I met up with one of my friends this morning. She is pregnant with her second child and feeling stressed about balancing work and family. As soon as we sat down, she lamented: “I feel like I should be able to know everything in my job and be able to do everything at home, and when I don’t or can’t, I get so mad at myself.”
We talked about her particular situation at work and brainstormed about how to manage it. Imagine this: tell people you need help on this particular project because it’s not in your area of expertise. Novel idea for us perfectionists.
We talked about home life. How do we not rip our partners’ heads off when they ask “what’s for dinner?” Another brainstorming session led us to this revolutionary idea: talk to these partners about our stress quotient and ask them to head up dinner for the week. It may be that we are eating Wendy’s and cheese and crackers but there are some weeks that has to happen. Better a little more fats in your diet than a mental breakdown.
Then we talked about kids and our guilty feelings around not spending enough time with them. Revolutionary idea no.2: spend more time with them. Drop the laundry basket and leave the dishes and go sit on the living room floor with a deck of cards. Who cares if the kitchen looks like a madman pummeled through it; do we want our memories ten years from now to be that we had a spotless kitchen or that we had some mean ol’ UNO games together? I’d prefer the latter.
These are topics that I see all over magazines (“Juggle it all in five easy steps!”) and books (“Be a better mom today!”) and websites but they never seem to be put to rest. At times I get irritated with the dialogue – yes, it’s hard to juggle all of these things as a woman but how many conversations do we need to have? But today, while watching my mentee struggle with real dilemmas surrounding work and home, my attitude changed. This dialogue was essential to moving her forward in her job. It was essential for reassuring her that we all struggle with balance. It was essential to remind her what was most important to her at this time of her life. It was essential to reinforce in me how grounding female relationships are and how necessary it is to help one another along. God knows I have had my days and I am positive there will be more to come.
At the end of the conversation, she apologized for complaining the entire time. I made her apologize for apologizing – that’s the last thing she should be doing. I gave her a hug and we both promised to keep talking. And then we whipped out our iPhones to show the latest pictures of our babies.