Working Girl

7.23.07: Finding the right work/life balance for me


"Mama, what's that?" Julia asks, pointing to the job kiosk at the local Super Stop 'n Shop as our groceries are being bagged.

"That's a computer where people can apply for a job," I say, distracted, signing the credit card receipt.

"I'm going to apply for a job, Mama!" Julia sits down at the keyboard and pecks out "J...U...L...I...A..."

"She's halfway through the job application!" I whisper to Will, motioning my head toward the screen.

As we're wisecracking about our new breadwinner, cackling over our grocery bags, Julia turns to me and says: "Mama, you're the child. You say: "Can we go outside and play?'"

"OK," I oblige, absentmindedly, still laughing: "Can we go outside and play?"

"No. I'm working." Julia states matter-of-factly, turning back to the keyboard and pretending to type in a flurry of keystrokes.

Will and I look both look at each other with a mix of shock and despair, the smiles suddenly wiped from our faces. I pantomime a knife stabbing into my heart.

"Say it again," Julia commands over her shoulder, not looking up from her keyboard.

"Can we go out and play?" I ask, nervously.

"Sorry, I'm not done working," she singsongs over another flurry of keystrokes.

"But when you're all done, we'll be able to play, right?" I suggest, attempting to change the tone of the conversation.

"OK. But, I have to send just one more e-mail."

Making Work Work?

Will and I have both been working a lot lately, there's no doubt about it. And with our laptops and wireless connections constantly at our fingertips, the line between our work lives and home life can get a bit blurry. But, I've been really OK with that. In fact, I love it. I love that I can integrate my life's work with my life. I like how the spheres of our lives are melding together like so many synchronized gears, spinning in tandem, sometimes faster than we'd like, yet still somehow working for us.

But, maybe we've been hovering over our laptops a little too often in the off-hours lately, bouncing Charlie on one knee while we pluck out letters on the keyboard, letting Julia practice her alphabet on an old laptop while we try to squeeze in an extra half hour of work.

But I thought we were doing a fairly good job of keeping a balance in our lives. I love my kids. And I love my work. And, I love when I feel like I have plenty of room in my life for both. I know that I, personally, am a better mother when I get to spend part of my day focusing my mind and my passions on something other than my kids. Still, there are the times when I'm with Julia and Charlie and feel work tugging at my mind, or when I'm working, and feel Julia and Charlie tugging at my heartstrings.

Or, when I get a wake-up call on Aisle 7.

But even on the days when I feel like we're spreading ourselves a little thin, I realize that I wouldn't change a thing. I love that we're leading full, active lives, while devoting ourselves to our family. And I have to believe that there is room in our lives to nurture our kids, and our own interests, for everyone's sake.

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be...

Sometimes I try to envision what Julia and Charlie will choose to do with their lives when they're older. I imagine them as struggling artists, then as high-powered executives, then as musicians, teachers, doctors, circus performers, botanists, phlebotomists, chefs, politicians, actors...I have no clue what will fit for them. I just want them to be able to be themselves, and to be happy in the lives they choose to lead. So far, I can only guess that Charlie's going to be...a milkman? And, Julia is going to be: The Boss.

Wendy has been trying to teach Julia about teamwork lately. And, at first, she's totally game: "Mama, let's make the bed together, like a team!" she'll announce. And then, ten seconds later, "No, Mama! I can do it myself!" When I counter: "Of course you can, Julia, but the whole point of being a team is working together," she responds, "Well, I don't LIKE teamwork."

Maybe Julia will end up being a really independent contractor. When I reached over to hold her hand the other day, she said: "No, Mama, I want to hold hands by myself."

Or, maybe we've got a budding entrepreneur on our hands. She just had the bright idea that we should have a garage sale to sell her Time Out chair.

Lunch With The Boss

The other day, Julia and Charlie and I met our friend Shari for lunch. When Shari had to rush out at the end of the hour to get back to work, Julia turned to me and said:

"Mama, when I grow up, I don't want to go to work."

"You don't, Juje?" I asked. "Why?"

"I just want to stay home and be with you and Daddy and Charlie."

"Well, Juje, you can do whatever you choose to do when you grow up. You know that, right?"

Julia considered it for a while, then announced: "Mama, when I grow up, I want to be Charlie's mama."

I let the words sink in. Then I began packing us up so I could head to work myself, and said: "Juje, I can't think of a better thing to be."

Join's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she chronicles life with a new baby.

Read the next entry: 7.30.07: Separation Anxiety