People talk a lot about the Balancing Act. It seems to be the defining phrase for life in the Western world in this part of the century.And sometimes as I’m falling, flying, tumbling in turmoil, I say “Oh, so this is what she means.” Paul Simon, Graceland.
I often think about writing about my work and family: I have three kids under eight, I have a full time job and a partner who works full time too and we have no family available to help out; the act of balancing consumes much of our waking existence and a goodly portion of my sleeping life, too.
The thing is, the more I think about the balancing act, the less qualified I feel to discuss it.
You know that abbreviation YMMV? Your Mileage May Vary? That's my view of this balancing act caper. There is no standard size, there is no golden rule, there is no
- and here I’m goin’ righteously post-modern on your arse – correct way to do it
And there is a good reason that YMMV is found on message boards and other places where care must be taken to avoid offending others in the faceless, toneless space of screen-read messages.
It's a phrase that succinctly accepts that we are all different and that the situations and solutions applying to one person's life may not apply to another.
In the more personal medium of blogging, perhaps this acknowledgement is not necessary. Many bloggers take the view that they will write what they like, without fear or favour, and fair enough too. It's a simple enough choice: if you don't like what you read, take your browser elsewhere.
Mostly, that is how I write. As you may have noticed, there is a tad
of absolutely essential swearing - if you don't like it, move on. There are sexual references - enjoy them or look away. There are kiddie photos that show faces - maybe it's not wise, but for me the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, not eternal caution.
And quickly, I hasten to add that YMMV. Because there are many blogs I admire enormously where swearing never occurs, where hilarity is generated above the belt, and where carefully cropped photos of children are artistic and easily as evocative as any picture that might show their faces.
But back to why I do not write (much?yet?) about the Balancing Act.
Maybe it's because of the kind of work I do, but I cannot see a blog simply as a personal diary. If you just want a private record of your life and thoughts, why put it on the internet? Why make it available to others? You must, by virtue of the medium, be trying to say something to somebody else, whether it’s your brother or your knitting group or the combined populations of the Americas.
And this makes me feel self-conscious about the working mother/balancing family thing, because, in my view, the Internet has only toughened the glass wall between mothers like me and those who do not have a paid job. There is a maternal militancy out there in cyberspace, and I do not want to enlist.
My view: we all work, and very few of us spend 24 hours a day exclusively attending to children. We're all doing the best we can for our kids and our patch of the world. There's no need for winners.You better think, think! Think! Think about what you’re tryin’ to say to me. Aretha Franklin, Think.
After a year and a half of more or less regular blogging, with many hundreds of posts and much reading of others' blogs, I feel this exercise is less like a personal diary and more like street publishing: one writes and photographs, one places words and pictures in a pleasing way, and one stands upon a reasonably busy street corner, perhaps next to a park, offering one's pages to others to read and, in turn, reading their work, and in time a sort of loose collective forms in which there is learning, laughing and the occasional quiet weep.
Every now and then, some series of particularly brilliant or hilarious or poignant post makes its way to a real publisher, ensuring the writer will spend one year correcting proofs, another year sucking down free champagne on an author tour, and then a lifetime trying to repeat the process.
Don't tell me you haven't thought about it.
I know you have.
But this ramble on blogging is getting a long way from why - even now - when I feel the need to explain the absence of posts, the lack of female RSM candidates for #11, the state of knackeredness that is leading to stupid comments on some blogs and no comments on others, even though I'm still reading them - I do not wish to write about the round and round and roundabout of keeping family together amid difficult jobs.The revolving door from work is especially apt. It spins under its own power and it is left to pedestrians to make their entry and exit without injury. Those in the know, however, use the small sliding door next to it that opens on demand via foot pressure. Is there always an easier way? Is it always less obvious?
What is the state we are seeking when we look for balance?
Is it a positive glow of accomplishment? Does a bell go off to tell you you’ve hit the right spot? Or do the alarms just stop ringing?
Is it just finding that point where there is an absence of either triumph or self-pity?
I have no answers.
I am terrified that I am messing this up and – which is more - I have a superstitious dread of examining my working parent actions in writing and, in this bloggerly sense, in public, lest I discover that my terror is well-founded and my actions have been hopelessly, endlessly, irretrievably wrong.
In short, I have the fears of all parents everywhere. I’m just too chicken to write about them.
I said I have no answers, but that is not quite right. Amid so much uncertainty there are some truths, some things I can trust and hold to be constant about my own Balancing Act:
• If I don’t look for balance, I don’t find it. Balance, like happiness, can be wrought – sometimes from thin air.
• If the Prof and I neglect each other, everything goes to hell in a handcart.
• Some friends are more like family than some family and there is no shame in letting them be so. Time does bring the chance to help them in turn.
• Other than laundry, it is best for us not to plan to do more than one of anything in a weekend. That way, there's still time left just to be us.
And finally, speaking of being just us, the photo at the top of this post shows the Pea Princess, Gorgeous Boy and Sparkle in the jumping castle the twins' daycare centre brought in for a Saturday open day.
Much fun was had by all and the Pea Princess was offended by the bad manners of only one
of the pre-schoolers, which is a good three or four offences below the average: a bonus.
Just before closing time I lost them and had to go hunting.
I found them here.
Which reminded me, again, that we're not doing such a bad job with these kids after all.