One way in which I am exactly the same as the majority of the world is that I find it hard to get out the door in the morning.
I don't want to get up as early as I really should to give us all enough time to get ready. Once I do get up, time seems to just slip away, and suddenly I should have left five minutes ago but I'm still shoveling cereal in my mouth and haven't brushed my hair. Maddie and Riley have been particularly loathe to see me go lately, so there are always a thousand requests for things they just remembered or want me to see or one last snuggle or such and such and such.
I've adjusted my attitude about the whole thing quite a bit. I'm working on getting up the fifteen minutes earlier that will really make a difference. I'm done telling everyone to hurry; it doesn't help and it just creates anxiety. I'm glad that I'm the only one who has to get out the door for now; the kids don't start their half-day preschool until 12:15, so they don't need to be dressed and shiny until I'm gone. So generally, while hectic, mornings are better than they used to be.
Today, though, was one of those mornings when things just didn't go well. I got up later than I should have, then I spent the morning managing cranky Riley's reaction to the indignity of being served cereal and fresh mango. It is so utterly exhausting to remain calm and rational in the face of a reaction more suited to the end of the world than to seeing a box of Cheerios on the table. Yeesh.
Which brings me to what this post is really about, which is working, and kids, and this strange secret life Maddie and Riley have for the majority of their waking hours.
When Maddie and Riley were babies, and I toted them off to daycare, I can honestly say that I never felt a twinge of regret. They were boundlessly loved at daycare, they thrived in that setting, and they enjoying attending. I enjoyed working, well, I mean, most of the time. Who wouldn't rather be independently wealthy and be able to structure one's time the way one wants and have help where help is needed and such? But given the constraints of reality, working was a good choice for me and our family, and daycare more than fit the bill.
Now the kids are getting older and things are getting more complicated on all levels. The first level is logistics. School schedules and traditional work schedules don't match up all that well. Like at all. Z, the wonder au pair!, has been a perfect solution for now. Over the long haul, I'm not sure the situation is financially feasible, but for now, we're good. An easy future option is the before school and after school care provided at M&R's school, but then there are summers, and it's all just very complicated. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Then there is the logistical subset of activities. OMG, the activities! I tend to err on the side of low involvement in the kid activities. I'd like for M&R to learn piano and/or another instrument, and if they want to do a sport, I think that's peachy. But how? How will this work? I get off work at 5 p.m.! How am I going to get them to lessons and practices? I don't understand how this works for those of us who work a traditional 9 to 5 job!
So the logistics overwhelm me on one level, but other people have figured it out and so will I and there's always more coffee and maybe I could flex my time (ha ha ha! Anyone who works where I work just about keeled over they are laughing so hard at how well that idea would go over.) But whatever, we'll figure out the logistics.
Here's the harder thing. It's now, now that Maddie and Riley are older and have become these small people who say the most amazing things and have the zaniest thoughts and are developing independent interests and friends and such, now is when I want to be home with them. I want to volunteer in their classroom. I want to take them to their activities. I want to be at all the games and the performances. I want to go on field trips. Their lives are in many ways a mystery to me. Z tells me about what they do during the day, and so do Maddie and Riley, but they are four, and their narration is incomplete and hearing about it is a poor substitute for being a part of it.
This feeling is, of course, not unique. It's just taken me a lot longer to get there than it takes some people. I'm feeling downtrodden by the fact that during the week, my life with Maddie and Riley is nothing but logistics. From when we get up until I head out the door, is a mix of brushing teeth and making breakfast and eating breakfast and finding clothes, and who knows what all, but it's only 1.5 hours and little of it is fun time. From when I get home at 5:30 until bedtime at 7:30, it's once again a lot of logistics: there is dinner to eat, there might be a bath to take, there are pajamas to put on and teeth to brush and stories to read. On a good night, we get twenty minutes or so to play. Bedtime is not really negotiable since both kids are usually asking to go to bed by 7. But I hate that I have to say no more than yes when Maddie asks me if we can play dollies, or when Riley asks if we can do a puzzle. We're often counting the days until we can do something fun together, and even then, on the weekend, we still have to deal with a fair amount of Stuff That Keeps Life Moving.
I want more time for us to enjoy each other and for me to be engaged in their lives. I don't know how to reconcile that with working, and the fact that I enjoy my job as well. Plus we need health insurance and we need to pay our bills. Even if we went Drastic and I quit my job and we scaled WAY back: sold the car, rented a much smaller house, set limits on food and entertainment spending, I'm not sure we could do it. And even if we could, that seems like too much of a swing in the other direction. Where's the balance?
Or is "balance" just a word that means an unattainable goal of having it all? Because we can't do that, have it all. Lately, though, it just feels like I'm missing the most important part.