Monday, February 26, 2007

Wearing 3 hats

As most of us do, I have three distinct roles to play: mother, worker, wife. My roles don't blend together like many others do, and maybe that gives me the unique opportunity to see how DIFFICULT it must be for people to do all three simultaneously. Many people wonder, for example, how single women manage to take care of their children alone....while I wonder how on earth married couples manage to maintain a relationship while being a parent and holding down a full-time job.

Here's my case:
1) Four days of the week I am a full-time mother who tries to sneak in work when her two children aren't looking for her, and who uses one of those nights to go out on a date with her husband (who lives 20 miles away). As a self-employed publisher and writer, this ultimately means I don't make nearly enough money, but I do think I spend more time with my 3-year-old and 7-year-old than most parents are able to. (Even if they don't always see it that way. :-)

2) Three days of the week I have childcare and I cram in as much work as I can. As alluded to above, it's not nearly enough time for me to make the income I did before I had kids and became a part-time "stay at home" mom.

3) One night each week my husband and I get together, without kids, and focus on each other. During the rest of the week we try to email during the day, talk each night on the phone, and occasionally find another excuse to get together, particularly when he has a caretaker for his teenaged special needs daughter. What we offer each other is a committed partner that might not be an active part of our daily lives, but is a constant that helps us relieve the stress of parenthood or work.

I cannot imagine successfully blending these three "functions" in life. As the great Moms Rising group will attest, most mothers who work don't get enough assistance from their employers. So I consider myself blessed to be self-employed, even if that means sacrificing income (that would otherwise go to childcare).

As many married friends I know --male and female-- will attest, it's hard to maintain a good adult relationship among the other pressures. Kid attention can be a focus that deters from couplehood, or the stress of doing it all can leave a household that's not always pleasant for the kids. Simplistic way of looking at it, yes. But I do consider the relationship my husband and I have to be solid, and given our restrictions on blending, we're making this work in a way that gives us the energy to give back to our kids the rest of the week.

Living separate is definitely the best thing for our kids right now. So although it wasn't our first choice, I feel blessed that we're able to make it work in our separate homes.

I know some people think my lifestyle is a tough one. Self-employed single mom of two with husband elsewhere. But honestly, I cannot fathom how others manage to do it any other way.