Often times I wonder if the path that my husband and I are on is the correct one. We are struggling through life right now raising two small children, trying to manage all of this on our own with no family help around. Most days we are OK. Other times, when our kids are sick, or when work struggles are real and hard, I begin to reevaluate our lives and wonder if this endless cycle is worth it.
We live in a bustling, growing city. In the seven years that we have lived here, we have experienced an exponential increase in our commute. What used to take 20 minutes now takes over an hour. My husband and I have tried to compensate for this by leaving earlier for work – we are up at 5 a.m., leave the house around 6 a.m., and try to leave work before 4 p.m. It is absolutely infuriating to me that when I leave work even as early as 3:30 p.m., by the time I drive over to our boys’ daycare (a mere 5 minutes walking distance from my office) and then make the drive home, I usually do not walk through our front door any earlier than 5:00 p.m. It takes over an hour and a half to get accomplished those simple tasks that used to take merely 30 minutes.
I am grateful for my job – the flexibility is usually great, and what I do serves a great purpose. The research projects that I am involved in are literally making an incredible impact on people’s lives. I get a lot of satisfaction out of working and helping provide for my family. I am always struggling with the work-life balance, though, and while most of the time I feel like I am in the groove, other times I feel like I am merely surviving.
We are incredibly short-staffed in my office right now, and the demands are getting greater as new projects are beginning. I work hard from the time I sit down at my desk until the time I leave for the day. I have meetings that I need to attend. This is all well and good, except for the fact that when my boys are sick, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to stay home with them and “work from home”. The days that they are sick just tear me apart. They do not want anyone but their mama, and I do not want to do anything except be with them in the comfort of our own home. Last week we experienced this – both boys had fevers on different days of the week, and neither my husband nor I could afford to stay home. So we brought them to our offices. I took them for the beginning of the day, until my husband had finished seeing patients and could then take them home. Nothing is more stressful than trying to balance work and life when your kids are in your office, sick and miserable.
My mom worked full-time while raising my brother and I, but she was able to stay home for the first five to seven years of our lives. When my brother entered elementary school, she then took a full-time position as a school secretary. Her hours were perfect. She worked while we were in school and had the summers off with us. Looking back, we were blessed to have the summers spent off at home. Life was not scheduled. It breaks my heart when I think of how structured our children’s lives already are, and our littlest is not even a year old yet. Sending them off to summer camps really do not appeal to me; hiring a babysitter/nanny for the summers may be a viable option, but if I am being entirely honest with myself, I want to be that person spending my summers with my kids. That is the whole point of having kids, right?
I often find that I am trying to convince myself that what my husband and I are doing is the right choice for our children. We are teaching them to be independent and strong little boys. In today’s world, it is often difficult for one parent to stay home full-time. I have read multiple books written by strong, independent women, and the common thread that I see in all of them is that they are unapologetic for working full-time. I wish I could feel that way all of the time. Just every once in a while, this doubt creeps in and I find myself second guessing everything. I am terrified that I am going to look back on my life and have regrets from not spending more time with my kids. This is the time of their lives when they want to spend time with their family, and I feel like I am missing a large portion of it.
My husband and I made an agreement when we first moved to Nashville that every five years we would evaluate our life. We would make a decision at that point whether or not we wanted to stay, and then at that point make another 5-year plan. Between the commute – and it is only going to get worse, given the growth of this city – and the cost of living, is this the best quality of life that we can offer for our kids? I think this doubt is compounded by the fact that our friends moved away and they moved to a smaller city, with better pay, the cost of living is so much less, they are closer to family, and the hospital is biking distance away. In our minds, they hit the lottery. I do not know what the answer is, but I am grateful that my husband and I are united in this struggle. I hope that time will give us the peace of mind that we are searching for, and the choice we need to make will become clear as we continue on this journey.