Thursday, December 05, 2013

Ch-Ch-Ch-Choices

I haven’t blogged in three months. I haven’t thought about it much, but when I have, I’ve considered closing up shop for real and for good, packing up my writing and shutting down the whole operation. What has stopped me is the feeling that this would be an overreaction because really, there’s no one waiting around to read my Next Great Post, so why bother making it a thing?

I dunno. Anyway...

The past several months have been filled with choices—decisions primarily regarding work/life balance and whether or not to pursue some part-time work opportunities. After much internal struggle, in August I decided that I would continue to work full time. But with that decision, I knew I had to prioritize my hobbies, including this blog, in order to function better as a human person--especially as a human person with another little human person counting on her.

It’s been a process to say the least.

So, after making the BIG choice of continuing to work full time, I made some other choices. And to be real, I did not give up important things; these choices are hardly sacrifices in the 'grand scheme' and whatnot. But they needed to be made for personal reasons, professional reasons, financial reasons, and mental health reasons. I prioritized, cleaned house, and made compromises about time, money, the things I would hold myself accountable for, and the things I would let go of, in an attempt  simplify my life and my family's life and focus on some of my more basic needs that had been neglected for, oh, let's say 16 months, five days and roughly four hours.

So I let some things go, like...

Teaching Zumba. This was a goal of mine for a long time for, like, ever, and I finally did it in 2011. After you get certified to teach Zumba, you pay a small fee each month that allows you to remain certified indefinitely. The fee is arguably worth it even if you’re only teaching a class or two a week, if you enjoy it. And I did… for awhile. It was a hobby, but toward the end of my pregnancy/Zumba teaching career, I was feeling the pressure of not having enough time to devote to learning new choreography. I knew that would weigh on me more as a new mom--and would be damn near impossible to manage as a mom working 9-to-5. Even though I hemmed and hawed about whether or not I’d give it another shot post-baby (a few job opportunities even came my way, which shocked no one more than me), I finally decided it was time to cancel my certification. Being a Zumba instructor--really, being any kind of fitness instructor--is not in the cards right now.

The idea that I could be a full-time working/part-time stay-at-home mom. This was my version of having it all--making close to full-time work money while still being able to take advantage of the perks of being home with Emme one or two days a week. In my head--for reasons too complicated to go into here--this seemed like a totally reasonable option, but unfortunately, it didn’t work that way. I belong to a mom’s group, a large one that’s very active in the western suburbs of Chicago, and I would almost daily see events pop up--playdates, park outings, the zoo, music classes--all during the workweek of course, that constantly made me second guess my choice and resent my situation. I had to stop. I had to let it go. And eventually I did.

The idea that I would take what little work flexibility I do have and use it solely to spend time with my kid. Is that, like, ‘way harsh Tai?’ Maybe, but maybe not. I work from home on Fridays and have an unofficial agreement with my boss that these work hours can be made up in a flexible way and do not necessarily all have to happen on Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. My intention with this gift of time was to pick up Emme at daycare right after her noon nap and use the afternoon to schedule a playdate with with my mom friends and their babes or head to the park or just hang out at home. But, this arrangement never panned out quite as perfectly as I imagined it would. What does work is if I take that day for myself and multitask like a literal and figurative mother. I send emails and work on projects while washing clothes, folding piles of laundry, and picking up the house. Sometimes I throw in trips to the grocery store or dry cleaner, dentist and doctor appointments, and about a week ago, I hung up new blinds in our bedroom (all by myself thank you very much). If I can manage it, I go to the gym. So while it may seem harsh, having this day at home (and I swear I do get work done) allows me to check a lot off of the life to-do list that would otherwise hang heavy over my head and take up precious time on the weekend. So I do it on Friday, by myself.

A jam-packed social calendar. I am someone who typically wants to do everything. When MM and I were a carefree, child-free married couple, it was not unusual to pack our weekends with multiple events. But I am also someone who needs downtime. Packed social schedule + young child does not leave one with much time to recharge, so something had to give and my understanding is that the young child is here to stay. It’s not that I don’t do anything or that Joey and I never go out anymore, but we pick and choose. We prioritize things like being home early and getting a good night’s sleep. I have backed off of some friendships, especially newer friendships, because I do not have the time or energy to devote to them. It’s not ideal, in my opinion. I’d love to strengthen newer friendships in our neighborhood and get more involved in the community, but just because I have the desire doesn’t mean I should spend my time that way. It’s just not that simple anymore. I am hopeful that with time, this will change.

This blog. Writing for myself, in general. Dreaming about something different. OMG, depressing much? I mean, clearly I haven’t truly given it up because you’re reading it right now. But I don’t know where these hobbies/dreams fit anymore. And it’s bigger than this blog. For many years, I felt strongly about getting out of marketing and doing something else. I was generally split on which direction to take my life--become a ‘writer,’ whatever that means, or go back to school for something health/wellness related. Neither seem realistic from where I’m sitting. And the truth is, as far as making money goes, my options have come down to the following: stagnant where I’m at in my career or move forward on the path I am already on. It’s becoming clear that the choice is truly mine to make--options to move forward will be there, if not now, then eventually--and while this isn’t really what I want to be doing five, ten years from now, the time-is-money-is-time/freedom-to-choose-all-of-the-choices clock (did you know that such a clock existed?) seems to have struck midnight. And I am a marketing pumpkin.

Here’s the thing: At some point, you have to stop fighting against the reality of your life and circumstances. You choose your choices and when you are done whining about them and wondering ‘what if,’ you move forward, hopefully as a grown-ass woman. There's something freeing about acceptance. ‘Having it all’ is not a real thing, probably under any circumstances, but especially when you become a parent, and especially especially when you become a mom.

Sorry dads, we've cornered the market on not having it all. Better luck next time.