Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Very Complicated Issue

I have held a job since I was fifteen years old. I enjoy earning money and being able to pay my own way. Now that I have a child and also work full time, I think every day that my job takes up too much time. I am not able to put my full effort into everything, therefore everything that I do is not done well:

I am not a good mother.

I am not a good employee.

I am not a good wife.

I am not a good sister/daughter/friend.

I do okay at most things, I get by, but I haven't the time to do things well. I spend my time getting ready for work, working, and coming home from work. I spend a few hours at night with my daughter and husband, most of which is taken up by making dinner, laundry, cleaning, readying things for the next day. I am not giving them my full attention. I am usually thinking about what needs to be done next.

Sampling of things I've said to my daughter, in order of most to least:

1. Hurry up!
2. Come on, we've got to go.
3. Quickly.
4. No!
5. I love you.
6. Good night.
7. I can't right now, I've got to do (something else)
1,282,611. Let's make cookies!

See what I mean?

I also have the kind of mind that wants to get everything done before I sit down and relax or do something enjoyable. With so much to do and with that type of thinking, guess how often I get to sit down and relax or do something enjoyable?

Want to guess how this makes me feel? Did you say inadequate? That's right: In. Ade. Quate.

Call me Mrs. Wrong Priorities, Lady Regretful, and She Who Works Too Much.

My husband once told me during a previous experience when I was feeling inadequate, that I was a good mother because look how great my daughter is. I wanted to say (but didn't) that she is a wonderful girl because she goes to a good daycare, and that it is in spite of me and not because of me that she is so wonderful, smart and sweet. How can you really influence someone who you only see for a few hours a day, and only really focus on for a few minutes? My daughter inherited my genetics, but she spends her time with energetic young women who do art projects, play games, teach her things, and take her to the park. These people have more influence on my child than I, and they make less than half of what I do per hour.

What does all of this mean??? Maybe nothing for the collective, but for me it means something has got to change.

I feel overwhelmed and frustrated because I don't have a sense of satisfaction that comes from doing something well. I don't have security in knowing that all of this effort expended adds up to something worthy. I am incredibly busy, I wear myself out every day, but I don't feel like I've accomplished anything with all of this activity. None of it is noteworthy or makes a difference where it really matters. I get through the day, and that's about it.

I want to be a good mother, full of energy and ideas and time to focus on my child and do things with her. I want to be a good wife, full of joy and enthusiasm for life and our relationship. I want to be a good employee, arriving to work on time and full of innovative, creative ideas. I want to treat myself well, not full of negative thoughts about myself.

I wonder if the truth is, you can't work full time and have kids and a marriage and do all kinds of interesting things and do all of it well....can you? Are we kidding ourselves about this? I haven't found the right balance. I don't know that there is one. There are only so many hours in the day, but then again maybe I'm using those hours in the wrong way.

I'm not saying daycare is bad, I don't think it is. I think it's wonderful that we have so many choices for quality childcare when we need it. Many people need to work, some people choose to. I understand both of those reasons. It's great that kids are getting such good care, no matter why they are there. I know my daughter has benefitted from the experience. I think where it has been a negative is that she spends too much time there: Eight and a half hours a day, five days a week since she was four months old. This makes me feel incredibly guilty because I don't think it was the right thing to do. I have friends who have set up their lives in a myriad of ways: some work full time, stay home full time, or work part time. I have other friends who've adjusted their work schedules so their kids are in daycare four hours or less per day, and with a parent or grandparent the rest of the time. I don't know that any one of these people would say they have the ideal situation, but they might say they have done what works for them and that they are happy.

I feel that life is nudging me to make different choices. It's going to be hard to do. When I think about my job I know I really like the work (most of the time), and I enjoy my coworkers. My boss is great, the office environment is healthy, unlike many places I've worked before. I like feeling like I contribute something through my work. Also, going somewhere and being an adult is fun and fulfilling. And the satisfaction of earning that paycheck is a great as well. Maybe the answer is, I spend too much time at it.

I've missed my daughter. I've missed her A LOT. While I don't know for sure that I would've been very good at staying home full time with her, I want that opportunity before she goes to Kindergarten. I want to give her my full attention for many hours each day. I want to plan fun things to do with her, to take things slowly with her and not rush her along all the time. She's got the independence thing down, it's time to rebuild some closeness into our relationship before she turns into an insolent teenager who hates me. I want her to have something to like about me, some good experiences to remember for those times she'll get mad at me. Right now, there are so little of those.

1 comment:

snowballinhell said...

Huge stuff, this parental balancing act. There are no easy answers of course, but if I had one I'd certainly offer it.

I've always said that my goal as a parent is to provide my children with high quality fodder for their future therapists.

Just keep loving your kid. I have to believe that's what matters most of all.