Attaining Work/Life balance is as elusive as the mythical Fountain of Youth. It’s more of an ebb-and-flow-type deal where you bounce back and forth from a storm of work overload to the aimless doldrums of domestic boredom. It’s the extremes of yin and yang with no Zen-like middle ground—well, for me anyway. I know there are those of you who seem to processes an unholy mastery over these circumstances, but in my eyes, that just makes you the spawn Franklin Covey and Satan.
This is a big struggle for me at the moment. Up until a few months ago, I had the freedom to balance freelance work, family duties, and personal interests. Things got a little wacky here and there, but all in all it evened out. I could knock out a few assignments, put the dishes away, help the girls with their homework, and even fit in some recreational reading. Now, however, I eat all my meals in office, I have no idea what the kids’ grades are, and I’ve nearly gone into septic shock on three occasions because I didn’t want to waste time running to take a leak.
The catalyst for all this craziness comes from having a regular job combined with the circumstances of still being the at home parent. Everyone thinks that working from home would be so great. Yeah, it is, sometimes, but it’s not the cushy life some envision. In many ways, in fact, working full-time from home is harder in many way. It’s always staring you in the face, and it requires added discipline to both get started and to stop yourself. Easier said than done.
With respect to my stay-at-home dad duties, it’s more of a title now than it is a function. I’m like the Vice President, showing up to all the necessary events and occasionally breaking a tie on family votes concerning pizza topping selections, but beyond that, I’m essentially useless in all the day-to-day parenting matters.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about having a job, far from it. What I’m referring to is how odd it feels for work to so dominate all the other aspects of my life, especially parenting where the majority of my focus used to reside. Add to this the element of still being at home, and it’s almost as if I am being escorted by one of Scrooge’s ghosts—I’m witnessing everything that going on, but from a vantage point of on the outside, looking in.
I miss being the reading parent at school, and taking kids to the doctor in the middle of the day, and checking their homework. All of this now rests on their mother’s shoulders. To me, this seems unfair. That the kids’ daily needs are more of my wife’s responsibility makes it feel as if the gender role default setting has been flipped back on. The other side of this, though, is that my wife’s job affords her the flexibility to take this on which makes up for the previous years when she was the parent who felt detached from the family.
I guess that’s it. Things change. And just when you get comfortable with everything, along comes the sadistic persona of life’s multiple personalities to knock it all about. This has happened over and over for me, as I’m sure it has for everyone. But eventually we adjust as the upheaval subsides, and along the way we rediscover our priorities. Right now, I’m just rediscovering my priorities.
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Ron Mattocks is a father of five (3 sons, 2 stepdaughters) and author of the book, Sugar Milk: What One Dad Drinks When He Can’t Afford Vodka. He blogs at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox, and lives in Houston with his wife, Ashley, who eternally mocks his fervor for Coldplay.
Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos (SalvatorVuono)