Happy winter break! The joyful time when the kids are out of school… and we are not. This is a time of great delight in being together and, admit it, stress in trying to keep everything going without pause. Yesterday, my sweet friend and her kiddos (we call them cousins) spent the day at our house. She and I hired my 16year old to minimize the disruptions and then we holed up in my office, literally put our heads down into our computers, and worked for six.hours.straight. It was heaven!
It’s during these times I am grateful that both my husband and I work for ourselves and have flexibility in our kid juggling act. Despite this, we fall short. This desperate stroke of genius my girlfriend and I devised is a rarity. Expected no schools days, or the dreaded and unexpected sick or snow days, are usually a stream of screen time, mommy-guilt, yelling about the trail of clothes, dishes and toys and praying for just one consecutive moment to have a thought and follow it through to an accomplished task. But this is my perspective. What about theirs? They can see us, but we’re not available. We’re here, but not for them.
Our kids are both great and not so great at knowing when we’re working versus when we’re available to them when we’re working from home. We have the “office-door-closed” rule and try to give them the run-down of the day of what meetings and phone conferences we’ll be on and when, but they’re still kids. They live in the moment. When they’re excited, they squeal. When they’re sad, they cry. When they’re mad, they fight. (We could learn a few things from them.)
So, I should not have been surprised when, on the Friday after Christmas, our 8 year old boldly declared, “Why don’t you and dad take a whole lot of time off like everyone else’s parents!?” And that is their perspective. Everyone else’s parents have normal jobs and normal schedules and normal vacations.
“Well,” I tried to explain, “we have flexibility in our jobs, so we take off an afternoon here and a day there and it is equal to some (not all, son) parents taking off several days in a row. One of us is usually home by 5pm every night. We volunteer and go to your school activities. We can make a three day weekend by moving some meetings around, pick you up from school when they’re sick, and even go to Colorado a few weeks because I can do my work from there. See?” His big, brown eight years young eyes told me that he did not see this logic. At all. He was here, right now, and he needed some no-working, uninterrupted, fully focused time with us. So that is what we did.
In our life, this arrangement makes perfect sense and it really does work for us. But as hard as we strive toward what we consider to be our work-life balance utopia, the fact of the matter is this: Our kids live in the present and their lives revolve around us. Does it mean that we should feel guilty when our children need more time than we have? No. We’re doing our best. And I mean all of us. The two full-time working parents, the stay-at home parents, the single parents. And we simply have to know they will appreciate it all one day when they are parents struggling to be there for their children.
So, to those of you who take “a whole lot of time off”, if you’re kids are saying that everyone else’s parents are home in the afternoon, or volunteered at school, or get to have screen time all day while their parents are holed up in the home office, rest easy and fear not. We’re all in the same boat, and we’re doing just fine.