All You Really Need Is A Wonderful Nanny
When we started out, we never heard the words "work/life balance". There was work, which was a part of life, and there was family, also a part of life. At the beginning of our careers, and while our children were young, time to ourselves was not a factor. We were too busy proving ourselves--as workers and parents. We were new to the working word, and we were new to motherhood.
Every day was filled with decisions about priorities. Sometimes, the choice was obvious. Sometimes not. We often felt stress. We were never in the right place at the right time. Balance meant staying upright. But it all worked out. While we sometimes fantasized about having a "wife" at home to deal with the domestic stuff, we didn't. We did have nannies, though, and like Justice O’Connor, we survived only because they were living in our world, and were generous with their time. Without nannies, all would have been lost.
Even so, sometimes things were sketchy. Sometimes we ordered pizza for dinner. (Husbands and children loved this departure from our nutrition guidelines.) Sometimes we missed seeing a child before bed. Sometimes we were not in the office when everyone else was. All we could do was to set expectations. If we were taking the day off to go on a child’s field trip, we made clear to everyone on our team when we planned to complete our work and when they could expect delivery. And if instead we were not going on the field trip, we made that clear to our children, and promised to make it up to them later.
We did our best to show our children we were there for them, in different ways, and that they could count on us when it mattered. We did our best to make sure we did the same at work, that we did as much as everyone else, though maybe on a different schedule. And it seems to have worked. Our children grew into wonderful people, mostly because they are perfect, but in some measure because we worked, not in spite of it. And out workplaces learned to accommodate mothers, and to appreciate, sometimes, our motherly points of view.
Was it perfect? No. Children were unhappy sometimes, and colleagues were unhappy sometimes too. But it was fine. And it allowed us to have families, yet support ourselves and remain in the wider world.
Later--actually in the blink of an eye--when children no longer had any interest in having us take them to school or come on field trips, things got easier--at least from the perspective of managing our time, day-to-day. We tried to use what we had learned to help other mothers of young children to get through their stressful days and gain a perspective on the timeframe. We heard about work/life balance, but for us it was all managing life and its priorities. We're still not sure there is anything more balanced than that, but that was and is enough for us.
Was it hard? Yes. Would we do it again? For sure. It's all life. And we loved it all.