Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Challenge of "Balance"

Greetings from Central America!  I've been traveling for the last week, and have a few more days to go.  It is a huge pain to be gone for so long, and I miss the girls like crazy.  SB cried big fat tears every time I talked to her the first 3-4 days, begging me to come home immediately.  It made me feel terrible.  I can't wait to get back.

From a professional perspective, it has been a good experience to get down here and see all that is going on, and to meet people I usually only talk with on the phone or via email.  It is good to see things with my own eyes, and to connect with local people.  Nothing beats that in person connection.

Now I am mulling over what to do with that information--how to turn it into something and move things forward.  It is long-term, big picture stuff, and I am far from having all of the answers.  But I can see what is possible, and that is exciting.

I am also thinking about how to balance career and family.  I feel like we really struggle in America.  Mother's Day brought forth articles about balancing, like this one and this one.  What I was left with is the feeling that American mothers have to make choices.  I have heard lots of women say that "you can have it all--you just can't have it all at the same time."  And maybe that's my problem--I want to have it all at once.  But it's not working.

The new U.S. ambassador to Mexico, the first woman to ever hold this position, recently had this to say in an interview with her alumni mag:

"With work-life balance, I tell people that you can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once. There are different times in your life when you emphasize different things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There were times when my kids did have to come first and they needed me, and there were other times when they didn’t understand why I couldn’t do the field trips and the baking brownies and all the rest of it. But when they stood on the stage with Hillary Clinton, they thought that was pretty damn cool and probably worth it."

I want to do field trips and bake brownies.  I also want to have a meaningful, productive work life.    Those are two different parts of who I am.  Now I am pondering ways to make that happen.  We debated her words a bit in my office.  A non-parent was a bit put off by the line about missed field trips and baking brownies, and thought it sounded harsh.  I said it made me feel a bit less alone and guilty for the things I don't make.  But I'm still wondering, were those sacrifices indeed worth it for her kids?  A missed field trip isn't the end of the world, but an accompanied field trip also means something.  The perfect mix is unknowable, though, making it a hard path to carve.

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