I know the working mom dance.
Meetings and clients and deadlines and emails mixing with drop-offs and pick-ups and packed lunches and play dates in a complicated routine that is fun yet dizzying. Fulfilling yet overwhelming.
Over the past three years, I’ve worked hard to improve my dancing. I’ve stretched and practiced. I’ve given nearly daily performances. I’ve gotten mixed reviews here and there, but mostly? They were positive. And even on the bad days, I usually managed to stay on my feet.
And through it all, I’ve learned.
I’ve learned that packing lunches and picking outfits the night before makes for smoother mornings. I’ve learned which words ensure the smoothest exit from a meeting that has overrun its time, because there is always someone else (my children, my boss, another client) waiting. I’ve learned what chores to do with my daughter (cooking! and, surprisingly, folding laundry!) and what to leave for after bedtime (anything that involves a computer).
I’ve learned that work-life balance does not mean what it implies – that you can find a way to put work on one side and life on the other to force the scale’s two plates to rest on the same plane. It does not work that way. Balance does not mean equal. Balance means competing priorities, needs, and lives weaving around each other in an intricate dance. And yes, sometimes the dancers bump into one another. But they always get back up when they fall.
In October, I stepped off the dance floor. I took leave and welcomed a new little boy into our lives. Into our dance.
The break has been magical. Refreshing. It turns out that balance is easier to achieve when you place fewer things on the scale.
But it is coming to an end. In two weeks, I’ll be back on the floor. Stretching muscles that have grown soft with three months of rest. Trying moves that I’ll manage to perform due to muscle memory, but that will look awkward and clumsy. Learning new moves and new routines because now I’ve stepped up to the next level. The one-child dance is, I am sure, vastly different from the two-child dance.
And I’m scared. I’m terrified. Standing here, on this side of the return, I feel anxious. Nervous to get back on the floor. What if I fall?
So, as I prepare for the tough road ahead, I come here. To remind myself that yes, I will fall. But I will get back up. And I’ll try again. I’ll strengthen the muscles that have grown soft and the new ones that have yet to be called upon and I’ll master, yet again, the art of this working-mom dance.