Thursday, July 24, 2008

Getting in the way of my own juggle

I was working on a post for The 36-Hour Day the other night when my husband, who was playing "Rock Band" with the big kids in the room behind me, handed me the microphone and asked me to join the band. "Oh, are you working?" he asked, noticing that my hands were poised over my laptop. In an instant, I knew two things for sure: a.) that I was going to choose "Rock Band" over writing for the moment and b.) I had no one to blame for missing deadline but myself.

After I finished my (stellar, off-key) solo, helping our band Killasaurus Something-or-other earn about $20 and 230 new fans, I scrapped my original post and wrote this:

I've just finished twisting our 12-year-old's curls into about eleventy-billion tiny, two-strand twists, and my hands are still slick with conditioner. The little two are tucked in bed, stuffed animals clutched in their sweaty little hands. The other big kids are playing "Rock Band" with my husband, just a couple of feet away from me in the family room. It's past bedtime, and bits of conversation (like "We should be concentrating our efforts on Killasaurus," and "Daddy! We should play San Francisco now!" and "That's such a sweet song and then they hit you with the 'f' word...") grasp the edges of my concentration as I try to write.

I could -- should, really -- go to another room so I can get my work done. I mean, the work has to get done. But I'm loathe to leave. Even when my husband hands me the mic and asks me to sing "Maps" -- an obvious sign that I'm not going to get much done if I'm also expected to sing lead -- I don't go.

Sometimes, the thing that really gets in the way when I'm trying to juggle work and family is myself.

Kids grow up so fast -- too fast, really. I creep into my kids' rooms late at night and wonder how that little kid turned into a 5-foot-8-inch 14-year-old overnight. My toddler strung four words together into a sentence earlier today, which boggled my mind because, really, wasn't he just born? I don't want to miss any of it. I miss enough of it as it is, some days.

So I compromise. If I finish two articles tonight, I can leave my computer off on Saturday and go horseback riding with the big kids. If I delay deadline for another hour, I can give the little kids their baths instead of asking my husband to help. I can take the long bubble bath I've been longing for, but only if I bring that book I'm supposed to be reviewing with me into the tub.

The compromising continues at the office, I'll admit. If I work through lunch, I can leave early enough to beat rush hour and be home in time for dinner. If I
stay focused and knock every item off the to-do list, I can slack a little tomorrow. If I bring some work home with me, we'll beat deadline and everyone will be happy.

So, I really should decline the invitation to perform, carry my laptop into, say, the dining room, and start typing. But I don't. I take the microphone and sing. Off-key, of course. I'll stay up late and get my assignments done, but for now, at least, I'm with the band.

What gets in the way of your work-life juggle?

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