My husband and I have these friends who certainly don't make life look easy. Anyone who knows what it is to have a fulfilling career and raise children understands that there is a lot of ragged running around involved. This couple is one whom we've watched in awe for years, though. Both have high-profile careers that are the result of focused ambition, the proper use of high IQs, and a careful balance between paying it forward and extending empathy into the community. They have children who are bright and appear well-adjusted, who idolize their mom and dad (no, they aren't teenagers yet!). Their daughters are involved in numerous after-school activities that suit their individual personalities, and Mom and Dad show a keen interest in those of their daughters.
This couple works quite a bit. One is required to travel a bit for his work. She has a huge staff to look over in addition to the major public responsibilities of her job.
How are they pulling this off?
Of course there's no fairy tale, here. Being a parent is grueling by itself, let alone with the other responsibilities that come with work and life. I'm sure this couple has moments of arguing, miscommunication and misunderstanding just like all couples do.
The other day Mr. M and I were pouring over calendars, trying our damndest to figure out how we could pull off two important work trips that had been scheduled at the same time. His would take him across the world and mine would have me across the country. We pursed our lips and stared at our computer screens, willing an answer to magically appear.
How do they do it? I wailed, thinking of our friends. How do they both manage to have such successful careers and raise their kids?
Easy, my husband said. They both come from huge families who all live in town. They have a constant support system.
Not to discount our own support system, but that statement knocked me into an unattractively pouty loop. We have a wonderful group of friends and family who make our lives sweet and provide fun stories for our boys. What we do not have is a pool of relatives who can take over our household chaos when our jobs call us away. In the past, I've always been the one to take more ginger career steps so that I could be available for the boys while Aaron travels. I've passed on some great opportunities because of this. Now he and I both feel that it's time for me to stop holding back and to run, fly, or clumsily flop forward into the path that's been coming together in front of me for so long. But we have a mortgage, private school, student loans, college savings, and pesky things like food to pay for. He's not going to stop working so that I can have my turn... nor should he--he loves his job in the most adorably nerdy way (you have know idea how nerdy his love is for his work.... wow).
We don't have any healthy, spry grandmas who can keep up with our smelly (SO smelly), curious ("I wanted to see how a fish breathes, so I got one out of the pond!"), zippy (why walk anywhere when you can sprint?), talkative (ALWAYS talking), physical (WHY does a 3-year-old think it's proper to challenge a 7-year-old to a fight?) boys. We don't have childless aunts and uncles within a stones throw of our house to host a 5-day slumber party. That's just not part of our reality.
After a few minutes of sinking into a pouty repose I started to straighten up. I realized I was doing a disservice to our family and those people with whom we have no blood relation but who are as close to us as family can be. Sure, they all have their own situations and reasons for why we can't ask them to pretend to keep order in our three-ring circus for a few days, but they do bring a richness to our lives that I wish every family could experience--and that I know every family does not. We trust each other with our deepest fears about our futures and pasts. My boys have multiple people whom they can trust with their own fears and triumphs. My elderly parents can tell my children first-hand stories about historic events that other kids can only read about in books or from a teacher. While many kids received their first kid-sized chairs from Pottery Barn Kidsor Target, Jr.'s first wooden kid-sized chair was given to him by an artist who made it especially for my sensitive sweetheart. When Beastie B starts asking to go to the "kontwee", 8 out of 10 times he gets to go pick fruit and torture the air with stick swords until he's a lump of exhaustion. We have some damn lucky children, and we are two damn lucky parents to have attracted such loving chaos into our lives.
I'm not sure how we're going to come up with the tools to push harder in our careers while simultaneously keeping the boys feeling secure and supported. I'm not sure how anyone does it. But there's a way, I'm sure. We just have to keep our eyes open and keep our hearts open even wider.