Just this morning, I read a post by kisungura at mycontrolledascent.com that really struck a chord because it hit so close to home. The post is mainly about how she and her husband both give too much to their work and their children, leaving little to nothing left for each other…too often…to the point that they have lost touch with their marriage enough to have given up their D/s relationship. Because of it, she’s flailing and lost.
It’s a common theme, really…giving all we’ve got to the world outside, taking our loved ones for granted, assuming they’ll always be there…until they aren’t. I’ve been guilty of this far more often than I’d like to admit.
Interestingly enough, k and I share the same career…one well known for sapping a person’s energy and asking way too much of us emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically. It’s exhausting and hard to leave behind when we leave for the day. At work, we give and give and give, and by the end of the day, it can sometimes be difficult to give more, even though we understand that our loved ones are more important.
This year, I’m doing much better at leaving work behind. I’m also doing better at giving less of myself personally, setting boundaries at work, saying no, and “caring less.” That might sound awful, especially when children are involved, but I only have so much to give, and what I have to give has to last beyond 4pm.
Of course there are days when I simply can’t help it. And September is always hard. But, this year, I have begun to feel “settled” much earlier than I normally do. I’m trying very hard not to bring work home (sometimes it’s impossible).
It’s important to refuel to be good at what I do. So downtime and time with my Husband and son and friends and other family actually also makes me better at my job.
It might sound ironic, but working less actually makes me better at my job…because it makes me like it more and resent it less.
It’s also absolutely necessary for me to spend time with my Husband, focusing on His needs…our needs…my needs. My writing. Reading. Sex.
I naturally obsess about work. But, I have committed to leaving by 4:30 every night. I complete what I can and try not to waste one minute of time while I’m there. I put relationships before content or to-do lists, and I do less…better.
They make movies about people who are “outstanding” examples in my field. Their personal lives are usually a disaster, and their relationships with people outside of work are usually non-existent or broken. Why they make these films, to show us these “exemplary” educators who give up everything for the children, is beyond me, because they just add to the damage. They provide an impossible standard, and they encourage giving up life in favor of work. Yes, work can be fulfilling, but work doesn’t last forever and it can’t fulfill us in every way. And no…the children aren’t worth losing ourselves and our lives and our loved ones. No matter what these films and society would have us believe. Putting us up on a moral pedestal isn’t fair. We’re human. We have needs. And our needs are relevant.
My job is a creative outlet for me. It’s also meaningful work that makes a difference. But it isn’t worth the loss of love. At the end of the day, it’s a job. A job that will ask too much of me (and, therefore, the people I love)…if I let it.
It’s my responsibility to make sure that I don’t.
This year I have 50 more students than last year, 2 more classes, 30 minutes less planning time, 2 more preps…and yet, somehow, I’m holding it together. So far.
I’m not saying I won’t fall down. That I won’t fail. But the balance comes from knowing that the only way to enjoy my job is to have fun, to focus on the people (at work and at home), and to accept that I can only accomplish so much in the hours provided. I also have to remember that it doesn’t help anyone if I overwork myself, run myself down, and lose the spark for everything I love. It doesn’t prove I’m a better educator. In fact, going home at a reasonable time and leaving my work at work makes me a better educator.
So, there’s that. I’m a work in progress. And this “balance” thing is never easy. One of the comments (care of Mrs. Fever of Temperature’s Rising) is worth repeating here: “I once read that adults are really only capable of managing two major life encumbrances successfully. Since most manage three by default (career, family, marriage – and yes, family relationships and marital relationships are, while entwined, distinctly different), it’s sort of likewise a default that one of those three will suffer.”
A book I read and re-read when I need to remind myself about prioritizing correctly is The One Thing by Gary Keller. This book says a similar thing…that we can only focus on one thing at a time, which means other things will, as a result, get less (or no focus). We are, contrary to popular belief, not really capable of successful multi-tasking. But, many of us force ourselves (either because we feel we have to or because we have no choice) to do it anyway. It’s exhausting. And it can swing a crushing blow on our mental health when it gets out of our control. We end up feeling incapable or disappointing. Like we “should” be able to handle it, so we must be failures because we can’t. We look around and focus on people who seem to be doing it better than us.
That’s another thing I’m not doing this year. I’m now the one telling newer, younger professionals in my building to stop comparing themselves to those who seem to being doing it all, because “doing it all” comes at a price.
k knows this. I know this. Anyone who’s tried to do it all knows this. And we all need to be a lot more honest and vocal about how destructive it is.