“Why do you and Daddy work so much?” asked my 5-year-old daughter, her lower lip trembling as tears welled in her hazel eyes. “I just want someone to play with me.”
I quickly turned away, both exasperated and filled with guilt. I have got to do better — but how? It’s a rare person who can achieve the perfect work-life balance. So rare, in fact, I’ve never met one. What may feel like a happy medium to someone else often appears decidedly uneven to others. We often judge ourselves, and one another, in a vicious cycle that seems endless.
Back in 2020, I’d worked hard to create a better balance, but my perception of how I was doing wasn’t matching up to my child’s reality. And that broke my heart.
Yet, the truth is, I love working – always have. And, as the CEO of a marketing and media production company with a multitude of clients and projects, there is much work to be done and I’m grateful for it. But, to my kindergartener, none of that mattered. Until it did, at least a little bit.
After grabbing a tissue to blot the tears from Olive’s eyes, I sat her down on the couch so we could talk. I reassured my girl of how much I love her while also explaining that I work hard at what I do to help provide her with things and experiences she loves – the scooter she rides at the New Albany skatepark, drum lessons, time at a local trampoline park, tickets to see a play, her fishing poles, the collection of sparkly tiaras in her bedroom, craft supplies, oodles of dolls and stuffed animals.
I also work, I continued, to help provide her (us) with things she (we) needs: food, clothing she grows out of on what seems to be a near weekly basis, our home, our car, electricity and water, items she never realized came at a cost.
I work so we can provide a helping hand to others on occasion, I said, reminding my dear daughter that we had “adopted” a family for Christmas at her request so we can help make someone’s holidays a little happier.
I also work, I told Olive, because I love what I do for a living and have dreams and goals I want to achieve and hope I always will.
But, I added, my most important priority is you, and I am so sorry I cannot always play when you want me to. I am going to work hard to get better at trying to find more time for fun.
Olive sat quietly for a moment and then turned to me: “Well, I have work, too, Mommy. Can I do my school stuff and work with you and then we go downstairs and play?”
That’s a deal, I said.
Juggling work and life is still a constant daily struggle. Some days I succeed, some days I utterly fail, but I never stop trying to be better. And as young as she is, Olive now understands – at least most days – that work is part of our life and she has a mama who is forever on the quest to achieve a better balance.
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