i don’t know how she does it

I had to get the oil changed today, so after dropping off the car at the Sears Auto shop, I parked myself in the food court with my cup of McDonald’s coffee and got some work done. As a freelance editor, I sometimes have the ability to take my work with me and so my errand was partially paid for by my flexible career (although the fee for just that one oil change surpassed the amount of money earned from my hour or so of work).

Still, I’m fortunate to have the option to be able to do not only this (working just about anywhere, although not all my assignments are so pack and go and days so free on time), but also to work my schedule around my kids’ school drop off, pick ups, and other events in their lives. In fact, while at the mall and after finishing with the work I had brought with me, I was able to take in a movie (or most of a movie) before rushing out the theater door and down the mall corridor to pay for the maintenance and retrieve my car before picking up my son from school. If only the pay I receive for the work I do were as desirable as the flexibility, but this is the dilemma a lot of working parents face.

In fact, the movie I saw, I Don’t Know How She Does It, hits upon this dilemma of balance. The movie stars Sarah Jessica Parker as the harried working mom, Greg Kinnear as her usually understanding husband, and Pierce Brosnan as a business cohort whom Kate (SJP’s character) works with and nearly falls for.  The topic drew me in–in fact, I remember having checked this book out of the library some time ago, although I couldn’t find the time to finish reading it–so I thought I’d check out the movie.

On some levels I could relate to Kate in that there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. I also could relate to the lists she draws up in her mind. What mom/working woman/wife doesn’t lie awake at night ruminating on, hyperventilating over, dreading the events of the upcoming days and the shortcomings of her life?

On other levels, however, I couldn’t relate . . . at all. I’m referring to things like having a nanny, living in a Pottery Barn-inspired home, having a career that is so satisfying and fulfilling that you just know that if she were to take it down a notch or maybe even ten, she would indeed be able to juggle her high-paying working life with mothering and being a wife. She’d still stay busy, but she’d be more present for everyone, including herself, which (forgive me, but as I explained, I had to run out before the closing credits), I believe is what she ultimately decides to do. I think every woman would love that dilemma–being a loving mom and wife and having a fulfilling career that allows for all the good things in life. But nothing is perfect. Something’s gotta give. Either you are present for your kids’ first haircuts, first steps and first smiles and are actually able to bake a pie from scratch for the school bake sale, or you’re out cornering a lucrative deal while making incredible pay, wearing sharp clothes, and padding your 401(k) for what will obviously be an amazing retirement. Either way, there are tradeoffs.  In the grand scheme of things, I guess we should all be thankful for the little things that do go right–the work that comes in, the home that is comfortable enough, and the family that is usually happy to see you. Oh yeah, and being able to occasionally sit through most of the show.

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