*This is my entry for feMOMhist's International Women's Day carnival, intended to inspire girls to 'have it all' -- both a career and a family life.*
When people ask me "How do you do it all?" I usually answer "Very poorly." Having kids and a career is not for people who can't relinquish control. Chaos is inherent to having young kids, and if you ask me that's one of their best qualities. You just have to embrace it.
My best friend from grad school is half of a dual-income-no-kids (DINK) couple. He and his wife both have big salaries, raise several dogs, travel to exotic places. They are living the life I would love for my Dear Husband (DH) and me... Once we turn 60.
Having both a career and a family is certainly possible, don't let anyone tell you differently. But there is no work-family or work-life "balance"; balance is a boring word anyway, implies that things are static, immobile -- think balanced scales or a well-balanced meal (booooring!). If I do have balance, it is only over months or years. On the timescales of days or weeks, my life is often profoundly out of balance. There are the sick-kid days, where that's all that consumes your life. Then there are the grant proposal deadlines and travel-for-work or hosting-a-visitor days, where it is decidedly all about work.
I have a full, colorful, wonderful life. There is incredible joy and incredible frustration.
Over months or years, when I look back upon my life, I feel happy and I feel like I have a good amount of time with the kids as well as to devote to work. I do not feel ecstatic all the time; I get joyful and giddy and tired and pissed and excited and disappointed and everything else that humans get.
Life with kids and a demanding career is many things, but NEVER BORING.
I was going for a long and profound post, but I happen to be extremely sleepy, so I will leave you with a small glimpse into DH's and my daily schedule. As you'll see, it's nothing spectacular. We do go to bed relatively late and forgo the lengthy morning routine (which seems to be common) in favor of a before-bedtime one.
This year is a bit unusual as I am on sabbatical + have an 8-month-old Baby:
During the night, I nurse Baby once (when I am lucky) or twice. Eldest Boy (EB) gets up at 6:30, leaves for the bus at 7:05. DH gets up with him to give him breakfast etc., then DH proceeds to nap in my ultracomfy office chair. (DH is not a morning person. He has been doing the early morning this year as a courtesy to my zombified sleep-deprived breastfeeding self; next school year, after I am done nursing, I will do the 6:30 wake-up). Middle Boy (MB) gets up anywhere between 6:30 and 7:30, Baby and I get up at 7:30 (if Baby's not already awake due to being hungry/wet or sick). I nurse Baby, get ready for kickboxing class while he crawls and plays on the floor around me. DH may take Middle Boy to daycare, I take Baby, or I take both; if the latter, I am done dropping them off around 8:40. I eat a banana in my car, check/answer email on the phone, go to kickboxing class 9-9:45 (close to home). Shower then pump breastmilk (around 10:30), then start working. Since I am on sabbatical, I either work in my home office or go to work for meetings; at 4 it's time to pick up Baby, who then gets nursed and takes an hour-long nap before dinner. Between 10:30 am and 4 pm, I pump once more (around 1:30), Eldest Boy comes back from middle school around 3, sometimes goes to a friend's, sometimes friends come over, so I may have to stop work to feed hungry preteens snacks or chauffeur them around. Twice a week Eldest and Middle Boy have swimming (1 hr for EB, 30 min for MB) circa 5:45. DH picks up Middle Boy between 5:15 and 5:45, early on days when they go swimming. On one (but not both) of the swimming days, DH and the two older boys go to the food court at a nearby mall for a junky dinner. While Baby naps I start dinner, we usually eat around 6:30, depending on the day and how elaborate the meal is. Older kids play video games or watch TV or we all play with Baby till about 8, when I put Baby to sleep (bath, nursing, bedtime). DH puts Middle Boy to bed next, around 8:30, except on Mon and Thu, when DH, an avid World of Warcraft player, has scheduled raids. On those days I try to put Middle Boy to bed. Eldest Boy does his own bedtime routine (which involves showering, as well as nasal sprays and asthma inhalers) and should be asleep by 9:30 (ideally).
DH and I stay up late. On the nights he raids with his WoW buddies, I work 9-12 or till 1. On other nights we may see a show, it depends on how much work I have to do; DH goofs around on the web or plays WoW or watches something on his own (he avoids working at home). I go to bed around midnight. DH and I have our grooming routines (showers, shaving etc) at night, which I guess is relatively unusual from what I have read. But it saves us time in the morning and enables us to pull off later wake-up times and later bedtimes and we get more quality time with the kids in the evening.
On Saturdays and Sundays, DH sleeps in quite late, while I am up with the kids; the older two are good about getting up and entertaining themselves with electronic gadgets before I get up with Baby. DH does the laundry, I do the grocery shopping, usually with Baby in tow, and usually Sunday afternoon. EB has a drama class Saturday afternoon, DH and MB take him and wait for him while having coffee at a nearby downtown coffee shop; during that time, Baby and I are at home, Baby sleeps and I can get some work done. I also work on Saturday and Sunday nights after the kids' bedtimes, although I might skip one and spend some time watching a movie with DH. EB has of late started asking to stay later on Fri and Sat, which cuts into DH's and my grownup time... I make all the lunches for DH and EB on Sunday for the whole week -- that's a lot of sandwiches, but saves a lot of time during the week.
The next academic year will be the first year with 3 kids and teaching, we'll see how it goes. After I am done nursing (plan to wean Baby over this summer), I will likely be the one to get up at 6:30 with EB, then do a bit of work before everyone else gets up. The 9 am kickboxing will no longer be feasible as I actually have to go to the office and teach and attend meetings, so the plan is to go to work around 8:30 after kid drop-off, then come back a bit early to the kickboxing at 4:30, get home at 5:15 to shower and shortly thereafter start dinner. The rest should be more or less unchanged, but I guess we'll see...