For the past several weeks I’ve been on a mission to “rebalance” as we say and add significantly more writing and paid work to my life, while remaining the primary care-giver in our household. Not surprisingly, I’ve found this a challenge and I’ve got a few things to say. Ready? Here we go:
I take issue with the idea, supported by a surprising number of people, that it’s possible to work and take care of small children simultaneously. My guess is that the people who say this have either a) never worked or b) never taken care of a small child. Yes, you can try to work while your children wail and do everything in their power to get your attention (Calvin finds that biting the inside of my thigh is particularly effective) but I challenge you to do anything worthwhile-- writing, for example-- under such conditions. Distracted does not begin to describe it.
And still some will argue that children can be taught to sit contentedly, reading or teaching themselves multiplication tables while the parent works. To be fair, these people are often the mothers of newborns so they have, technically, taken care of a small child. One who sleeps 90% of the day and can’t rise to a sitting position much less climb to the top of a bookcase. I find that these women tend to have a tenacious grip on their notions of work-life balance. They are like kayakers paddling down a placid river, afraid that the great roaring they hear around the bend might be a bit more of a drop than they expected.
It’s Niagra Falls, but don’t try to tell them that.
Soon, they too will understand why recordings of crying babies have been used as an interrogation tactic on political prisoners. There is a part of our brain whose biological function is to react to the sound of an unhappy child. Numbing that part of your psyche is possible but it comes at a price. As far as your state of mind, the overall quality of your thoughts, you are like a person who is trying to speak after receiving a shot of novocaine. You may be intelligible, but the drool and rubbery flapping of your lips will detract from your air of professionalism.
Which is all to say, I have come to the decision that we’re going to put both kids in part-time care, while I build up more work and that this is a good thing for them and for me. It ain’t cheap. But neither is the alternative, if you think about it in terms of the hourly cost of psychotherapy. I love love love LOVE my children and am prepared to lie down in front of enemy tanks or fist-fight with grizzly bears to protect them-- not to get histrionic on you-- but I have faith that this is the best plan for us all. I want them to have the best of me, when I'm with them and I can't stretch that kind of single focus over the whole week without getting a bit brittle.
Check back with me in a few weeks and I'll report on how UNBELIEVABLY successful I am at transforming the balance of work and mothering! Or whatever.