Work/Life Balance is Bullsh*t

As I write this, it is October, and I have just discovered that this year, my son’s daycare has elected to close for the entire week of Christmas and the entire week of New Years. Of these 10 days (for which I am paying), I have exactly three guaranteed days off of work. This, I’m sure, is the case for most working parents. Possibly, since they sell themselves as a “preschool” instead of a “daycare” the owners feel justified in closing for that long, reasoning that other schools will be closed, why shouldn’t they?

I can’t help but think they misunderstand the purpose behind my son’s attendance at their establishment. I did not select this place because it is an elite learning academy. I chose it because it’s close to my house, is well established (this a requirement after TWO of his previous daycares closed suddenly) and is opened the minimum hours I need so that I can work my 40 hour/week job. Also, of course, the place seems safe.

When I questioned the administrator about the closing, she said if I find myself in need of “back-up” some of the teachers are available to contract for care. That was an interesting choice of words, and accidentally appropriate. When I think of “back-up,” images of TV cops frantically shouting into handsets spring to mind. That is actually about right. These people are robbing me, I should probably call for back-up.

I do wonder if there are people for whom this is not big deal. Folks that just send their kids in because they want them to have some contact with other kids, and maybe to learn something. I’ve seen some (many, actually) who drop their kids off in exercise clothes. I should say the moms are in exercise clothes, the kids are wearing the standard uniform. My friend chooses to believe they are all fitness instructors. I think that’s her generous way of not doing what I do. Which is to hate them with a violent envious passion. It’s my fault, not theirs. I’m sure they are all very nice people. And maybe they each have some work- or health-related issue that forces them to the gym daily.

The reason I hate them is because I can easily imagine they have what I want and can’t figure out how to get, balance, time… delicious freedom. I imagine after their work-outs, they shower leisurely, then meet friends for lattes at Starbucks. Or even more luxurious, they clean their homes. Oh who am I kidding, they don’t need to clean their homes, they have housekeepers.

This is pure speculation, and I will speculate. And then be jealous.

I have nothing personal against these women with the mystical magical lives. Maybe, if I gave them a chance, I could make friends with one of them, although trying to talk to someone with such a different life is like trying to communicate with an alien. Often, we smile politely and nod. I just can’t imagine what it must be like to have time to not need to be someplace. Also, I love being with my kid, and I like to sleep, so I can’t see myself waking up at 7 to take him somewhere he isn’t REQUIRED to be so I can go somewhere I’m not REQUIRED to be.

Even before I had a baby, I had to laugh at the concept of work/life balance. It’s in the handbooks of most of the places I’ve been employed. I know the employers mean it when they say, “We advocate good work/life balance,” but come on. Take 40 work hours, 5 hours of lunch, 5 or more hours of commuting, 3-4 hours of getting ready, then subtract the time spent sleeping, cleaning, buying groceries, cooking and eating, and there’s not much “life” left.

I do most of my life balancing in the evening, marveling at the cuteness of my son and letting the housework go undone. The mess is worth the time, and the potential mortification I would feel if anyone visited means i dont waste any of my limited moments hosting guests (although I spend some fearing guests). That’s as close as I get to balance, and any one little thing can throw everything off. For example, being absolutely furious about suddenly having to find “back-up” childcare to substitute for the care I’m already paying for. Honestly, the anger at the injustice of it is taking away valuable time.

So now I’m daycare shopping. That takes time too. I’ll tell you this though, i am typing this clumsily and slowly, because my son insists on holding my hand until he falls asleep, and that makes everything else seem like no big deal.

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