Let us talk about last 2 years, 2011 – 2012.
I worked full time shift work as an emergency nurse.
I had 2 small boys – 5 and 2.
Hubby worked full time shift work, and was on the road with it a lot.
He was studying a diploma as well.
He also worked as a retained firefighter – an on call position.
I was studying for my Masters degree.
I was on 2 volunteer boards, one for a sporting complex, one for a community group.
I was the local branch secretary for the NSW Nurses Association.
I was fostering my teenaged god-daughter.
I played representative sport and socially played hockey and basketball.
My hubby played social hockey.
My eldest played hockey and basketball. He also had extracurricular music lessons.
My youngest had swimming lessons.
We had 2 dogs.
Our days were busy, full and planned.
Was this an ideal situation for everyone? No, but it was a situation of our choice and making and we were doing quite well. And some of it was only temporary – after all, sooner or later I would complete that degree! It was OUR situation.
By no means is this a sob story, so put away your hankies and violins, lovelies.
Nor is this a story of woe, so stable your high horses, and put down your axes.
This was a normal state for me, and as a family, we did really well. I had a wonderful network, an organised schedule and an awesome hubby.
And I had been back at full-time work as soon as my paid maternity leave ran out – which was not long after my bubs were 6 weeks of age. You see, I would work full-time up to about 36 weeks (and by then I was HUGELY pregnant – remember Master 4 was 10lb 1oz!). Bub would invariably be around 2-3 weeks late and then be induced. This left me with approximately 6 weeks paid maternity leave left. Conveniently 6 weeks is the minimum age for most day care facilities.
Most of my friends were incredulous that I made it work but they were also often my biggest supporters. Most of my family were in similar situations, so it was just par for the course for them, and they did what they could.
Nay, the biggest dramas I had were from people who for their own perfectly valid reasons, had decided to be stay at home mums, both older, younger and my age. In fact, most of the people who passed judgement upon me were casual acquaintances or friends twice removed. (you know, those people who you only associate with because of a mutual friend or relation or whatever).
What am I talking about? I talking about critical judgement. The unhelpful, hurtful kind, that sounds the opening shots in The Parenting Games and sows doubt, insecurity and anxiety.
At no time did these people actually have a conversation with me about my choices, about why we as a family were doing as we were doing. There could have been an exchange of ideas, swapping of support, evolution of ideas.
No, there was just casual observation, judgements passed and unwanted opinions expressed. Some were hurtful, some infuriating, some caused me to feel insecure or ‘less than.’
Devon Corneal says it well here:
You see, this is part of the parenting marathon that I talk about – parenting in all its glorious diversity.
A bit like The Hunger Games, but with more gory details!
As for our work/life balance – well, it is like being on a see saw or a swing. That pendulum will swing through a full arc – at times well towards WORK/ life and then through to LIFE/work. And most of the time it is swinging somewhere in the middle.
But I reckon that is the case for everyone, not just working parents. I don’t think stay at home parents have it all worked out either, because I don’t think ANY parent has it all worked out!
As with most things in my life, I am more than happy to have a conversation about my choices.
1.The informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.
2.An instance of this.
talk – discourse – colloquy – dialogue – interlocution
The first question I would ask though is why my hubby has never been asked how he balances his 2 jobs with being a dad or a hubby, both of which he is excellent at.
Now, the tables have turned – we both still work full-time, Hubby still has that second job.
We are together, all 4 of us and we are 1000km from all those supports that we had. There is slightly less on one of our plates, and in ways, there is more on another plate, and we are making it work. Life is simpler in some ways, but harder in others.
The biggest thing I note is that the move was the right thing for us. It certainly wouldn’t have been the choice that others would have made. We know that, but in the end you simply make the best choices about parenting, life, dinner that you can, with what you have at the time.
Hubby and I have always believed that if we stand together, nothing will defeat us.
So far, that works well as a parenting motto too!