This article was written some time ago, the child I was carrying is now five years old, and also has a baby sister. There are some lessons for me to revisit in this post, which is why I share it today. (The article firsts appeared in Plane Trees magazine – Melbourne University’s Post graduate magazine).
Part 1. I run from the office to the train station, from the train station to my car, from my car to the creche, and because I am in the habit of running everywhere, I run from my car to my front door.
Part 2. Dinner, bath time, bed time. Not for me, but for my daughter. Part three of my day is for me. Compartmentalising my day like this isn’t a conscious strategy, it’s just how I’m able to manage things.
Part 3. Dinner with my husband (after our daughter is in bed), an attempt at some sort of meaningful adult conversation and then pulling out the books or computer for a bit of ‘leisurely’ work. Such is the life of the parent who crazily balances paid work, family & home duties, or study. No doubt this scenario is very familiar to you readers, with parents attempting to balance work or study (or both), with family life. However, recent events have led me to question how much of this mania is out of our control.
I am four weeks away from giving birth to our second child and have scaled down my external commitments. I have given up paid employment, taken a leave of absence from my studies and continue to send my 20 month old daughter to creche two days a week.
As this ‘slowing down’ period approached it was like a beacon in the distance; I really believed that this hiatus, between giving up external commitments and waiting for the the baby to arrive, was keeping me going. Yet, the strangest thing has unfolded. I still run; everywhere!
I keep asking myself why I can’t slow down and keep finding reasons to keep rushing around. My primary excuse is that I need to get organised for the baby – which is true, but if the baby was to arrive early with me feeling that I’m not organised, it really doesn’t matter; babies do arrive early and life goes on.
This tension between being able to slow down and actually slowing is an interesting one. A simple proposition, I would have thought. Take away the aspects that create the mad rush, the rest follows, yes? Unfortunately not.
It seems that slowing down is a state of mind; I find I’m having to make a conscious choice not to rush about just so I can cross another job off my constantly evolving list of things to do. It’s no easy feat, so it’s no wonder that the emergence of phenomenas such as ‘The Slow Movement’ are taking hold.
It is a movement that aims to ‘address the issues of “time poverty” through making connections’. It suggests that ‘we have been fooled into thinking we need, or even must, be fast and have what the “fast life” gives us.’ I am inclined to agree. There is no reason for me to be rushing around, but the life I have forged for myself and my family requires that I do.
Having all this time on my hands has led me to ponder how we (as a society) have ended up like this. We are in constant pursuit of work-life balance, and how long has ‘work-life balance’ been part of our venacular anyway? It seems to have slipped in unnoticed and now it seems to be the root of our constant haste.
I actually think that the concept of ‘work-life balance’ is a delusion and compartmentalising your life to fit everything in is a strategy in the pursuit of the unobtainable. As I have pointed out earlier, the result of this compartmentalisation is constant running, crossing one job off the top of the list, only for another to appear at the bottom; and so life becomes a series of tick boxes. Rather than living life we are ticking the boxes.
Part of me is willing this next four weeks away, wishing time would pass quickly, so I can get on with the business of looking after my new baby. But part of me acknowledges how fortunate I am to be able to just live an unfrenzied life for the next four weeks.
The decluttering I have undertaken has made me realise that the baby will still arrive, my studies will be completed, I will go back to work; all in the fullness of time. Rushing it all won’t make the achievements any greater, it will just mean that the journey is over faster, which is a shame indeed.