What better way to see if the grass is greener on the other side than to crash in and live on the other side for a couple months? My gracious sister-in-law invited me to live in her house for two months, along with my two boys and her three boys (four if you count her husband). That’s right, five boys. My sister-in-law juggles a demanding career and motherhood, while I currently stay-at-home full time while contemplating a new career venture. She is raising her family in rural Japan and I am currently raising my kids in Las Vegas, U.S.A. This experience creates a personal, first-hand look at a different path of motherhood and cultural perspective. This post will focus on the contrasts and insights from a mom working out in the field and a mom working exclusively at home.
All the moms I know question their parenting and lifestyle choices. Many struggle with the decision to stay home full time or balance work outside the home. Moms and non-moms alike often make hurtful judgments about the choices of other moms. But deep down, I think we all wonder if the grass is greener on the other side, no matter which side we choose.
Wthere is no universal answer for whethe r amok should work outside the home. Each family has different circumstances and an array of factors involved in the decision. Whichever green pasture you choose, both sides should acknowledge the give and take in the decision. When I studied economics, we called it the “opportunity cost” of your decision; what you give up in exchange for the choice you make. No decision in life is without opportunity cost.
1) Time and energy are finite for all of us. We all must prioritize how to allocate these precious resources. There are ways to increase efficiency, but ultimately spending more time and energy in one area means taking it away from other areas. When you see another mom who appears to do it all perfectly, chances are she just prioritizes things differently. One mom takes pride in baking cupcakes from scratch. Another mom emphasizes looking her best and teaches her kids to do the same. Another mom lets mismatched socks slide because she focuses on teaching her kids how to rock a career by example. We can’t be all things all at once. Another mom leaves her career behind to homeschool her kids. Different priorities with different opportunity costs.
2) Don’t confuse quantity and quality. Whether you are fatigued from career stress or full-time motherhood, find time to refresh. Carve out time to read, write, phone a friend, work out, zone out or just drink a cup of coffee that is still hot. Do not feel guilty for taking a few minutes or a couple hours out for yourself. It is not time away from your kids if you are resting and rejuvenating to be a happier, more focused mama when you get back. Spending every free minute with your kids is only valuable if you are really present an interactive. Snapping at your kids because you are at your wits end is not bonding time. Get yourself Ina. State of mind to provide quality time with your kids.
Also, schedule special family activities or down time when you actually have energy. There is a tendency to wait until late evening to sit down together, at which point everyone is exhausted. Try to make time right after school. If work doesn’t permit you any time during the week, make sure you schedule your family first during your time off before making other commitments. Also, incorporate your kids into work events and social committments when possible.
3) Parenthood demands flexible scheduling and the ability to drop everything else at a moment’s notice. This conflicts with work and results in many disagreements about which parent will leave work to handle the unexpected. In just one month, the following emergencies arose: hospitalization of relatives, torrential rains necessitating pick ups and activity cancellations, a bear on the loose requiring immediate pick up of kids from school, and random monkey sightings creating danger for walking home from school. You may not have typhoons, wild bears or roaming monkeys, but emergencies and illness will arise.
4) This leads directly into the 9 to 5 myth. There is a myth that work is 9 to 5. Most careers are not to 9 to 5. Schedules are erratic and even when you are physically home, many jobs are taking up your mental energy. Accountants have busy season. Doctors have countless emergencies. Lawyers have deadlines and client emergencies. Teachers have planning and parent meetings. Business owners have to be there whenever the business needs them. When work demands attention after hours, family time is invaded. This is especially difficult with younger children who cannot be left unsupervised.
5) When the cat is away, the mice will play, kick, scream, fight, break rules, break valuables, and play lots of Nintendo. While kids may survive time on their own, they need a good dose of parental guidance and supervision.
6) Whether juggling an outside job, every woman needs time and space to cultivate their own identity aside from family and career. Carve out a little time for yourself.
7) Loosen up on control and the pursuit of perfection to let in some help. I spend time with a lot of moms. I often observe them criticize their spouse, kids, or visiting relatives when they try to help clean up or do chores. The mom has devised a meticulous system to get the dishes clean or how to wash the floor, and she is aggravated that her common sense wisdom isn’t so common sense. It is easier to just do it herself. And you know what the worst part is? A sudden realization follows that I am guilty of the same behavior! Consider this my public apology.
It may be easier to do it all yourself today, but it is much harder in the long wrong. Your spouse, kids and friends will become afraid to help. You will get more burned out and resentful. Your kids also won’t form the habits of taking care of the house. Some guys hate housework or think it is all on us. Ugh. We can’t control others thoughts but we can control how we treat and influence others. Surely every guy hates his wife’s wrath. So let’s try to let loose and let them in.
7) My only conclusion is THE GRASS IS AS GREEN AS YOU MAKE IT. The author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” Robert Fulghum, said “The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you are. Whatever pasture you choose, career juggle or full-time motherhood, work hard and nurture your pasture. And if you are truly unhappy, you can change your mind. Just know your Ttitude and efforts are whAt make the grass green, whichever path you go. Although, the grass truly is greener in the Japanese Alps than in Vegas.