Here I am, sitting at my computer, relaxed. The daily chaos of juggling kids school schedules, their activities, and writing deadlines has come to a temporary lull. My kids are at summer camp ALL DAY, they have no evening activities, and I have plenty of writing time.
I am breathing a huge sigh of relief. Can you hear it?
Not only does this week mark the beginning of summer, for me, it also marks a transition. All my kids have finished elementary school, my teenager is driving and my kids school hours going forward will allow me to have an uninterrupted work schedule for almost eight straight hours.
Getting here, to this place of work life balance, wasn't easy.
One day, many years ago when my daughter was a toddler, I was in the middle of reporting a story when I got the dreaded call from her pre-school. "Come get your daughter NOW. Her nose is running and it's green." I was horrified about having to tell my boss I had to leave and turning my notes over to another reporter. This was pre-laptop days so finishing from home wasn't an option. A co-worker, whose kids were in college, whispered in my ear: "It get's easier."
When? When will it get easier? I wondered.
Three kids and 16 years later, it has finally gotten easier.
Make no mistake, raising tweens and teens is challenging in its own way. But my kids no longer need that intense supervision that younger children need on a daily basis. Even more, having a teen that drives takes some of the shuttling responsibilities off my plate.
I'm a different mother today than I was when I started the work and family balancing act. I’m calmer. I’m humbler. I'm wiser. I have stopped assuming there is a "right" way to parent and started trusting my own instincts and laughing at my mistakes. When chaos erupts at home, mid-deadline, I know that eventually calm will resume. I know now, too, that if I feel overwhelmed by my workload or home responsibilities, it’s illogical to assume that I will always feel as awful as I do in the moment.
All of this insight was gained by slowly and painfully, by doing the juggling act over a period of years and staying strong throughout the melt-downs. I was spurred on by a desire to find joy in the balance of a day instead of defeat in what I haven't accomplished. Now, I'm the co-worker whispering into the ears of sleep-deprived new mothers and fretful young fathers.
"It will get easier," I tell them. But it will never get easy.