Saturday, November 10, 2012

Laurie Berkner's Song About Work Life Balance

While writing a review for Laurie Berkner's new Christmas CD, I stumbled upon her article she wrote for Huffington Post on "Balancing Work and Motherhood". She even wrote a song about her struggle for work life balance.
Photo Credit: Huffington Post
 Balancing Work and Motherhood
The journalist asks me, "How do you do it?" 
My answer is "Not very well."
Each day is different 
And when I think I've found a rhythm 
All the plans I've devised 
And so carefully scheduled
Get all shot to hell.
So I'll take a taxi, 
'Cause I might get there faster
But the subway would cost me much less. . . 
Ugh, the trains are delayed!
Now what if there's traffic?
Either way, half my days
Are spent out of breath
Running from one thing
Late to another
Looked away for two minutes, and now there's a line!
Forgot to bring lunch again 
(Mine, not hers)
Slow down, slow down
Slow down
I'll get there
Just not on time.
Talking with Brian
And planning for sitters
Who's home today,
You or me?
That feeling of panic
That hits when I think,
"I forgot to make sure she was free."
All my years of therapy 
And yet I still cling
To the guilt I feel when I'm not there. 
It's such a cliché but I find myself thinking,
"I wish I'd been born as a pair."
In some ways it's easier now than it was 
Lucy's used to me coming and going. 
She's older, has friends, even tells me 
"Get out Mom!" but each time it's hard for me 
That I'll miss some of what she was feeling that day
And I'll miss hanging out with her too.
Time moves so fast (oy, another cliché!)
And there's only so much I can do.
I run my own business.
I'm both artist and boss,
But pretend I'm a mom who stays home.
Then I'm gone on the weekends
Or when we're together
Spend less time with her than my phone.
So I accept from a colleague
A derisive laugh when I say,
"Sorry, I can't make it then." 
Because I'm picking her up,
There's a potluck, class play 
Or perhaps there's just no school... again.
And I get to spend time with her 
We read on the couch
Her body all snuggled with mine.
I breathe her in deeply 
So I won't forget 
Just how good that feels 
Every time.
(Then I notice that I have a pile of new messages and texts and I haven't made dinner or taken 
the dog out. When did it get to be 6:30 p.m.? When did she turn 8 years old?)
So I stay up too late
Doing work, sending email
I'm addicted to "just one more thing..."
I haven't yet found 
A different way, a better way 
Or just a way
To fit everything in
I spent all that time getting ready for birth 
And I think of my good friend, who said,
"Remember Laurie, this is just the curtain rising, 
The real show is what lies ahead."
Ok, so there's no rehearsal for life 
(But I'd hoped as a parent things that I've learned would help)
And they certainly sometimes do.
Yet often I catch myself being the child, 
'Cause I still want to be mothered too.
This song is so true to the core. It captures the perpetual struggle so perfectly. "Yet often I catch myself being the child, 'cause I still want to be mothered too." I feel that way ALL THE TIME. It's unbelievable to be almost 40 years old and still cry for my mommy when life gets too hard. And my mom never even nurtured me at all anyway. 

Reading through all the comments on Laurie's article, I see that most people had kind, uplifting words to say about how much her words touched them. Then, of course, there are those other ugly comments people make that show their shortsightedness. 

 Comments Against Working Moms:
Fact: If you work, you are NOT a full-time parent, and someone else is raising your children. - AngelGreb
Retort: Regardless of whether or not you work, you can only be a part time parent if you put in part time effort. A full time parent doesn't have to be with their children 24/7 - being a full time parent is a state of mind; anyone who puts in full time effort achieves full time status.  
I firmly believe that for a mother to choose to work during those pre-school years is selfish. Staying home is a huge sacrifice for many women. It's way harder than working and I've done both. 

Dragging a child out of a warm bed on a cold morning and throwing them in a day care with underpaid workers and a room full of other sick or miserable children, must be awful. I hear mothers talk about how their children love day care. Bull. What kid would love to be yanked out of bed and put in what amounted to a dog kennel every day?

But some women have no choice either. But there's no way any woman can convince me that a child is better off in day care or with strangers than home with his or her own mother. If a day care is better for a child than the child's home and mother, what does that say about the home and mother? - A Little Birdy
 RetortYeah, kinda makes me sad that I had a part-time dad growing up, being that he worked and all. Now that I think about it, I'm a part-time pet owner, a part-time parent, a part-time spouse, a part-time daughter (only see my own parents twice a year). Gotta love those part-time relationships. Snark off. 
Best Retort: Your comments are rude, close minded, and judgmental. What good comes out of pointing fingers at people and saying that the way they live their lives isn't as good as the way you live yours? Why don't you shed a little light on a few things for us. Do you have a college degree? Do you have any skills? What type of salary & benefits did you take away from your family so that you could stay home? Have you taught your daughters that they better not even dream of being anything besides a mother and homemaker? If every single mom stayed home, then who do you think would be the teachers teaching your kids? Who would be the nurses, doctors, scientists taking care of their health? Who would create the music we listen to? Are you suggesting that only MEN do all these things? Oh that's right, we are all just supposed to magically re-enter the work force when our children enter Kindergarten. This advice is coming from someone who clearly has not had a career and clearly hasn't been negatively impacted by the downturn in our economy. I have been a stay at home mom, part time working mom, full time working mom and I believe that we all do the best that we can, not only for our children, but for our future, or community, and ourselves! Let's try to support each other in these forums, not tear each other down!
I really despise when people say that using childcare is 'letting someone else raise your child'. I've even heard my own brother-in-law say those exact words. I scoff. Is it that unthinkable to trust someone to care for your child during the day in your absence? I certainly don't consider my trusted childcare provider as a dog kennel for my son. Even when our family goes out of town for the weekend, the place where we send our dog is a 'doggie camp' where they play with other dogs and get lots of attention! (A lot more attention than when we're even at home.) That's what childcare providers are paid for and most of them LOVE children and WANT to shower them with love. At least in the world I live in; I can't speak for everyone's neck of the woods.  

I don't believe that a mom staying home with their kids is always advantageous. I've tried it. I'm not the best mom when I'm taxed out like that. I stayed home for a year with my third child and juggling my other two was not easy. The baby was easy; it was the busy preschooler and kindergartner that exhausted me. Kids in their early years are learning and growing and seeking and you have to be able to provide them with learning experiences as well as social activities. You're not doing them any service by being their sole playmate and care provider. 

I want my kids to be secure in the love of our family but also resilient, smart, capable and social. I want to show them what it looks like to be a working mom who is also present and nurturing with them. But ultimately, they are on their own life's journey and need to connect with the world outside our home and have trusting relationships with other people. 

Happily, after trying out various work scenarios these past seven years of raising kids, I am finally in a comfortable work situation where I feel I can have the flexibility I need to be there for my kids, home and my career. It's such a relief. If the job ever tipped too far on the other side of the scale where it was taking away from my family, I think at this stage of my life, I would just quit. Or at least I like to daydream that I would. But I like having the feeling that I have options, even if I may not in truth. 

I've read that it's better for working moms to stay at home with their kids when they are middle school age because they need you more and can get into more trouble. What do you think?

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