5/26/09

Full disclosure (as usual).

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.

8 comments:

Michele said...

Yes, sometimes life gets our ot synch but thankfully you know that it is only temporary. Stock up on the good chocolate and the wine and you'll get through it.

Cavatica said...

Being out-of-sync is hard. We balance much the same way and I understand needing the me-time to be best at the we-time. Hope your family balances soon.

Yoli said...

What a beautiful thoughtful post. I am sure plenty of it resides at your place but another thing that helps a lot is humor. For us, the hard times (and trust me there have been plenty) were survived by laughter. You will get your sync back. I remember Nancy Regan saying that the recipe for a good marriage is to understand that no relationship is 50/50, some days are 90/10 and you have know how to weather those days.

Mom-of-Bean said...

I get up and run at 6, the only time I have all day to myself...it is sacred and I want to weep when it doesn't happen...I hear you and I ache for you both - hope a fabulous road trip lies at the end of this all

sarahthefantastic said...

Thanks for the recognition and support! Yep, I know all about trying to find balance and rest and getting overwhelmed. It takes constant adjustments and creativity! Luckily I have medical insurance with the province and with my job, sick days (took one yesterday and slept as much as I could!) and friends and a brother who understand and can take her once in a while. Am thinking of starting a calendar and booking "borrow my daughter" days well in advance so I know when to hold on until! Needing time to oneself is so real and it will bite you hard if you keep skipping it. That was a hard lesson to learn! I agree with you that it's better to live simply and have tried to hold on to that principle and have time with YY instead of lots of money and no time. Obvious, but when most people around you are working full-time it feels radical! Hope you get out from under soon. After report cards are done I will be feeling better too. Keep going one bit at a time. And as you know, as soon as you look at your lovely daughter's face all of the pain just floats away. xox S.

Vivian M said...

I am with Yoli on this one. We had little to no sleep the first few years. Our sense of humor is the only reason why we are still going strong four years later. That, and the fact that we just learned to let some things go. Like the house, lol! I used to have a clean, organized home. Now I just settle for clean.

It is hard to find time to balance everything. I found that prioritizing was essential, making lists so I did not forget anything was important (for me), and learning to just shrug it all off when I did not get it done was key. There is always tomorrow.

Thanks for your post. I think everyone can relate, whether single parent, divorced, working or not, and no matter how many kids. Good luck to your hubby on his finals!

Yen973 said...

Thanks for the compliment to all single moms. It can be really tough sometimes, but I have to say I would not be the same without her. After a really tough day on the job, coming home to her is the best reward. Love your blog!
Dana
aka Shealin's mommy

Julie said...

Thanks for sharing...
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