Week 31: Balancing act

week 30PIN ITIt’s been exactly a month today since we moved out of our little home. A month of living out of bags and boxes. A month of making other peoples homes, our short term home. A month of changing the route we drive to visit grandma, or the kind of walks we take, or the places we buy our fresh produce. We are a solid month in to this new phase of the Nothing New Project, where we are testing the limits of a transitional lifestyle… where we are seeing; by living it; whether or not it is really possible to push back against societal expectations and create a life that is not completely connected to a home of our own. The answer to that question (for our family) is yet to be decided…

I’ve always had dreams of buying a Combi van and driving off into the sunset with music blaring and friends at my side. But the reality of our genuine need for community and connection (not to mention the sheer cost of petrol and the impracticalities of long term life on the road alone with a small child) have always won out whenever I’ve found myself compiling a mental pro’s and con’s list for the long term road trip. With just us two, we rely so heavily on the people we have in our lives for conversation and connection. I’ve spent many years being wild and carefree, but for Bo, who has only me as her anchor in the world, being able to offer her certain consistencies has always had to be a priority. It’s not just about me anymore. We will hit the road again for a holiday at some stage, but for now, we are staying in a reasonable radius of the regional town in which we are based… for both our sakes.

I thought that we would spend the next six months travelling wherever a house sitting opportunity might take us. But life had other ideas, as it often does when I make plans. When I finished my masters just over a month ago I wasn’t looking for work. I had a few opportunities to work from home and a good part time job that was supporting us well enough. But things seem to happen when you least expect them, and before I knew it I was sitting in a job interview. I got the job and the hours I wanted, which was very exciting and unexpected and meant reassessing the plans that we had made for the year… I’m working out of the home twice as much as I was before and the job is challenging and directly related to what I spent so many years studying and writing paper after paper on. But like anything it takes a bit of a juggle to get the balance right.

We are not there yet, but we’re getting closer.

Working closely with our local community, facilitating a support group and encouraging social and community engagement is how I spend half my weeks these days – and it will be for the foreseeable future.

With all of this I thought that perhaps I should abandon this part of the project, step back from trying to explore alternative living arrangements and conform to a system that undoubtedly will make our life a little simpler and more predictable as I learn how to balance that work/parenting/lifestyle triangle. Maybe it was too much to expect that we could live out of bags and boxes whilst trying to take on so much externally.

I thought about it for days and days, as I do.

Eventually I decided we would keep on going the way we are for now. Staying close enough that the commute is never unreasonable, but we are still not committed to one place or one home. Eventually we will end up back in some sort of accommodation of our own, but not yet. Right now we are getting a lot of joy out of the challenge, and seem to have found a balance between freedom and familiarity that’s working quite well.

I’d love any tips from mums who constantly juggle working outside the home and parenting particularly small children… how do you make it work? A must-have for me is a good day care, and we are so lucky to have been able to use the same one for the past 18 months. I couldn’t work at all without a good daycare for Bo. 

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  • August 4, 2014 - 7:09 am

    Jade - I have 3 little girls (5, 3 and 3 months) and work as a secondary teacher. I’ve never been out of work for more than 8 months. For me to be able to manage it all I frequently fin myself stepping back when things get too overwhelming and think about how I can make things easier for myself.

    With my job I could work for hours and hours and still never be finished so I reach a point with each task and just have to settle with what I’ve done. Not all my lessons can be exciting!

    I like to life a simple life as much as I can but I realise that with work some things can’t be simple, i can’t do it all. For example I recently started online grocery shopping. I persisted with a while taking all 3 girls out but as you imagine it was a nightmare and would leave me feeling stressed before I even started. Now I do it online and I can enjoy more time at home with my girls so I’ve got peace with the decision. There are other things that I won’t change like cooking all my meals, making my own laundry liquid etc but with work not all can be the way I’d ideally like it.ReplyCancel

    • August 8, 2014 - 5:25 pm

      Sash - It’s hard to let go of some things though isn’t it?! I wish I could let go of doing the dishes… it really is my least favourite job. 😉ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2014 - 10:28 am

    Carly - I began working two days a week as a preschool teacher when my daughter was 10 months old using day care one day per week and my mum the other. It was an ebb and flow of constant adjustment for me and my family. Some months went like a dream and some…well not so dream like. But at the heart of the arrangement was supportive colleagues, supportive family and partner and most of all me trying to let go of guilt for never doing anything as ‘well’ as I had hoped…but in all this, apart for financial necessity for me to work, was the joy I gained for having a little piece of time to do something I really enjoyed away from the home and my daughter.ReplyCancel

    • August 8, 2014 - 5:26 pm

      Sash - I never do anything as well as I had hoped either… but I’m too tired most nights to worry too much about it. If we have pancakes and peppa pig together on the couch for dinner some nights, so be it!ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2014 - 10:51 am

    Reannon @shewhorambles - I stopped working when baby number 3 came along & now that baby number 4 arrived so quickly it looks like I won’t be going back any time soon.

    When I was working the things that made it easier were-
    Great daycare close to home
    An understanding boss/workplace
    Being organized at home : packing bags/lunches the night before, making sure I had some easy meals on hand for those days everything goes nuts, doing the washing at night
    And the biggest thing of all was letting go of some of the things I thought I needed to do. Simple & easy is best xReplyCancel

    • August 8, 2014 - 5:24 pm

      Sash - An understanding workplace is key isn’t it? I’m so glad my new job (and my old job for that matter) is all abotu inclusiveness and family oriented care (in Social Services) and this includes the staff… understanding that we have lives outside of work and responsibilities to tiny humans that will always come first… I have no idea where I’d be if I couldn’t find work like that!ReplyCancel

  • August 6, 2014 - 4:14 am

    Anna - I agree: Good daycare is key.
    These things have helped me.
    1. Find people, friends, family, babysitter that you can call to look after your child.
    There WILL BE those days when your child is sick and you HAVE to attend/ run the meeting, workshop or conference you’ve planned for months.
    Invest time so your child gets to know those people and feel comfortable with them. Don’t wait until the last minute to start building up these relationships between your child and your family/friends/babysitter.
    Don’t rely on one person, because at some point you’ll find out your child is sick at 11 p.m. and you’ll need someone the next day at 8 a.m. to be at your place.
    Make one of your options someone you pay for. Money is short at our place and I love having my friends looking after my child. But it makes asking SO MUCH easier when you have to ask AGAIN and you know there’s just not enough time to make it up to them in the near future.
    Find people to swap your children with. Take their child with you when you pick yours from daycare and vice versa. Either on a regular basis (you on a thursdays – she on mondays) or every now and then.
    2. This one’s been really important to me. Don’t know if that works for everybody but for me it makes all the difference in the world, probably because I never managed to do that before I became a mother. Be very strict to yourself about work-time and private-time. Don’t take work home. Work hard when you’re at work, plan your time thoughtfully, but don’t be tempted to work an weekends, evenings or in-between. It’ll stress you out. Reserve the time at home for everything that needs to get done (food, grocery shopping, blabla),…and most importantly for your child. Once you get home from work that time should be reserved for your child and yourself.
    That said there will be exceptions, but make sure it stay exceptions.
    This one got longer than I thought…
    Congratulations on the job from Berlin.ReplyCancel

    • August 8, 2014 - 5:23 pm

      Sash - Thank You! I need to find a good paid babysitter as backup. I love that my mum and friends are happyt o watch Bo in a pinch, but you’re right, sometimes it’s just not possible, or it’s just the wrong time to ask (again)… xxReplyCancel

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