Looking forward

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.


7 thoughts on “Looking forward

  1. I think we all struggle massively with balance, and it’s SELF that tends to get the short end of the stick. Which, sure, is part of the bargain when we become parents, but no less disconcerting. It sounds like a resurgence of self is on the horizon, and that’s excellent. I don’t see your immersion in parenting to the exclusion of other things your stellar examples pulled off as a failure, I see it as a choice. Maybe one more about circumstance (insanely hard circumstances!) than about your actual desires, but hey.

    (I, I meanwhile, have the looming prospect of another parental leave, during which I am supposed to do…what? Other than take care of a baby. I’m going to be so lonely. Can I borrow your large Italian family to keep me company?)

    1. I think you’re right. Initially, it was not a choice – or certainly not a choice worth having. But I think it did evolve into a more deliberate (sane) choice, though one I couldn’t have predicted.

      I would happily lend you my family! I should probably warn you that they are crazy. Still, I do wish they were closer at least much of the time.

      One of the curiosities (of the intellectual variety) I have is how much easier it gets the 3rd+ time around. The baby care part is probably going to be so old hat that you might as well take up chess or something ;).

  2. I think having ambitions and being able to scale them back is excellent balance … because you can dream, tempered by reality. Enjoy the next phase! It has its own challenges, but isn’t balance about constant readjusting and shifting anyway?

    1. I like that view. I think I can say that being able to scale things back is one of my inherent strengths – and weakness, of course, but who said life was simple?

      And yes indeed, it is all about the readjusting.

  3. Pingback: The honeymoon phase |

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