When you’re a parent, life’s not a stage. It’s a circus ring.
You have to learn to balance responsibilities, juggle all sorts of ridiculous things, keep the plates spinning, while all the while having to put up with your fair share of clowns.
This analogy seems particularly pertinent as I consider trying to return to paid work.
Just how should I keep my work life balance in check? How do people juggle the back-to-work ball, without dropping the mother or wife or friend or daughter or sister one? How can I keep the infinite number of plates-of-domesticity spinning, while adding the massive platter of a successful career?
How will I put up with those clowns at work who think mothers don’t mean business? How will I face the clowns outside of work who laugh at me for daring to have a bit of it all?
I was chatting to a friend about this very conundrum. “How did you enjoy the half term?”, I asked. Her face fell as she recounted the full week at work and the drop offs at holiday club for her little girl. Her little girl who, I might add, is happy, well-adjusted, loved and loving.
To try and make her feel better, I recounted this conversation I had with one of mine:
“Mummy, where’s Daddy?”
“At work sweety. Hey, did you know [as I realised he probably did not know] that Mummy used to go to work too?.”
“When you were a man Mummy?”
It got me wondering, if we had all the time and money in the world, what would be the ‘best’ way to juggle all life throws at us?
I read a few books, which pretty much said this. The advice was contradictory, unhelpful, made me feel a bit crap about myself and was often ill-considered. So I looked around at my friends and family. This is what I saw:
- Professional couples both working long hours, with children in breakfast clubs and after school clubs from 8am until 6pm.
- Couples with one in paid work and one at home, using toddler groups and friends and libraries in their quest to keep sane.
- Separated couples fitting in paid work and childcare around access rotas and exhaustion.
- Individuals on benefits searching for work while family helped with the kids.
- Women my age starting second families, having had their eldest while they were still teenagers, changing jobs numerous times along the way in order to ensure paid work and family work didn’t clash too much.
- And so on and so on and so on.
All these parents are juggling and balancing and keeping those plates spinning and trying to just laugh at the clowns, rather than take them too seriously.
Most importantly, all seem to have happy, well-adjusted, loved and loving children.
Is there a ‘best’ way to strike the right balance? Is there a ‘perfect’ number of plates to keep spinning? Is there an ‘ideal’ way to juggle all of lives responsibilities?
Who knows. And who cares!
Not the kids, that’s for sure. You’ve given them front row seats at the god damn circus.
Roll up, roll up and tell me: what, for a child, could be better than that?