“How do you juggle or balance work and life with parenting?”…. this is the most common question I come across in interviews. It’s not an unfair or silly question, and I think I’ve asked the same of moms I’ve interviewed.
My answer usually goes something like this: “I have a great hands-on husband and brilliant help at home, which allow me to look after myself and do things that are good for my heart and mind (eg running, learning French, reading), and work.
The thing is, the scales are not evenly weighted. Some days I spend more hours running and working than being with my kids. Some days I have “wasted” hours where I’m neither balancing work, kids and me, and literally juggling balls of nothingness. Some days my kids are happier with friends, books, games and themselves to spend time with me.
Other days it’s all about me and I feel mostly switched off from everything around me. Some Sundays I’m out running for half the day, or working for half the day.
If I have to look at the ratios and the “balance”, I could never
compartmentalize each factor of my life into equals. So does this mean my
balance is off? Is my juggle slipping because one item takes up more space
(time) than the others? What does a successful “balance” even look like, and
why do even ask the question? I don’t remember ever hearing the question before
I had kids. The closest equivalent question would be something like: “When do
you fit in your running?”, ie “What time of day do you run?”. There was never
talk of balance or juggling my life before I had kids.
I understand, of course, that with kids life becomes fuller and one has less time to do the things that one would have done pre children. But why does it suddenly become a juggling act, when all along, we have juggled things. I mean, it was Dr Seuss who said in my one of my top 10 books, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, that life’s a great balancing act. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t just talking to working moms.
All along, we’ve had mixes in life that we’ve had to deal with. Even dads. Who, incidentally, never get asked how they juggle work and parenting. My husband (the big reason why I can go for runs and weekly manicures) works long hours, and still does about 60% of the parenting job. I’m not the only “balancer”, but I’m the only one who has to answer to it, and who is faced with a deluge of articles in women’s magazines about how to finesse the juggle – “and still have time to yourself”.
I wonder if these questions make it harder, and if the whole concept of
the parenting-and-working-mom-juggle makes us doubt ourselves, and try to reach
the unattainable perfect “balance”. It doesn’t exist, and I don’t think we
should feel bad if our ratios are out. But yet we do. And we feel bad when we
don’t have the perfect formula for balancing things equally, like kids, self
For me, the only things I balance equally are the shoes and earrings I
wear. And maybe consuming as much coffee as I do water each day.
I think I’m going to stop asking this non-useful juggle question altogether. And instead ask things like: “What are your best time management tips?” “What do you to keep your mind entertained?”, “What do you love doing together as a family?”, “What do you do to relax?” etc.