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When Priorities Shift

[caption id="attachment_4232" align="aligncenter" width="620"]My son with his grandmother (left) and his great grandmother (right), who lives at home with us My son with his grandmother (left) and his great grandmother (right), who lives at home with us[/caption] Balancing work and family is the top challenge working moms (54 percent) face in 2013, and only 14 percent think they are good at both being a mom and a good employee, reveals a new survey released this week by Working Mother magazine and Chase Card Services. As the report says: "Our respondents are...dedicated to finding a semblance of the oft-elusive work/family equilibrium." Elusive, huh?  

Getting Personal

The day I was leaving the hospital with my newborn son I got a phone call on my cell letting me know that I was being laid off. (In response to the question you are now asking yourself: No, there aren’t really legal protections for that in New York.) I had planned on going back to work after a three-month maternity leave, but now I faced a new reality. Ultimately—as with so many unwelcome, unexpected changes in our lives—this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I got the privilege of staying home with my son for a full six months. Presently I have the good fortune of doing what I love work-wise in a new environment, with wonderful people, on a part-time basis. Like the 54 percent of mothers in the survey, balancing work and family is without question my top challenge.  

Juggling Acts

It was the most formidable endeavor when my son was born three-and-a-half years ago. Then I was juggling breastfeeding at home (with a cluster-feeder, no less), pumping at work (with a mail delivery guy who insisted on knocking on my closed door every time I began!), getting up to speed at a new job, and handling the estate and house sale from my mother’s death (a full-time endeavor unto itself). The balancing act of work and home life is still my biggest challenge, but with new circumstances, priorities shift. While stocking my freezer with breast milk is no longer on my list, managing my child’s potty training, his intermittent tantrums (we skipped the so-called “terrible-twos,” but watch out for those control-freak-threes!), and his enduring clinginess has replaced it. For a while I felt like I was on a roll, having finally—finally!—gotten my mother’s affairs in order after her death, and having settled in to my job and creating new challenges for myself there, I thought I might be able to cruise for a while. No go.  

My Newest Reality

Today I got up with the sun (albeit not so sunny myself) with my toddler; dealt with a late nanny; hooked my rehabilitating grandmother onto portable oxygen, helped her into a taxi to go just four blocks, and proceeded from one doctor to another to another; fixed her lunch and meds; scheduled more appointments for her; and answered work emails in between (thank God for mobile). With that under my belt, I can now turn my attention to beginning my own work day. My day begins... But nothing is my own anymore. And that’s not a complaint, really. Just a realization. A statement to affirm for myself that none of the being spread thin is worth stressing over. Definitely not worth resenting. No, I need to remind myself that I should be proud of managing it all, that it’s okay to not do everything perfectly (I neglected to get a tomato on my grandmother’s sandwich, yes, but I picked her up when she fell and made her laugh, right?). Maybe I should amend that last statement. Nothing is my own anymore, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What’s mine is my husband’s (from the joy we share in our son’s personality to the food he picks off my plate). What’s mine is my son’s (from my whole heart to my iPad). What’s mine is my grandmother’s (from the memories we share of my mother to…well, my home). And what’s mine is my job’s (including, right now, a shift in balance where my staff is picking up too much slack while I deal with personal matters and they endure waking up to 20 emails apiece from me, sent between the hours of 11pm and 4am). To all of you who share “what’s mine,” I say: Thank you, thank, you, thank you. And, if you wouldn’t mind giving me five minutes to myself a day, I’d be forever in your debt. (Thank you!) Dinner later, anyone? (I’m cooking.)  

Read On

• As if you needed confirmation that work-life balance is elusive, find the full survey results here (there are lots of other interesting tidbits about getting ahead and financial priorities for working women) • In a PMA-award winning article from NYMetroParents, read how one mother manages work and family, avoids burnout—and how she sometimes "fakes it" just enough  

Tell Me, Please

Who the hell are the 46% of working women who don't think work-life balance is their top challenge (and what, then is it?)—I am truly curious! Tell me in the comments below, or on twitter, #WorkLifeBalance  

Dawn M. Roode


Dawn M. Roode was formerly editorial director of NYMetroParents, where she launched the award-winning semi-annual magazine Special Parent. She was managing editor at Parenting, BabyTalk, Child, Harper's Bazaar, and Latina magazines. She is a strategic content specialist and currently writes and edits parenting, health, travel, and special needs features for various media outlets. Roode is mom to one son and recently relocated from Brooklyn to the suburbs of New York City. Follow her on Twitter @DawnRoode.

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