Road to Retirement: Juggling Home, Career, Kids
Juggling a home, family, and career is like living under the big top. I feel like my life is a three ring circus. In my mind there’s me, ringmaster Kelli in the center ring, wearing tailored designer suits, sitting in a big office with a whole staff of folks to do stuff. I don’t know what stuff, but it would be cool stuff. In the ring to your left is the Kelli with a designer apron on and a gourmet meal in hand, ready to serve her immaculately dressed family (all with sharp regulation haircuts) in a stylish dining room with delicate china and sparkling crystal. The chef would be putting the garnishes on the plates because, in this circus, I definitely am not cooking. Finally in the ring to your right is the Kelli with perfectly styled hair, a wheel barrow, and her calendar, ready to be of service, volunteer, make things happen, and, of course, be a friend to all.
Now back on earth…
Here is the more correct and more accurate description of the circus that is my life: to my left I present laundry mountain, to my right the valley of bills, and in the center ring, six children all clamoring for or needing attention either virtually or in real time. I want to be a friend to all, but by the time I am finished with my day I have little time left over to hang out and do girl stuff. I drop dead tired into bed and supposedly, according to my husband, immediately start snoring. I don’t believe that snoring part.
I haven’t mentioned the banking, the eight-hour work day, the yard, the dogs, the church service, or the volunteer support for teams, activities, and other organizations my children join. I even did some sewing one time. Don’t forget somewhere under the pile of dishes and book reports is a husband with a military career.
Somewhere along the way someone said women could have it all and I believed them. The reality is whoever said you can have it all set me up for failure until I defined what “having it all” really means, and what it means is different from one person to the next. For me, my roles as wife and mother come first before my career, but not to the exclusion of it. My family needs me to continue to seek personal education and development. I had to figure out what that looked like and how to fit it all in.
We are lucky to live in a time when women truly have many choices. I don’t personally believe you can have perfection in all areas of your life. In fact, I don’t think we are supposed to. If that were the case, there would be little to learn and certainly no joy in the triumphs along the way.
Having it all meant finding the balance between caring for and nurturing my family while continuing to personally grow and develop. I find the two areas are not mutually exclusive. Continuing my education and developing career skills brings me a personal sense of accomplishment that makes me a much nicer mother and spouse. I like to say “Look, that’s me, your mom! You should totally appreciate this.” They always stop for a second, look at me, and then mumble something like “ok, sure mom” and then usually ask me for money for something. I’m sure they are just trying to hold back their tears of pride.
My juggling act of home, family, and career is quite impressive, but often messy. I learned early on to start letting go in some areas. When we were stationed in El Paso, Texas I was writing for a few different publications. My now thirteen-year-old son was around four at the time and not yet in school. As I sat talking to my editor over the phone I lost track of what he was doing until I glanced over into the kitchen to see nothing but his rear end sticking out of the refrigerator, the contents of which were spread out neatly all over my kitchen floor.
Startled I yelled “Oh my gosh! What are you doing?” He calmly backed out, looked at me, and cocking his tiny head to one side looked me steadily in the eye and said “cleaning out the refrigerator…you ought to try it sometime.” He then calmly went back to work. I turned back to my call with my editor and said, “No worries…he has it under control.” And he did, and I had a deadline.
I left that fridge arranged the way he fixed it for several days. I like to think he was trying to help out, do his part. I think the reality is he was annoyed with the state in which he found the refrigerator.
With a chaotic schedule for so many people, and one that often overlaps, I’ve dropped a few things here and there.
I’ve forgotten children, more than once. I’ve forgotten a bill or two… I’ve gotten lost with a map and a GPS. I take credit for just about all the grey hair on my dear husband’s head. I am the antithesis of how my military-minded man thinks. I giggle most of the time, until I lock my keys in my car for the 273rd time and have to call my husband. It’s all fun and games until I have to ask him to leave work and bring me the spare key. I’d rather have my eye poked.
So other than letting preschoolers clean up the kitchen, how have I survived children, moving, and building a career? Some days are difficult and there’s no magic wand to wave. I have challenges I’m still trying to overcome. Some I’m determined to master. Others, I am learning to find creative solutions for and I am trying not to feel guilty about not being the perfect housekeeper or cook.
I always have hoped that no matter what, out of all the things I am and do, that my children never question for one minute that they are important, loved, and wanted. There’s a country song that really put life in perspective for me. Isn’t there always a country song that is just so moving and profound? Like “One Hot Mama?” Anyway, that’s not the song. The song I am thinking of right now talks about a dinner prayer the mom gives. She gives thanks for slamming doors, dirty children, a husband dragging in late each night tired from work, laundry on the floor, and dirty dishes.
I think someone was looking in my window when they wrote that.
Dirty children are happy, dirty dishes is food on the table, a husband home from work late means a job, and a slamming door is a warm and loving home.
I hope someone was looking in my window when they wrote that.
In my circus, I do have it all.