Talking ‘Bout My Generation

December 4th, 2008

How (Not?) to Balance Work and Home

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had recently with friends where we’re all saying, basically, “I can’t go on like this anymore.  But I can’t stop, either.”  We’re all stressed out, overwhelmed, too busy to make good choices, too scared to slow down. 

We’re an ambitious generation of women.  We want to make a name for ourselves, have a career, generate income for ourselves and our families.  

But we also want to have TIME for our families–we’re all crazy in love with our kids and want to do what’s right for them and by them, not go about this mothering job in a half-assed, worn-out, “it’s good enough” kind of way.  

We want to come home to a safe refuge, a house that’s clean and neat and pretty and elegant and modern and not falling apart.  But we don’t want to have to stay home all day, making calls and waiting for the plumber, the carpenter, the painter, the decorator, the delivery man  to show up.    And who has time to look for the perfect light fixture?   And yet there are always women who have the perfect light fixture.

We want to sit down with our entire family to a healthful dinner that we eat off of real plates, and we want the kitchen to be clean before we go to bed.  But we also want to go to our kids’ late afternoon ball games and finish the work that’s under deadline and spend a few minutes alone with our spouses and maybe even watch a TV show or read a chapter of a book before we drop dead asleep.  And these things don’t add up.  You can’t do them all.  Then we feel like failures because we can’t.

We want to actually sleep through the night and not worry about what we have or haven’t gotten done that day or what we will or won’t get done the next day.  Because the to-do list never gets shorter but without any sleep it gets harder.

We want people to look at each of us and say, “How does she do it?  She has a career, wonderful children, a happy marriage, a beautiful home . . .” but the reality is that we don’t feel we’re anywhere near achieving that and make ourselves miserable with the assumption that other people are pulling it off and we’re the only ones who aren’t

We attack ourselves for whatever it is we’re certain we’re not doing as well as other women we know–for me, it’s the house.   I marvel at everyone else’s house, how clean it is, how beautiful, how serene, how neat.   How do they all do it?  Even if I momentarily break through the chaos to some semblance of order, it’s gone again in a matter of days, sometimes hours.  I could spend my days cleaning and arranging, fixing and decorating–but how could I possibly do that AND have a career?

I want my house to be like everyone else’s. 

We feel the burden of needing to be the kind of mother and housewife our mothers were but also wanting to have the kinds of careers our fathers had.  We have to be all things to all people and mostly we have to be a success in our own eyes. 

So we race around, going from meeting to school conference to supermarket to office to basketball game to the stove to lectures to one thing after another after another until we’re so worn out we’re not even sure we’re us anymore or what happiness is or what the prize is that we’re working so hard to get.

I think I’m speaking for most of us.  Maybe not.  Maybe I’m the only one who feels I have to do it all (except for the house, got to remember the house, got to feel the shame of always letting that one thing slide).  I–

Never mind.  The kids are home from school. Got to go.