I vowed that 2016 would be my year of balance, and I’ve made some leaps and bounds in some areas and baby steps in others. I’ve stuck to my plans and my determination to make small achievable changes has definitely helped to find some balance in my life. There’s just one area that I can’t seem to figure out- work.
I refuse to enter a working mum/SAHM debate. I’m a working mum and that’s what I know, I have to work outside of the home as well as in the home. I fantasise about being a SAHM, not because I think it’s easy but because it would eliminate one aspect of my life that takes up so much of my time and the two together cause me to spread myself very thin across too many areas. The load is heavy and the guilt of stretching myself and struggling to fit it all in weighs greatly on me. Having one less thing to do is very appealing, especially when it’s a big part of what I do with my time.
So in seeking balance and less chaos in my life the answer could be staring me in the face- quit work, right? Wrong. For a start we’d be homeless and I suspect that will just cause some more chaos. We’ve come to depend on two incomes and I don’t mean in the “let’s go on an overseas holiday every year” way, I mean in the “let’s eat and have electricity” way. We don’t have an extravagant life by any means. We pay all of our bills and we’re able to sneak away in our 1984 caravan a couple of times a year. Basically, financially it helps that I work.
Another reason I can’t simply quit working is because I’ve worked bloody hard at my career. I studied extremely hard to live my dream of becoming a teacher. I received great results despite my mum being diagnosed with breast cancer during my final year of high school, and I made it to University without relying on compassionate assistance. I worked my way through University and have been doing what I love (sometimes), ever since. Teaching is an extremely tough gig, another debate that I wont enter into. I know we have holidays, I’ve heard all the criticisms. But I think it’s far more challenging and complex than most non teachers realise. And I’m right.
I have a career, it’s my career and it’s a really big part of me. It’s really not as easy as throwing it all away, although I’ve thought of this a lot, I know I’d miss it if I were to give it up.
Taking some time out is not ideal in this career choice either. As with any job that uses any form of technology, a year or two out means everything will change. After each of my periods of maternity leave I was left feeling like I’d been teleported to 2050. Changes happen thick and fast, a year out is too hard to catch up on. Teachers need to keep up to date, there’s no getting out of it anymore. So a years sabbatical is not an option either.
I like going to work. Sometimes. I like talking to other adults, having a laugh and meeting people who become a part of my daily life. I like going for a kid-free coffee. I love my work in the classroom, the face to face stuff with the children and watching them learn and grow.
I HATE getting to work. No matter how prepared I am our mornings are hectic and chaotic. I have to get three children out the door by 7:30am, they usually don’t want to go to school/don’t want to get dressed/don’t want to eat breakfast/don’t want their brother to look at them and the morning seems to spiral out of control pretty quickly. There are times that I feel I’ve done a full day’s work by the time I get there and on those mornings I’ve usually lost my cool with my own children before I get to work and then paint a smile on and be lovely and present to the children in my class. That’s usually when the guilt kicks in for the first time that day. I hate that on many occasions the students in my class get a much calmer, kinder version of me than the most important people in my life.
I equally hate the nights I spend working- marking, preparing or searching for the best resources. I hate the Sunday afternoon preparation for the week ahead- planning and organising a never ending list of resources and lessons for the wide needs of my students. It’s become a tradition in this house that my husband takes our boys off to the beach or for a walk for a few hours so that I can get organised. They’d prefer it if I joined them, but sadly they’ve seen how I can be when I don’t feel prepared and it’s a sacrifice I’ve unintentionally asked them to make.
Most of all I just hate the guilt. That feeling that I’m not the best version of me across all aspects of my life. The feeling that I’m failing and letting everyone down. It’s a frustrating form of guilt, I think I do have realistic expectations yet I’m so busy and life is so chaotic that I can’t achieve the balance that seems so attainable.
If you’re reading this to see what the answer is, stop now! I have no idea. This is absolutely a work in progress. I am being kinder to myself, but this is a real struggle for me. I suffer terribly from believing the grass is always greener, so a shift in focus to gratitude has helped immensely. Learning to be grateful for what I have now in this very moment has helped me to slow down. It’s what I’ve needed for a long time. Again, this is a work in progress and I’m just starting this journey.
Some weeks seem easier than others. Occasionally my husband can be here in the mornings and those mornings are better. The only strategy I’ve found that has helped is being more mindful of how I handle that morning train wreck that is trying to get out the door. I hate the thought of my boys sitting in their classrooms feeling sad about the way I’ve spoken to them that morning in a fit of rage.
So although I haven’t reached an amazing work/life balance, I’d have to say I’m really happy with how things are going, at least I’ve started the journey that my heart has been begging me to take. I’ve been determined not to allow myself to get snowed under this year. This year has been quite nasty to me, I’ve copped a few blows to the face from 2016. But that’s what life is. I’ve always had a deep understanding that life is a series of ups and downs, the goal is not to have a worry free life, the goal is to navigate your way through those challenges as best you can.
I can honestly say I haven’t navigated through all of my 2016 challenges beautifully, but I did allow each of them to just unfold which is a foreign experience for this seasoned control freak. I’ve really stopped fighting so much. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get the work/life balance right. But at least I know that it’s worth aiming for. And exhale…