, that is the most important thing!

This is topic that I can really relate to. I have been working full time since Jan after years of either working part time in eve or taking classes in the eve. It has been a huge adjustment and every-time I think I have it figured out something changes - one kid in preschool, one in elementary school, and one at home, to everyone one home for summer, and now two in elementary school, one at home and the onset of aftershool activities.
It is really hard to find balance, I was a very social stay at home mama and one of the things that has been the hardest is the impact it has had on my friendships as well as being able to be spontaneous w/the kids and their friends. It is also hard to figure out Drs. appt.'s, haircuts etc. My husband and I take turns with all that so it makes it easier, but I wasn't able to take my 5 yr. old to school on his first day of K and that was a big disappointment - though I did leave work early so I could pick him up!
I don't have any answers - I agree w/Karen that having assigned times for household needs helps b/c then you aren't spending your whole wk-end doing laundry and can spend some time having family time.
Oh and I worked 4/10 for a brief period - I loved it in the beginning but after a month I was really burnt out. I was actually away from home 12 hrs/day when drive time and lunch were factored in. In the end by Fridays I was pretty spent.

Hmmmmm. Some days it feels like we've got it figured out and other days are a struggle.

I work 4 days, Mon-Thu. I took a 20% paycut to enjoy three consecutive days with my girls. It was a big adjustment. We often miss the money, but I do love the extra time off. I spend most Fridays visiting with my parents who are a HUGE help.

When it comes to the day to day stuff, my husband plays soccer on Tues & Thurs nights and Wednesdays are my weekly night off. We try to spend one day of the weekend on errands / chores and the other doing something fun as a family. We've found that if we have time to squeeze one extra chore in on a week night that it's more free time on the weekend. Of course, this is a very loose schedule and subject to change for any reason.

What keeps me sane? Some days it's my Zoloft. But mostly it's my supportive family. My sister is a mother of 3 and lives in Arizon. I don't know how she does it without my folks. They were there for me when my daughter cracked her head open and we went to the ER and they are there when I need an hour to myself to decompress.

What makes me insane? Going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark - essentially wintertime. I'm hoping to join some Urbanmamas in an after work playgroup this fall/winter.

Oh, for the pp who is looking for a great daycare in NE. We use Pockets Full of Posies (503) 288-2703. We've been there for 3 years and currently use the infant care as well as the preschool. They are open on Fridays!

This is always an interesting discussion as it relates to mamas trying to find balance in their lives, but my husband and I feel the struggle for balance is a family issue. and now that we have another baby in the house we talk about it more frequently these last few weeks. Prior to Henrik's arrival 6 weeks ago, I worked very part time and loved what it offered for me and my family--I got to get dressed and get out a few mornings a week, feel like I was contributing to something real, interacted with other adults, travelled a little, etc. And I think it was great for Anders too--he had his own thing going on while I was working--either playtime with other kids in our nanny share, or more recently, a morning at preschool. Because we were not spending all day together everyday, we really made the most of our afternoons together and I think neither one of us got bored of the other. And a few extra $$ every 2 weeks didnt hurt either.

Fast forward to today, and I'm home full time with a baby again and although I adore my children, I'm already feeling the strain of not having any balance in my own life. Since this is my 2nd babe, I do have the perspective to know that this is temporary, and as Henrik gets older perhaps he will take a bottle so that I can get back into yoga one night a week, and sleep more predictably so that I can plan our days accordingly. But theoretically, I should have all the time in the world to get the laundry done, groceries bought, bathrooms cleaned, bills paid, and dinner on the table each day...realistically, I'm lucky if I can get one or two major chores done/day and I usually still end up doing everything else on the weekends when Tryg is home to watch the kids while I mop the floors or clean the bathrooms.

Tryg struggles as a father too...he's an avid cyclist and has cut way back on his training (and therefore) racing the last 2-3 months to help me out with Anders when I was hugely pregnant and now with Henrik. He's gone a 9-10 hour day at work, and while he often takes his bike and rides on his lunch hours, he misses the opportunities for longer rides or races on the weekends. He came home this weekend and mentioned he'd been invited to join a team...I know he would love to do it, but how can he commit to a certain number of training rides/week knowing that it will mean that much more time away from home?

We dont have a solution, and every time we talk about it, we seem to come to the conclusion that these struggles are not the struggles we'll have in 2-3 years. And while our children are very young and need us, we will make the sacrifices to be there for them as much as we can, even if it means that other important facets of our lives have to suffer a little. Sorry for the long post, but all this to say that this is not just a working mama's struggle, in my opinion.

staying sane? what's that? ;)

i've done pretty much everything on the work/home spectrum since my daughter was born. i stayed home 100% of the time the first nine months (and cashed in my retirement to do it), worked during naptime and at night for another 3 months, and for the last 3 have been pulling 12-hour days working in a rented office five days a week to finish a novel before the end of the year. if that doesn't pan out before aforementioned retirement dries up, i'll probably wind up taking a job that will just barely cover childcare expenses and a little extra. whew.

i have struggled so much with this issue. i enjoy working (though doing it on borrowed time, while burning through the last of my savings, is a harrowing experience, to say the least), but i don't enjoy the horrible either/or feeling: either i am home with my daughter all day, stir-crazy and completely reliant upon public transportation and wishing i were working, or i'm a workaholic who barely sees her (thank god we co-sleep). i used to relish being self-employed, and weathering the unpredictability was much easier pre-child. now it's a constant struggle.

as for my poor husband, he works his bootay off all day and then comes home and baby-wrangles till i stagger in fresh off the train at almost 10 pm. i can't remember the last time we had a date (though, thanks to the wonders of vacation time and expensive childcare, we're having two of them next week for our anniversary).

i'm hoping it all comes together soon.

staying sane? what's that? ;)

i've done pretty much everything on the work/home spectrum since my daughter was born. i stayed home 100% of the time the first nine months (and cashed in my retirement to do it), worked during naptime and at night for another 3 months, and for the last 3 have been pulling 12-hour days working in a rented office five days a week to finish a novel before the end of the year. if that doesn't pan out before aforementioned retirement dries up, i'll probably wind up taking a job that will just barely cover childcare expenses and a little extra. whew.

i have struggled so much with this issue. i enjoy working (though doing it on borrowed time, while burning through the last of my savings, is a harrowing experience, to say the least), but i don't enjoy the horrible either/or feeling: either i am home with my daughter all day, stir-crazy and completely reliant upon public transportation and wishing i were working, or i'm a workaholic who barely sees her (thank god we co-sleep). i used to relish being self-employed, and weathering the unpredictability was much easier pre-child. now it's a constant struggle.

as for my poor husband, he works his bootay off all day and then comes home and baby-wrangles till i stagger in fresh off the train at almost 10 pm. i can't remember the last time we had a date (though, thanks to the wonders of vacation time and expensive childcare, we're having two of them next week for our anniversary).

i'm hoping it all comes together soon.

eek, apologies for double post ... not sure how that happened or if they can be deleted after the fact!

I feel like this balance always has to be checked and I am either on one side or the other at any given moment. I am lucky enough to have a job I can stay at home and do, but that sometimes means hiring for child care when I get busy and working into the night or weekends. I love that I get to do something "grown up" and I am so glad I have that professional time, but I find myself frustrated when I feel myself being less than present for my child. On the flip side when I'm not busy at all I have trouble believing I am worthy of a break because "this is what moms do" - they take care of people. I have most recently realized I have a real problem with being the house wife and mom stereotype - I want to be different, I want to be mysterious and multifaceted - not repeating the theme song of "Bob the Builder" while I mop the floor for the fourth time. The best I have come up with is that any given day I will be the mom I need to be with sprinkles of deserved, selfish time in between.

I am right on board with this topic. I have never felt so busy/crazy in my life as I do with a toddler, infant and job. Not to mention all of the other pieces that fall on my shoulders on a daily basis. I am still working mostly from home (post baby #2) and although I love seeing my kids much of the day, it is really hard. Even with childcare (it would be impossible without) I feel like I am juggling pretty much every moment of the day and everyone is getting only part of my attention when they (kids, work, husband, dog) deserve much more. It is working all right for us but sometimes I wish I could just go to an office and devote my energy to work and then leave it behind when I come home.

I went back to work full time when my son was 8 weeks old. When he was 13 months old, I ended up taking a much longer break than I thought I would (11 months at home). Now, I am in week five of being at work full time again, and am gone from the house about 10 hours a day (leave at 7:15, home by 5:15 or so). So far I haven't taken any work home because, honestly, I don't think I could do a bit of good, I'm so wiped out.

However, I feel 1,000% less guilty about going back to work this time around because I have more "mileage" as a mom, and am totally confident in his childcare (he's in our NE playgroup with a professional caregiver three 1/2 days, and with a nanny two full days).

I also have the blessed benefit of having family to fill in the gaps in childcare, as well as an incredibly supportive husband who goes way beyond to make sure all I do when I get home is play with my son, eat the dinner he's cooked, do the bath/bedtime routine and then crash.

The quality time with my husband suffers though when we do try to go out once during the week for dinner, I only see my son for an hour or so after I get home... but since the boy's not acting short-changed and my husband and I are happier when we go out, my guilt pretty much evaporates once the restaurant menu is in my hands.

When I think about requesting to work from home once a week, or to go to a shorter work week, it gives me pause... I am not sure I would be that much more efficient. It would save me some time to not have to get out of the house, but I still end up relying on someone else to watch my son the whole time I'm working at home or nothing gets done. And truthfully, on a short work week, your employer and co-workers will keep treating you like you're working the full five days (not that they can't be trained... I know some moms who are successful). In the end, I guess it depends on the type of job you have, and your work style.

My friends who are SAHMs keep me plugged into what's going on with the kids and the neighborhood, and that helps me feel in touch with the day-to-day that I'm missing out on.

I do know I'm glad to reactivate the dormant areas of my brain, feel valued outside of the house. Honestly, there were many times during my break at home when I longed for a boring meeting with other adults.

In the end, we all cope the best we can, but I think a network of support (even if it means creating your own family out your friends and neighbors) is key. We often don't ask for the help we need... and we shoud. And we often carry self-imposed guilt that weighs us down... we need to cut ourselves some slack!

Men don't seem to agonize the same way? Why is that?

I struggle with this everyday. I work full time while my husband stays home with our two children. Although he is a wonderful dad & we've got the happiest kids I know, I still deal with tremendous guilt. Although I travel 3 Mondays each month where I don't see them, I work at home two days each week & have the flexibility to take them to the park during "lunch" and parent teach at my son's co-op preschool.

Come weekends & evenings, it's all quality time. Errands & chores are typically taken care of during the week - one of us will take care of them during the day or maybe run to the grocery store after the kids are in bed.

I've recently become comfortable with the kids having dinner before I get home the 3 nights a week I work downtown. We eat together the other nights & it allows us to go on longer family walks or have more play time those evenings.

My kids are fortunate to stay home with a parent & get way more quality time with the working parent than most kids. And because I'm not home with them all day which can be exhausting, I have the energy to really play, get silly & be creative with our time together. Some of my SAHM friends don't have that energy day after day to do that.

My biggest challenges are that there is no "me" time other than a haircut. And since we don't have family here, we don't have the luxury of free sitters. So we only get out on dates when family does come to visit. It's taken it's toll but expensive night outs (with a sitter, dinner, drinks, etc.) are one of the sacrafices we make by having one parent stay home.

It's an ongoing challenge. Someone once said to stop trying to seek balance - complete balance will never happen. But a better goal is life harmony. I try to remember that.

Ok, after reading all of these posts, I have to say, single moms rock! Reading all of the stories of married/partnered moms makes me realize that both sides have it good or bad at any given moment. As a single mom, I have to constantly balance myself as an adult woman who is also "available" and still kind of young, with the part of me that wants to just stay at home all the time with my 2 year old and have us just be a little family together forever, no one else! Then there is work. I was lucky to have 3 plus months off after her birth, and then I took a 6 week leave of absence last summer for her first birthday, but I can't afford to ever do that again...I would give my right big toe to be able to make choices like being able to stay home with my daughter, or maybe even to home school her...on the other side, I guess I don't have to worry about my marriage and how the juggle effects it. I don't have to make time for anyone except my daughter and me. I don't have to worry about date night (sigh...) or intimate time (double sigh...)and divying up who is going to do all of the choresj (it would be nice to have a maid...). But it sounds like many of you have great husbands, and I am so glad to hear that. But for all of us single moms out there who are working full time and make our children our top priority, I salute us! :)

Here, here! It's an ongoing challenge. What I've found is that I need a separation of work and family; and mixing them isn't always good. I'm a big believer in quality versus quantity. When I'm at work, I try to focus on work because the last thing I want to do is bring it home with me. It adds stress to family life. I don't want to have to worry about my kids when I'm at work so that's where a good childcare situation is so crucial.

I try not to agonize over being away from the kids. It feels good to have a career (which is something that defines who I am) on top of family (the other part of me). When I feel like work is an added stress on the family, I do try to adjust things to make it more amenable to everyones needs. I've worked at home with the kids before, I've worked 10 hour days on top of a long commute to Salem, and I've started the work day at 6 am in order to find more time in the evenings to spend with the kids.

Right now, the best schedule for my family is working five days a week, starting early so there's plenty of time to transition from daycare to homelife. I'm certain my current schedule will change once the kids are older and we have to work in their extracurricular activities.

Having been "back to work" for a whole 10 days after having #3, I'm overwhelmed (and also amazed at single moms. you DO rock!). Tonight is the first night in a month? I don't know, a long time, that I've been able to sit and do work uninterrupted in the evening, what with bouncing-off-the-walls kids/husband begging for attention/baby crying/dishes dirty/mess mess mess. I definitely feel that, between work and doctor's appointments and kids and husband, I have zero time for myself.

and time for myself, I keep reminding my husband, is absolutely vital to feel like spending time with him!

since I work from home (a blessing to be sure, at the very least for its savings in childcare costs), the thing that I let go is showering and spending time on my grooming. I'm dreading the first business trip I'll take sometime in the next month or so, not so much because I'll miss the kids but because I'll have to get dressed and worry about leaky breasts. ick.

writing keeps me sane, and when I don't have time to sit at the computer and write about something especially difficult I've been going through (and I've been going through something difficult, this past month, with each. and. every. member of my little family), I lose it. thank goodness my job includes lots of writing, and I pour my soul into that whenever I get a chance. when I am juggling hungry, fussy baby and attention-starved two-year-old and drama-queen five-year-old... well, I want to scream and sometimes do!

time for myself. that's what I have to fit into the juggle, and I'm still struggling to figure out where it's going to go. some days it's just the 10 minute walk after I drop off Everett at school. I hope and pray I'll have more nights like tonight. Ahh... the quiet of 10:30 p.m. is wonderful.

I have to add to this all, because I feel like I am going to go crazy many days. I have been back at work for almost two months now and my daughter is almost 7 months. I am not a single mom, but feel like one many days as my husband works nights and I am usually asleep by the time he gets home. As with previous posters, my job is a necessity, not so much a choice. My husband is an immigrant and isn't yet able to practice his chosen profession here, and I am not sure if he ever will.
The biggest irony is that I am a public school teacher working at three different schools a week, seeing 200 kids in all. There is not a night that I get home and don't have papers to correct and classes to plan, in addition to the race of getting baby fed, bathed, pump cleaned and ready for the next day, bottles washed, dishes etc. It is constant work, work, work and what I miss the most is just enjoying my baby, not to mention my husband whom I see on weekends. I pump in my car half of the time and feel like I can't do anything well.
I work in the service of children yet get looks if I leave work "on time" and never feel like my own child gets the attention she deserves. All of this aside, I do get vacations and I thought it would be a good profession to be a mommy in, because of the hours and vacations. It would be nice if the schools had a little more funding so that I wouldn't have to be so split.

To teacher,

I am a mother of a child in public school and I would be so happy if my son got a paper back a little late and had a class that wasn't planned to a "T" if I knew that his teacher had an extra second to cuddle her baby and felt not so very, very rushed. I wish I could stand in front of all of the insensitive people giving you a "look." You're allowed to have a life and a baby. Above all, I would want my son to have a teacher who was happy.

Kudos to Teacher and all the other teachers out there who have to spend the days with our children and sacrifice the time to their own! I agree, I thought of school work as an option, but it sounds like there is a plus and minus side as in all jobs. Imagine having homework at night after all of these years! Teacher, you are doing a great job, and it will pay off. Eventually you will not have to pump at work anymore, and you will not believe how much pressure that takes off. It's hard work to work and breastfeed! When vacation comes along, I hope you get to go somewhere tropical where someone brings you drinks with fruit and umbrellas while your feet are tickled by frothy surf! (I will be there with you, by the way!;))

Teacher - I agree with you that there needs to be better funding. We have a good friend and neighbor and I see how many days she really gets off. It is not that many. If you add up all of her evening work and summer time spent planning, she does not get much time off at all.

This is one of the reasons why I as a parent volunteer. I figure if I spend two hours making copies, cutting things out, whatever that frees up time for the teacher. If it just frees up time for them to relax then they will be better teachers for it. We have very high teacher burn out because so much is expected of them.

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