When You Need Help.

This summer, I accepted a new job – one that I thought would give me more time.

It was flexible, quiet, didn’t consume me the way my other corporate jobs did, and 20 minutes from home. It allowed Owen to come home on the bus three days a week, instead of going to the afterschool program. It allowed him to join a club soccer team as well.

The reality is, well, different than I expected.

Taking this job also required me to take on 95% of parenting and life administration duties as well. And it’s really, really busy.

I’ve all but given up on finding time to write. I have been meditating during my commute to work, where I listen to Tibetan Singing Bowls in the faint hopes that maybe a few minutes of meditation – even in the car – is better than nothing. My workouts are crammed into too-small pockets of time in the afternoons, and I’m often forced to cut them short or forego a shower when I’m done.

My days are spent playing aggressive Life Tetris; moving my blocks of time in order to be the most efficient, fighting to get rid of lines of obstacles like work schedules and Finley care and Owen homework and laundry and dishes and dinner prep and soccer practice and games and seeing family and having some kind of semblance of a life outside of my home and chores. I’ve stacked up my days such that every moment I am awake must be productive.

I thought it was okay. Even when my pants were tight and I got on a scale and discovered I was up 10lbs from  stress eating. Even when I got sick over Thanksgiving when we finally didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything. Even when I started to be mean and fight with my husband about how streamlined HIS life gets to be – get up, gym, work, home, and oh, hey dinner’s ready! Even when I’ve rushed Owen through his homework so we can get to the next activity.

And then there was last week.

It was already a hectic week, with three birthday parties on top of the regular schedule. And then, on Wednesday, we discovered that Finley had gotten bitten by another dog when we were away over Thanksgiving… when the bite got infected and burst. It meant daily visits to the vet, medication, compresses, no walks. The first night I was up overnight for a good portion of the night worrying about how it was all going to work. We got more bad news on Friday night – his wound wasn’t healing well, and they were considering putting a drain in.

And then I raced a 5k on Saturday.

It was the worst race I’ve had in a long, long time.

The thing with the kind of workouts I do: they are usually pretty easy. Easy in the sense that they aren’t INTENSE workouts. I can always let off the pace, run easier, take deep breaths, etc. It’s a low, slow, long burn. And 5ks aren’t those kind of races. They are intense and hard and consume you like wildfire.

And at the race, in mile 1, when it was hard, I freaked out and panicked and completely crumbled.

I have run half marathons faster than I ran the last 2 miles last Saturday.

I knew I had been strung out and stretched thin and stressed out for far too many weeks, but somehow seeing how the stress played out for me during a race… it made me realize I need some help.

It’s REALLY hard for me to admit that I can’t do it all.

But I can’t do it all.

So the first part of the solution: tonight we are interviewing someone who I’m hoping to hire to come to our house twice a week and help with housekeeping and babysitting and homework and meal prep and dishes and laundry.

(The second part of the solution is, obviously, to get back to meditation and writing. I’m hoping that the woman we interview is a good fit for us and we can utilize her help so that I can, in fact, get back to it.)

I can’t do it all.  And that’s okay.

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3 Responses to When You Need Help.

  1. Turia says:

    Oh hun. I’m sorry things are so hard. You are brave to be so open about it.

    I have to ask- the things that are piling up now- how were they being managed before when you were working full-time? Who was prepping meals? Who was cooking dinner? Who was supervising homework? Who was doing dishes?

    What I’m not seeing in your post is where Jeff fits into the equation. How much of what you’ve taken on has been abdicated by him, and how much of it was stuff that was being looked after by others outside your family (such as the after-school care)? Has his job changed significantly since you took this job? I guess I don’t really understand why you should now be responsible for 95% of child/house/domestic stuff given you are still working. What would be happening now if you had stayed in your old position?

    Also- how much can Owen do to help? He’s going to be eight next year, right? Can he amuse himself after school for an hour so you have time to write and meditate? Should he stay in the after-school program an extra day a week to give you some more breathing room?

    Just some random thoughts looking at your post. Part-time is so hard. I hope this woman is a good fit, but I also hope there is a way for other members of your family to contribute more. It shouldn’t all be on you.

    xoxo
    T.

    • Karen says:

      Ah, Turia – all great questions!

      I probably should have mentioned that Jeff is on a new engagement for the near term (aka: next 18 months) in which the client is very focused on face time and being in the office. His last client was a lot more flexible – he could work from home regularly and whenever he wanted, and it wasn’t a big deal. He worked off hours when he was in the office, too, and could be home early-ish if he started working at 7. That’s not the case with this client.

      The after school program is okay, but we’ve discovered that Owen has some issues with it, and it’s better if he’s home more.

      Plus this school year he’s got soccer practice twice a week. We currently carpool with his best friend – we take one day, they take another, which definitely helps.

      There is some solace – I have NO idea how we would have done it if I was working at my old client. Likely we wouldn’t have been able to manage at all, whereas right now I’m managing everything. Poorly, with lots of stress, but I AM managing. It’s just survival, though, and I can’t imagine continuing to do this without more help.

  2. I hope the interview went well. I am fortunate enough to live in a country where home helpers are the done thing; there is huge unemployment, and this is one way we have to make a difference in one small family’s life. I would be finished without a helper, absolutely finished. My already tenuous relationship with my little family would be stretched to the absolute max. So, I am all for the help. It’s what I need to be able to function within my family.

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