I am not good at balance.
If I take the long view I can divide my life into many phases, each with a different primary focus – work, play, athletics, friendship, romance – that together make-up something of a meta-balance. But I have rarely managed to successfully combine many layers at once. And the latest phase has been blindingly monotone.
When g was born I lost the ability to locate my own boundaries, becoming completely submerged in the briny deep of parenting. For several years my ambitions could be summed up in a single word: sleep.
I received counsel. You’ve got to take time for yourself. But knowledge and action don’t always play well together. I had stellar examples. I knew many women who juggled like masters, at times tirelessly clawing their way toward their own desires. But I just didn’t have it in me. It was a failure that I accepted matter of factly, in the same way that I accept my imperfect proportions or my poor sense of direction.
And I’ve come to understand that there are cultural implications to my shortcomings. I was born in the US but am, for better and worse, a Mediterranean whose values lean closer to interdependence than autonomy. Growing up in a large Italian family I learned the skills of twisting and stretching when living as part of a unit. I can even embrace the good in this way of life as long as I continue to look forward – a simple glance downward sheds light on that dizzying labyrinth that is gender politics.
But exactly a year ago my perspective began to shift. It sneaked up on me. g was about to enter Kindergarten and Mr D was beginning a toddler program 3 mornings a week. 12 childfree hours a week! All of a sudden I was performing a mental sprint toward those interred dreams. I began to fantasize about work possibilities, self-care, intellectual pursuits, hobbies.
Reality, it turns out, is a honey badger. Mr D struggled for months to adapt to his “school” and g spent the bulk of winter in recovery. My grand ambitions were grossly downsized. But they weren’t forgotten. Looking back I realize that my life changed dramatically. I formulated my dream job and then took very concrete steps toward making it a reality. I began reading again. I expanded my gardening space. I even started blogging again!
These final weeks of summer have been lovely. I have been enjoying unstructured time with the boys- trips to the park and library, lots of play with friends and neighbors, bushels of tomatoes. But in just 10 days I will again have precious time for myself as g enters first grade a Mr D takes on preschool. I now know that even this intense phase of parenting comes to an end. And I am really looking forward to the next one.