A last-minute decision has resulted in about 300% more work for the most-at-home parent in our house (me). It was my decision, so it’s not like anyone foisted it on me. But it’s still more work. Not parenting work. Out-of-the-house work. This has led to some changes.
- I go into my office four days a week now instead of, uh, zero, because I didn’t have an office, and was trying to work at home three days a week (though not actually working on anything except blogs).
- The kids, normally in daycare/preschool three days each week anyway, are now also going an extra day.
- Dinners, sometimes prepared hours ahead of time, are now prepared minutes ahead of time, if at all.
- The dishes and grocery shopping are getting done somewhere in between hell and freezing over.
- I’m spending all of my money on crappy salads for lunch.
Going from 60% undedicated time in the work week to 0% undedicated time (the three days the kids were in day care were pretty free-flowing work days, household days….me days….) hasn’t been the shock I feared it would be. It has been, like the transition from non-parent to parent, like the long, slow boil of a frog in water. You don’t notice it as it is happening, but you sure as hell notice it as you are looking back at it. Except if you are the frog, in which case you are dead.
Not my best analogy.
Anyway, the point of all of this preliminary stuff was to get to my discovery, yanked from my brain in the middle of wondering if any of the changes are worth it: Work-life balance is stupid. Who wants it? Perfect balance is entropy. Perfect balance is stasis. Perfect balance is immobility. If someone says they want work-life balance, what they think they are saying is that what they want is to be working just enough to meet some needs, but not so much that they neglect others. But they imply, though they may never intend to, that what they want is to never be faced with a choice again.
Choosing is hard. Finding work-life balance seems like a way to get out of dealing with choices, and if there’s one thing busy parents think they could do with less of, it’s choosing.( A billion dollar advertising industry depends for its survival on that assumption.)
But choosing is a skill, something we get better or worse at with practice. So stop looking for work-life balance. It’s a concept that’s been sold to you, packaged along with spray mops and spray cheese.
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