Can I Have Work/Life Balance Working Full Time?

Article first published as Can I Have Work/Life Balance Working Full Time?on Technorati.

Monday was my official return to Full Time employment since my daughter was born 9 years ago.

Going back to work Full Time has always been in the Plan.

The Plan was that when our youngest was 2 1/2, therefore old enough to start preschool, I would return to work full-time.

Logically this makes sense:

  1. I am an advocate of preschool.  I really believe that kids benefit from the structure, the social skills, listening to authority figures other than their parents, and actively being taught academics.
  2. My husband lost his job in May and we need the money.
  3. A person’s 30’s and 40’s are key years for building a reputation, making connections, and really establishing yourself in your field.  I’m in my prime earning potential and career making years.

Great.  Everything is going according to plan and logically the plan makes sense.

So, why aren’t I jumping up and down with joy about how great everything is working out?  After all, my Myers-Briggs says that I am a logical person (INTJ), right?

There isn’t anything large and definitive that I can point to and say – aha!  That’s why.  Instead, there are little things:

  1. My 2 year old calls for Daddy to come help her on the potty.  This used to be my job, but he’s the one home with her during the day.  Weird, to be upset about not having to wipe a poopy butt, don’t you think?
  2. My kids walk to the bus stop at 8:30.  I have already been out of the house for over an hour by then.  Most days they wake up about 5 minutes before I walk out the door, so I am able to kiss them goodbye and tell them I love them.
  3. I kiss the soft, innocent cheek of my sleeping 2 year old just before I walk out the door.
  4. I don’t recognize who my husband’s talking about when he says “You know.  Tracy? The blond lady that usually sits in the minivan at the bus stop?”  No, actually, I don’t.
  5. I recently told my executive coach that I was planning to start working out regularly once I went Full Time.  I felt I would have more time then.

That sounds backwards doesn’t it?  Work more hours and have more time for me?  How does that work?

I think what it comes down to is that because I am working 5 days a week now, I have to give up control.  Not of everything, but of some things.

When I was working part-time, I struggled to do it all.   Be everything to everyone and not doing a good job at any of it.  You may have heard of it…you know, the “supermom” syndrome.

It is uncomfortable for me to relinquish the authority and control of packing lunch for my son and going to every soccer practice.  But, there is relief in it too.  In just this first week I can see that I don’t have to do everything for things to get done.  Hubby is in fact capable!

He may do things differently than I do and yes, he’s still learning the whole primary caregiver role (such as regular showers and 20 min reading every day), but the sky hasn’t fallen.

I wouldn’t have thought this a few years ago, or even a few months ago – possibly not even a few weeks ago – but me working more hours has been a blessing for our family and my marriage.

My husband is stepping up to the plate and I respect him for the things he is getting accomplished.  I am allowing him to make decisions without my involvement – by necessity – but it is still empowering to him.  My kids are learning to turn to both parents, not just mom, for support and care giving.

Yes, I am nostalgic that my “baby” doesn’t need me as her wooby any more and that Daddy is equally acceptable for cuddling.   Yes, there are details that I miss being a part of during the day.  But overall?  It’s been a surprisingly good decision for our family. 

So to answer the question that I posed in the title.  I do think that “Yes.”  I can have work/life balance working full time.  The balance has had to shift some because the work side is more weighty now, but there is a balance for sure.

How do you split responsibilities in your family?  Does mom do everything?  Are parenting responsibilities (not just chauffeuring) split equally?  What do you think?

6 Responses to Can I Have Work/Life Balance Working Full Time?

  1. Great post and having worked a variety of schedules from 20 hrs per week to over 60 hrs per week to being a SAHM, I can identify with your feelings. When I was working (more than full time) and with a household of 3 small boys, my husband contributed to easily half of the childcare and household tasks, and he still works 60 hrs a week himself. Now that I am working part time from home, that balance has swung largely towards me. I think life is busy and filled with responsibilities no matter what the work/ home situation, but the key to making it work and especially to feeling ok about being put of the home is to realize that no one can really do everything all the time or all at once and that’s ok.

    • You hit it dead on! The incredibly surprising part to me is that I feel ok with where we are. Actually, I feel better than ok – I feel relief- to give up my expectations on myself of trying to do it all and be it all for everyone. That realization that “no one can really do everything” is such a lightening of the load. I did feel (until now) that feminism caused us (women) to feel like we had to be superwomen. Work and thrive in business and still keep the house clean, tend the children, cook, etc… MAJOR increase in responsibilities, versus rebalancing to adjust for this increased work responsibility.

      Now that I’ve recognized the need to just “let go” of some of that, I am so much happier! I have no doubt that I will struggle with defining my new role at home, but in general this has been a very good move for me.

      Anyway, thank you for commenting. Thank you SO much for stopping by and commenting!

  2. D, Thank you for this post. It gives me hope. It is good to see that is is working for you. I’m happy for you.

    I too have had it in my mind to go back to work when my baby would start preschool and I have a 9 1/2 yr. old. The thought of transisioning into that full time workforce roll is absolutely debilitating to me though. I have always felt like I do everything at home while the hubby works extraordinary hours. He owns his own business and can often work from home, but even then, it doesn’t mean he is available for either the kids, me, or anything the house needs. The business is the priority, no matter what. :( I can barely immagine trying to work full time and doing everything else, as I’m certain he is not willing to take up the “slack” while business is just getting busier than ever. I’ve worked PT for several years now doing various things from home, but the added demands of external expectations from an office may just put the EX to our marriage!

    • To be perfectly honest, I can’t imagine this would have worked if my husband hadn’t lost his job in May. Trying to keep on top of all the home demands AND full time? Pretty depressing and overwhelming. He too (apparently it’s a gender thing) let his job define who he was and work took first priority in his thoughts and worries. I often asked him to worry 1/2 as much about our family as he did about work and our “issues” would be almost nil.

      It didn’t work that way until he was forced to it though. Now he is starting a new business and I imagine once it does get busy we will need to adjust yet again. I plan to hire a housekeeper if and when his business is successful enough to support the cost. I also think we will hire a teenager to help with the logistics of getting the kids to and from sports practice, etc.

      But the rest? It is just going to have to take concious effort on our part to make sure the squeaky wheel (work) isn’t the one that always gets the grease. Family has to absolutely come first. To me anyway!

      But yes, I could not have imagined being happy with working 5 days a week until it actually happened. Up until last week I was pretty depressed and worried about how I was going to be able to keep my head above water when I started. But, now I am much more hopeful! I think it can work out well for you too… just have to identify the obstacles and fears and figure out a way that all the responsibility doesn’t land on just one parent’s shoulders.

      Thank you so much for commenting! I really appreciate hearing your thoughts and realizing that it isn’t just me that struggles with these things!

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