Thursday, January 26, 2012

Raising the Bar

With Josh gone this week, I'm in single parent mode.  It's not something that thankfully I have to do very often unlike many of my expat friends.  However, it reminds me of our times when we lived in the States.  This is because at home, Josh wasn't there often and when he was, he didn't participate much in household duties.  I remember right before we moved, I was working, taking care of both kids, looking for renters for both of our houses, school applications, reconstruction of one house, packing, and the list goes on and on.  Josh was... working.  It didn't feel fair.  But at the same time, I wasn't ready to release much control of my world to him either and so I couldn't exactly fault him for not doing the things I felt he should do but that I never actually asked him to do. 

However, I finally hit a point where I couldn't take one more item on my plate.  The move was overwhelming me beyond what I could handle.  So I asked very simply... "can you please make a school lunch?".  Well, today more than 2 years later he's still in charge of school lunch.  And he's recognized that being a parent and a part of this family means that while he works a gazillion hours a week, there is still responsibility at home.  He participates more in our lives and helps around the house more than before. 

And I've become accustomed to this help over the last two years.  Almost to the point where in a way I feel a bit lazy.  Yes, I still work, but I also socialize more here...and take Spanish classes (ok that's not a pleasurable part of my day so we can link that with household chores).  I'm still in charge of the kids the majority of the time like at home but they are home less hours than before and with Liam now in school full time, my day is my own for the first time in years.  My life is more relaxed, mas tranquila.  My days are busy, rarely do I have a day at home just by myself, but yet, I'm not overscheduled like I would be at home.  It took close to a year of the two that we've been here to feel like I can really slow my pace down and enjoy my time abroad and truly experience our lives here.  It's not in my personality to slow down and for me to get to the point where I can "relax" took a lot of back and forth in my mind - guilt for not doing enough but then thinking that I also deserve to take a few years in my life to live a life less chaotic.

But back to Josh being gone.  In a way, it's an adreneline rush for me.  Suddenly it's like my old life again.  I'm the one solely resonsible for the kids.  I now make the school lunches.  Laundry isn't getting done unless I do it, etc etc.  Yes,I know these are mundane things.  But at home, I'd have gone for a run at 5:45AM, showered, done the dishes, thrown in a load of laundry, made lunch for the kids, beds all made, kids bathed and dressed, brought Liam to day care, stopped at the dry cleaners on the way back and still make it to the bus stop to drop Aidan off by 8:30.  It was feeling a sense of accomplishment in my day before the day had truly begun.  And it was a rush to get my day started on a note of accomplishment.

I feel like I've had to pick up my pace again because I have to make up for his absence but it makes me realize that I've lost my overachieving edge that I had at home and I see this as both a good and bad thing. The rush of accomplishing 5 different tasks before we leave for the bus stop has been long gone but when Josh travels the old Julie peeks thru. It makes me realize that while I took time to adjust to my new life and to also take a step back to appreciate the life mas tranquila here, I have also let myself slack off where I normally wouldn't. The house, work, activities, our social calendar, etc. I'm at my best when I have a full plate. 

We've all had talks over the years about finding a good work/life balance.  It's hard, especially so for working moms (sorry dads, but you know it's true) who are expected to work and care for the kids and home.  I feel like I'm closer to finding this balance but not 100% there yet.  At home in the States, we live to work and it's not healthy for us.  We are driven by our jobs and they rule our lives.  We don't leave our blackberries behind when we go on vacation, we can't unplug from our lives and just take the time to smell the roses and enjoy our families.  There is always an activity or sports going on, birthday parties, lunches, dinners, we are overscheduled.  I remember having our calendar filled for 2 months in advance, all the time. 

I'm sure part of my lack of over scheduling is my much smaller social circle.  However, as far as work goes, the 6 hour time difference has played in my favor.  I can go to the gym in the morning and feel no guilt about not working all morning long or being in my office in time for my clients to be arriving in their offices.  I run my errands, maybe have lunch with a friend or perhaps do some work before my clients come in.  Regardless, I feel a freedom to my day that I didn't have at home.  But it's a freedom that makes me feel like my day is a little too... easy.  If I don't get to the dry cleaners, oh well, no big deal, it will still be there tomorrow.  It will get checked off on my list...eventually. 

So how do I raise the bar without compromising all that I have worked so hard to change?  Gone is the fast paced life where I forever felt like I was keeping up with the Joneses and felt the need to continuously be in motion.  I no longer want to have the exact same rapid fire, constant multi tasking life that I had at home, but it's definitely time to bring back some of those elements without compromising the genuine beauty of our lives here.  I enjoy the notion of now working to live instead of living to work.  This is our one life that we are getting - why would I spend all of it working and not enjoy what life has to offer?  But then, if I don't work, there's less money coming in and less that we can then do... it's a catch-22.  But there has to be a happy medium. 

Friends here for the most part don't work which allows for more social flexibility than I do at home where we all work.  This is a flexibility that may have gotten in the way of me doing a lot of my work and household responsibilities.  But when speaking to my best friend from home, she pointed out, why do I need my business to grow while I'm here, why can't I just maintain what I have and enjoy my time of "freedom" and then when I move back home, grow it then?  I'm not neglecting the clients I have now, I'm just not adding to my client list.  She made a good point!  I can still manage to live in both worlds and not feel so torn, too bad there are only 24 hours in a day though... it's still a tough balance.

So what next?  Well, I'm not really sure.  But taking the time to reflect back on the pros and cons of my life before and my life now certainly helps to put things in perspective.  I know what I don't want out of my life here.  Now it's time to figure out exactly what I do want and then formulate a plan of how to go after that.  Maybe raising the bar for me is just going out of my comfort zone more often here, maybe it's running that 10k that's been intimidating me, it's planning more things as a family and putting ourselves out there more, or maybe it's just taking more chances in my life.  Only time will tell.


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