I have an addictive personality. There I’ve said it. I am an all or nothing person who struggles to operate in the grey space in between. I am either ‘on’ or I am ‘off’ and finding the balanced middle ground is super hard for me and never more so than during the past 12 months. Each and every day I have struggled to find a balance between work and home-life and as I result I have often found myself feeling guilty. I have been so out of balance that my two children took me to one side and muttered those infamous words we use as parents “we need to have a talk”. They then berated me for disappearing into my office early in the morning, not resurfacing until the early evening, and not spending enough time with them! Who knew the tables would so quickly turn. Things quickly changed after that …. well, if I am honest only temporarily.
Here is where the conflict for me rises. I have always been a staunchly independent woman; I bought my first flat at 19 years old and I am a determined and vocal feminist. I wasn’t going to let anyone dictate what I could and couldn’t do – and having children wouldn’t change that one bit!
Then they came ….. and they did.
I wanted to be home and with them, yet have a little piece of me too. So I studied; a degree, a masters, then a doctorate. When I was done academically I was determined to find a passion which could work around the children and use all my new found knowledge to help other children and their families. It was easy at first balancing home and work-life. I worked when the children were at school, and when they were home I didn’t . Simple. Except life really isn’t ever that simple is it? Ambitions surface, aspirations, and desires to make a difference.
Slowly, slowly, inch by inch your work-life infringes on home-life. You stay up later once they are in bed, then when that’s not quite enough you start waking earlier, and then before you know it you’re working weekends too!
You see it’s hard to balance when you’re an all or nothing person.
Should I feel guilty about this? Shameful that in some way I am failing as a mother, and not being fully present for my children when they need me??
Absolutely not, and I will tell you why. My children are seeing role-modelled in front of their very eyes exactly what drive and ambition can create – both positively and negatively. They see the ups and downs, the highs and lows. Unfolding each and every day are the realities of life, and the challenges they themselves will need to find their own solutions for, as they navigate adulthood.
You see, as parents, we are only custodians of our children for a short while. Our role is to prepare them, as best as we can, to leave the security that is home, to the realities of the big wide world. Our children, as adults, get to make their own choices, hopefully guided by the lessons they have learnt in our care, and the values which have been an integral part of their day to day lives. We don’t get to choose who our children become as an adult – they do. We cannot tell them what to become, who to be friends with, how to spend their money, or which career paths they should pursue. This is exactly how it should be.
What we do get to choose, each and every day, is how we want to show up for our children. What are the lessons we want to teach them about life beyond childhood. How do we want to role model our best selves to them?
I choose to teach my children how, with determination and dedication, despite setbacks and plateaus, they can carve out a life which is fulfilling. It isn’t going to be easy. They will have to make some difficult choices, big sacrifices, and experience hardship. Yet, if they remain true to who they really are, they will never get lost – and if they do temporarily, they will always know how to come back to themselves.
I take my role as their mother very seriously – because I am an all or nothing person.
Do I have any regrets? Absolutely none! Given my time again, would I do things differently. Definitely not!!
I know who I am and I am good with that. I recognise I need to work hard at striking that middle-ground, living in that grey space – and this is where my children have been my biggest teachers – but that’s a whole other blog post.