Monday, 15 September 2014

I don't know how she does it (but I think I know how I do)

I am just starting to put my head up from what is arguably the busiest two months of my working year. I've been pulling 18 hour days - juggling a massive budget, placating, bargaining, negotiating, book keeping, managing spreadsheets, and then delivering on one project that is a year in the making (and is still not finished, but starts all over again with barely a weekends break), combined with the regular part of my job, the starting of two other huge projects, and the end of year balance up for the two parts of the organisation

I'm lucky most of the year - even though my job requires me to work pretty much every day - either in the office, on the road or from home - and occasionally weekends, and some evenings it's only ''part time''. Which actually equals pretty much full time for part time wages, but the payoff is the aforementioned flexibility. It does mean I'm usually available for school trips, sick kids (I have one with chronic illness) and I have in the past got to indulge in occasional days sneaking away with my young man and avoiding the office.  But it also means that for some days, weeks, I am working every hour God sends, and squashing in bits of work between school things, trips to the Doctors and so on.  The kids complain often, that I never seem to be off the phone.  For me, it's the difference between being there, or not.

I often think that a full time job - ergo not actually being available to the children, or anyone else,  between 8 and 5, would be easier. I'd simply go to a job for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year and that would be that.

But then I think...who would do those other things? Who would go on school excursions, cheer the kids at a sports day, hear their speeches.  Who would do the sick kid days, Doctor visits (seemingly endless), the car WOF, the groceries, the continual pile of laundry?  Would there ever be time to do something for myself - a real need when you're a single parent!

I look at women who work full time and manage their families on their own. even the ones who do it and have a partner 'in house'.  I don't know how they do it. 

I won't lie...its feckin' exhausting being the only grown up living in this house! This is the life I live, but certainly not the one I would have chosen deliberately.  I have come to terms with it, but I am also keenly aware of the ongoing challenges of single parenting - despite having FDH local and involved with his children. I feel the responsibilities keenly - the buck stops with me.  I am responsible for it all - I need to earn the money, ensure there's milk in the fridge, get a sick kid to the Doctor, pick up the rubbish that infuriatingly seems to blow in  the gate onto my garden, decide everything.  And this is how I do it:

Firstly:  Amazing people around me.  Friends who help with babysitting. Obliging grandparents. Kids, who for the most part, are flexible and amenable to last minute planning or changes.  And, lucky for me, they are both smart, relatively organised, independent considering their young age, and good at cleaning up after themselves (and each other).  Secondly: choosing where I live: I have chosen to live in a supportive community where the school, friends, music lessons and other regular haunts are within walking distance of my house. My place of work is ten minutes drive away, or I can work from home. Thirdly, I plan. A lot.  A trip to the city has to have more than one purpose.  A trip to the town I work in usually does too, including either a grocery shop or library visit or similar.  I have lists. I have reminders on my phone, on the fridge, on the computer. If it ain't in the diary it ain't happening.  And finally, I maintain balance.  I am RELIGIOUS about having time for myself.  Kid free weekends are kid free. Bedtimes, after years of struggle are becoming more rigid not less.  I pay a babysitter so I can have a night out mid week if I want to.  And even though I might spend a couple of hours of an evening on work, I also ensure that there's plenty of time for talking with other adults (even if it's online and not in person), for reading and writing, and for just 'being'.  I choose to work the hours I do, because overall it works better for my family right now.  It comes at a price - less income, and possibly creating a 'halt' in my career path. But for now, its how it needs to be and I happily accept that.  I'm lucky I love what I do, have great people to work with and have enough other things in my life that I don't  need to, or choose to ''live to work''. 

Every day is different - and yet in many ways life chugs on the same day in day out.  I remind myself that routine is not a bad thing, in fact it makes life feel...safer...somehow.  But some days I crave adventure and excitement. the before children life I remember - the post children life I look forward to.  Others I yearn for more quiet, more calm.  Most of the time though, I cheerfully embrace the busy, noisy, family focused life I now live.  Ideally, life would be the perfect balance of all of those things. Ideally I'd be sharing all of this with a significant other. I can work towards that right!?  In the meantime I do my best to be grateful for all I have. 

And to everyone who is, or has been, part of my support team I want to say a massive THANK YOU. I don't know how the others do it, but I sure couldn't do it without you.

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