Today I feel the need to send a shout-out to single mothers everywhere. Can you say "superwomen?" (Sarah-the-fantastic comes to mind here, again, along with many of the brave women in my local adoption group).
Here's the thing: we have pretty much the most ideal family situation I can imagine. Sure, it would help if we had a few extra k in our bank accounts (haha!). But I have no desire to be fabulously wealthy, and the fact is, people raise families with a lot less than we have. What we do have? A lovely, comfortable, soothing, airy, modest home. A daughter who causes us very little trouble, and adds joy to our lives in such gargantuan proportions that we feel bowled over by the sheer force of her happiness. The rare and invaluable gift of a wonderful, trusting, peaceful, supportive, joy-filled and loving marital relationship.
So, as you can see, there are few ways in which we could have it much better.
That said: it isn't easy to maintain a balance in a family. We do our best, and we are both willing and diligent contributors to the effort (which is crucial). The trouble is, if you are just two people in this economy, with a child to watch, a house to clean, a garden to tend, two careers to maintain, insurance to hold up, and no daycare, no housekeeper, no nanny...it's not easy.
The majority of the time, we maintain the balance in a way that seems nearly effortless. As long as each of us is able to take our turn, and pull our weight equally with chores, errands and childcare, it works like a dream. No one gets overly tired, no one gets overly stressed, and everyone is happy.
However, there are always those times when things get out of balance. Someone gets sick. Someone has an extra workload to knock out. Someone looses an insurance policy, or accumulates an extra debt. And the world suddenly tilts off its axis.
That's where we're at this month. For one thing, M is one of the few people that have not been fired in his workplace. This is both a blessing and a curse. He still has a job, but he now does the work previously done by four men. Because he's tough, and stoic, and a diligent worker, he is able to do this without complaint. But he is also in his last six months of graduate school in hopes of obtaining his MBA. His chosen school has very high standards, and thus far his academic performance has been exceptional - even through the adoption, and QQ's surgeries, and the transition to parenthood. The real problems come when he is in final exams at the end of each semester. And that's where we are right now.
What this means is that he is under extraordinary pressure to perform both at work and at school. He gets home from work close to midnight, and goes straight into studying for exams and papers. He is not getting enough sleep. Not nearly enough. This makes it difficult for him to wake with QQ on the alternate mornings when he usually takes her. For my part, I can survive alright on a little less sleep, and am able to take some extra mornings without suffering a great deal. But what this also means for me is that I am deprived of those days on which I have mornings free to do my own work. Already scrambling to keep up with freelance jobs, with a waiting list that I have not even begun to tackle, this puts me even farther behind.
The other factor involved is more nebulous, and it has to do with how much "personal time" a person needs in order to stay sane, level-headed, and rational. Both of us love and treasure our time with the QQ above and beyond any other pleasure in life. But the fact is that everyone (or most of us mortals) needs a bit of time to themselves - alone time, time to let the mind wander, time to indulge in personal meditative rituals, time to listen to silence, to contemplate the world around us without being attentive to another human being. No matter how much I adore my time with the Q, if I have no time to myself, I start to change. My temper grows short and my nerves raw. I lose my sense of proportion and perspective. Lack of sleep starts to catch up with me in ways that it normally doesn't, and small tasks begin to feel overwhelming.
All I'm saying, really, is that it's a very delicate balance. We are extremely fortunate in that we are both willing and determined to shoulder the duties of life in equal proportion, to "have eachother's back", to be there for one another when support is most needed. But we are both also human. We are not supermen. And sometimes life takes the reins and runs amok.
Like I said, it's not easy. It's a constant balancing act. So I send out props to all those single mothers (you are my heroes) and to all those couples struggling to make a go of it in tough times, to all those families who have lost jobs, insurance policies, homes...and are still forging ahead, making it work, loving their families and knowing that that is enough. You are, actually, all my heroes. I wish you strength and peace.