Leading an unbalanced life

by DaniGirl on October 3, 2011 · 15 comments

in Working and mothering

I was at a seminar recently that discussed the differences between the Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials. One of the key differences between the three generations was what they seek in life: the boomers chased money and status, the GenXers chased balanced, and the Millennials seek meaning and personal fulfillment.

Ah, balance. It’s true. My grown-up life has been a quest to find that elusive life balance. Not just in work/home life, but in time for me versus time for the family. I’ve seen it said before: we’re a generation that grew up being told we can do it all – but we don’t really want to do it all, we just want to do some of it enough that we feel we’re doing most of it. So very post-modern of us.

I’ve been thinking about balance a lot lately. The big irony in my life right now, I think, is that when I dropped my day job down to part-time status at 30 hours per week a couple of years ago, I pretty much nailed the balance thing. Three days at home, four days at work. I felt like a good mom, but I was living a life outside of the house too. Breathing space all around.

And then, because I never can sit still for long, I pulled it all out of whack again with this photography phase I’m in. I’m delighted that it’s been such a success, but I’m exhausted, too. Now instead of one job, I’ve got three: the day job, the blog job, and the photography job. Oops. And all that other stuff moms are supposed to do, too.

The toughest part is that the photography job feels selfish, because at the end of the day it’s optional, and a choice I can make. A couple of years back, working full-time was not an option. Weekends crammed with photo sessions and editing? That’s an option, something I’m doing for love as much as – hell, even more so than — money.

So what’s the problem? The guilt. Oh, the guilt. And it’s back with a vengeance, because now I’m *choosing* to spend time on the computer, or in front of my camera, instead of doing a lot of other often meaningless but ultimately necessary domestic minutiae. I mean seriously, what would you rather do? Head out to the countryside with a couple of cute kids and chase ’em around for a couple of hours — or clean the toilet?

I know it’s a busy season for photographers, but right now, I feel like I’m spending way too much time with the computer balanced precariously on my lap, my attention span wavering between the image opened in Photoshop in front of me, the domestic battles raging around me about whose turn it is to watch what on TV, and a boy’s earnest but dreadfully boring recount of what’s just happened on Club Penguin, all while pointedly ignoring the crumbs from yesterday’s dinner that never got swept off the counter.

I’m not complaining here, make no mistake. I am so proud of what’s become of the photography business, to say nothing of my mad photography skillz over the last little while. But yeesh, talk about being the architect of your own demise.

Those of you who know me best are probably not even surprised by this turn of events. I mean, there’s nobody to blame here but me and my infernal inability to sit still.

So this whole balance thing must be a bit of a myth, right? Is it working for you?

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Josée October 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Myth, myth, myth! I’ve been going through somewhat the same thing regarding work-life balance. When I started to feel that life was just one big chore, I knew I had to make some changes. I’ve been practicing saying no to others but more importantly, to myself! I love trying new and different things and whenever I hear about an opportunity to try something new, I find myself thinking, “Hey, that would be fun!” Then I commit to it, and instead of taking care of the basics I’ve gotten myself wrapped up in yet another project that I don’t have time for. No more. I’ve been saying no for about three weeks now, and I’m only now starting to feel like some of the pressure is off. I need to keep it up!

2 alison October 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I’ll go one step further, lie, lie, lie! It is impossible to do it all, no matter what your choices as a parent surrounding work and home, or work at home, or stay at home, or any combination you can come up with, something has got to give and it’s a constant juggling act to determine what it is going to be any given day.

3 Don (@foodieprints) October 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I know not of this “balance” thing people talk about…I lead a rather unbalanced life.

What I do know about is respect for mothers, mothers who have careers, mothers who work hard in the community, mothers who chase their dreams…

Much respect!

4 Paula October 3, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Um yeah….the balance thing is really hard to attain, for anyone. Something is always giving way for something/someone else and anyone who is seeking the perfect balance only learns that if they find it, it’s only temporary before the scales swing to one side or the other. I suppose the main thing is that everyone feels secure and loved, not some of the time but all of the time.

5 Holly October 3, 2011 at 5:44 pm

I never believe anybody who tells me that they have achieved complete balance. I just fly through the best that I can…oh…and we have “outsourced” the house cleaning. BEST $$ ever spent. We can’t afford every week…but I can survive the chaos knowing that it will be cleaned soon- ish!

6 Allison from 2momstobe.blogspot.com October 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm

I was going to suggest something Holly just brought up –could you use some of your photography profits to hire someone to help with house cleaning every month or a couple times a month? We’ve decided to have someone come once a month and even though it’s a bit of a splurge, we’ve decided it’s worth it for us.

7 Marianne October 4, 2011 at 10:41 am

I quit my job so that I coudl acheive a better balance. (Ok, really I’m taking an extended leave for about 4 or 5 years, but quitting sounds so much more dramatic). I couldn’t handle work and daycare and home chores and lookinga fter my daughter … and when our second daughter was on the way last year I knew there was no way I’d be able to hadnle going back to work after mat leave with TWO kids in daycare (and moving to part time wasn’t really possible). So I threw in the towel, and things felt really great. My second daughter is now nearing ehr first birthday though, and I realise the pendulum has swung a littel too far. I had already given up all my volunteer jobs, hobbies, etc in order to balance out home and work life and now I’m finding I have no life outside of my kids. I don’t need to have a perfectly balanced life, but I do need to have something that’s for me and not just my kids and husband. I did Aquafit all summer, I’ve started a fledgling blog, and I’m looking at getting season tickets to local theatre with one of my girlfriends so I have soem nights out, And I’m hoping that Santa Claus will bring the gift of bi-weekly house cleaning this year.

8 andrea from the fishbowl October 4, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Whoever invented the term “life balance” deserves a kick in the cajones. I don’t think it really exists, BUT, I do think we can be architects of our own lives to a certain degree. It starts by saying no to the extra things that suck up your time faster than a Dyson on crack. This is why I dropped out of the photography biz. I just couldn’t keep up with it all, and some of things that I truly truly care about (i.e. my kids) were being left behind. Nevermind the toilets, it’s my kids I care about most of all. They’re growing up so fast…

9 CoCo October 4, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I am with Holly…outsource the cleaning !

10 DaniGirl October 4, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Don, you made me smile – thank you! :)))

To all of you who suggested a cleaning service, I love the way you think! Unfortunately, that was one of the deals we made when I dropped my hours — the whole idea was that I’d take the salary cut, but have more time for that kind of domestic stuff. If I were working 40 hours, I don’t think it would be an option, I think it would be a necessity!

Andrea, I hear ya! Doesn’t it seem time speeds up a little more each year? Yikes!

11 Amy October 4, 2011 at 10:16 pm

I just got stressed reading this post. You obviously love all the things you are doing and that in itself will make the feeling of unbalance worth it. Like Andrea, I had a side business but let it go. When I’m not at work, I just want to be with my kids. They are growing up so quickly, and I want to savour as much as I can. I am lucky to have a few of my own “things” outside of family and work (a great group of girlfriends and a thrice weekly running habit, which is my sanity saver). I’ve also learned to say no to social engagements and requests that just don’t work for the family schedule. Oh, and I said yes to hiring a housekeeper!

12 Amber October 5, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Balance is a total myth – especially if you’re looking for your whole life to be balanced RIGHT NOW. I think in the long term, though, things have a way of working out. Sort of. Maybe.

At least, I hope so.

13 Laura Wright (The ODD Mom) October 6, 2011 at 8:16 am

Oh, you’re speaking my language! Between working part-time from home, blogging, mommy-ing, wife-ing, I have no balance. Guilt of my own making follows me with every step. “Why am I taking pictures instead of playing with kids/cleaning counter?” “Why am I playing with kids instead of working on that project due tomorrow/making supper?” It’s never ending.

14 Brie October 7, 2011 at 8:45 am

I am convinced that balance is impossible. It’s a lie. I am trying to be realistic about what I can do and limit my priorites. I can juggle my priorities day to day. I have to be ok with everything else falling away.

15 Amy @ Muddy Boots Photo October 11, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Reading my mind again, are you Dani??

I’m definitely feeling frazzled lately… three photo sessions in five days, homeschooling, the mountain of boxes still waiting to be unpacked, and, oh yeah, my three month old are all pulling me in so many directions. I don’t have enough hours in the day!

(oh… and there’s Pinterest… *grin*)

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