Balancing Two Careers

RebeccaUncategorized0 Comments

Holy Cow.  This is my 200th blog post.

Okay, I keep saying this, but man…  time is flying, and life is getting hectic. Hectic like I’m struggling to remember what day it is, and when I know it’s only because of the boys’ hockey schedule.  Seriously. Oh, that’s right, it’s MAY, and we’re still driving 50 minutes each way, four times a week to the nearest ice rink for hockey, since the boys are in spring league. That basically means we’ve been going four times a week for the last 8 1/2 months.

So yeah, there’s that hecticness.  But the biggest change in this house has been my transition from being a stay-at-home mom to work-at-home author. No problem, right?

Right, because this is my dream career, something I’ve always dreamed about doing, and all I can feel is this insane giddiness for being able to do it, like I live some magical little tale like:

We thought it should be pretty simple… well, when he was deployed.  Jason’s career was in a manageable place, and we decided that the focus in the house would shift to supporting me writing this next book. We talked about it a lot, how we’d share responsibilities and make sure that both of our careers thrived. Well, that was before he was given a higher-pressure job at battalion level… you know, the kind you don’t turn down.

So now, instead of me making a career push, and Jason helping run things in the background, well, we BOTH made huge career pushes, and now the background is vacant and blurry… and messy. So, now there’s two of us with careers in this house, and as much as we’re trying to handle the change gracefully, well, we look more like:

Yeah, that’s pretty much us. So with Jason gone at a moment’s notice about 24-7, hockey, doctor’s appts and visitation for Princess Pumpkin, Neuro appts for Iron Man, and, oh… writing another book, I feel like sun up to sun down is basically:

Yeah. Because we’re raising five kids midst all of this, and they’re still our number one priority, no matter what’s going on at work with either of us.

Then again, the kids are making us scratch our heads. Captain America is eleven now, and we keep thinking maybe he can handle a little more responsibility. I want him to learn to be more self-sufficient not because he has to be, but because we believe in fostering confidence and independence. I’m not talking brain surgery, people, I’m just saying maybe he can be accountable for the contents of his own backpack.

Oh, this is not the case.

So Monday morning, Captain America says, “Hey, mom, since the big May concert is on Thursday, I have to stay after school on Tuesday for the last rehearsal.”

I’m over here like:

And my response is, “Well, I don’t think you’ve ever said the words, May and Concert in the same sentence before, so I have no clue what you’re talking about.”
And he’s like, “Yeah, they sent a letter home.”
And Jason and I look at each other and I ask, “When?” And we’re both scrambling to think of what hockey game is that night, and I’m suddenly wondering if he’s wasdded up his band uniform on the floor of his gear-storage-like closet.
And Captain America is like, “Oh, last week some time.”
And Jason says, “Where is this letter?”
And Lord help him, Captain America answers, “I think in my backpack?”
And we’re both just like:
So he gets us the letter out of his backpack, and sure enough, it looks like I’ll be ironing his band uniform for Thursday.  So then Jason says, “What else is in your back pack that we might need?”
And Captain America is like, “Nothing.”
And Jason goes, “Are you sure about that?”
So he goes to check and comes back with school pictures.  SCHOOL PICTURES.
And the first thing that comes out of my mouth is, “When did you take school pictures and WHAT are you wearing?”
And he’s like, “I don’t know, a month ago? And they’re back now.”
And I’m just speechless, and can only get out, “And why didn’t you tell us?”
And he’s like, “I don’t know, I guess I forgot?”
And I say, “But you knew?”
And he shrugs and says, “Well, yeah.”
And I’d just like to “well, yeah,” his butt to his room, but alas, he has to go to school.  So Jason and I are debating who is taking whom to hockey games tonight versus waiting for Captain America to get home from his computer-programming activity since his game isn’t until later in the week, and I say to Captain America, “Hey, I’ll text you and let you know what’s going on.”
And he says, “Yeah, but my phone is dead.”
And I say, “Wait.  Didn’t I tell you to charge it last night?”
And he basically looks at me like:
But apparently THAT didn’t happen…
And I have that 30-second Mom moment where I’m basically like, “What’s the point of us giving you a cell phone if you can’t keep it charged?  This is WHY you have a cell phone!” But I realize he’s 11, and has about as much common sense as I do.  (That’s not a lot, people.  I’m notoriously book-smart and well… yeah).  So I kiss his forehead and send him out the door, you know, after I tell him that from now-on he’s going to have to empty his backpack for me every afternoon like I’m the M’er F’ing TSA and he wants to hop a flight to hockeyville. I’m going to have to ignore the fact that he’s in middle school, and go back to treating him like his little brothers.  Sigh.
And telling him this, that we need a little higher level of information, gets a response like this:
What does this have to do with balancing our careers?  Before I was writing with every non-mommy moment, I went through his backpack, and now, I was starting to trust that he’d… you know… clue me in so I could let that one thing slip.
What else is there to balancing two careers?  More than I realized.  Jason’s been home for four months, but I’ve been staying home for 8 out of our nearly 12 years of marriage.  There’s actually a heck of a lot more to this adjustment stuff on his side than anything. For 8 years, I’ve tried to be the epitome of the “Army Wife,” and I like to think that for the most part, I’ve been successful. I’ve led two FRG’s, PCS’d three times, dealt with a total of four deployments, and handled our kids through it all. But now, I’m the one leaving a few times.  
For example.
I’m headed to UtopYA (an AWESOME conference in Nashville) in June, because I’m meeting up with a few of my favorite people and we’re going to hear about the industry, and attend the award ceremony where FULL MEASURES has been nominated for Best Kiss.  Oh, and you should click HERE and vote, because sweet AMEN am I going to get my tuckus handed to me by the utterly awesome other authors I’m nominated with.  I basically feel like:
 So anywhoooo, Jason’s cool with handling our House of Heathens while I go to this conference. We buy my plane tickets, and all that jazz, and we’re set.  But then I find out that there’s another conference for my publisher, Entangled, that I really need to go to, so I can chat with my editors, learn about where my publisher sees the market going, and basically get the low-down on work.  Now let’s see how this conversation goes:
Rebecca:  “Hey babe, so you know that conference in Nashville?”
Jason: “Yeah, the Utopian one?”
Rebecca *Not correcting the title* “Right, well, there’s another conference after that, and I really need to be there.  It’s for Entangled, and it’s a great….” Now I spout off details to build my case.
Jason: “Sounds great, you need to go.”
Rebecca: “Well, you need to hear the bad part.”
Jason: “What is it?”
Rebecca: “Well, I would have to leave directly from Nashville to go to the other conference.”
         But he recovers nicely and says, “Where is this other conference?”
Rebecca.  “Well…..  
No, but seriously, he’s okay with it, after the initial, “I Love The Vegas” pout-fest.  And then he realized that I would be gone for 8 full days, and when he brought this to my attention, I promptly smiled and said, “and you just left me for 9 months.” I didn’t really have to mention the other 3 years of deployment…
And he said, “good point.”  However, I can’t help but feel like the minute I leave the house for those 8 days, I’ll him at the window like:
No, really I’m sure he’ll be fine.  I’m tempted to nanny-cam just to see how it goes, but part of me is terrified that he’ll actually run this house better than I do, and the boys will be perfect little angels for him….  Yeah. That would so not be fair.
So anyway, now I’m the one going away, and he’s the one staying home with the kids.  Yup, that’s a little switch-a-roo.  
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t leave too.  Trust me, he’s gone at the drop of a hat.  And now that he’s at battalion level?  Well, there’s times on the weekends where he’s in charge of referee’ing the kids, and I’m knee-deep in my book, noise cancelling headphones on, and he stops me… because he has to go in to work. And honestly?  I do get this feeling where I’m just like:
But then I know that while I’m working, writing, he also has to take care of his career, and I will support it.  After all, this is about balance, not declaring myself more important.  I’m not. I’m still very much an Army Wife, as much as he’s an Author’s Husband.  Yup.  
But the hardest part is definitely figuring out how to manage everything that usually runs in the background. I told him that sometimes there’s just not enough time in the day. There’s 4 hours of hockey on days, and visitations for our Little Miss on others, and appointments for her, and the other kids too. There’s seven people worth of laundry (one of whom likes to puke on her clothes), a 3500 square foot house to clean, and for some odd reason they like dinner EVERY night. You know, mom stuff.  But now there’s blog-writing for Salute to Spouses, and blog writing here when I get a chance. Toss in writing another book on that, and it’s like… well, sorting through the dryer, praying there’s a match for that last clean sock while I argue with The Hulk on the validity of wearing a jacket when it’s 36 flippin’ degrees out, and I sigh at the realization that Captain America has again forgotten the only chore he has of unloading the dishwasher….  
Right, yeah, that.
So Jason is basically taking in my general level of insanity, the mountain of laundry I’m trying to fold while I’m seriously worried that I’ve had NO time to write and he’s like:

 And I’m like:

So he tells me what I’ve known for a while. That this is a career, and we’re going to need to treat it like that as a family.  Meaning – we’re going to need to hire some help.
And part of me is like:
And Jason?  He’s pretty much like:
Right.  So we have to start that search soon. Because the more stressed out I get, the more it takes away from the kids, and my ability to be what they need. The thing about being a mom? Just because we get our own career doesn’t mean that we forget our first priority – those tiny humans who call us mommy.
Man, they make it all worth it, don’t they?
The thing I’m learning about balance, is that it’s ever-evolving.  That which worked for us 10 years ago, when I was working full-time, isn’t going to work for us now.  And what worked for us a few years ago, when I was in college, isn’t going to work, either.  Balance is constantly evolving, because we’re constantly shifting things in this house. 
It’s about finding a counter-balance, and when we add things to our plate, like a bigger job, a new career, a new baby (well, she’s 1 now!), a possible PCS, well… We just have to figure out what to toss at the other end to make it all even out. We give a little to gain a lot. This period in our lives is nuts, and I constantly tell Jason, “these are the days we look back on and wonder how we lived through it. Now we just have to LIVE through it.”  
So we balance.  He takes off an hour early when he can, and takes the middle 3 to hockey so I can wait for Captain America off the activities bus and sneak in writing while Little Miss naps.  I’m doing my best to keep the kitchen clean, which I know is always his trigger zone.  (Don’t you dare roll your eyes at me, Jason.) I’m also trying to be more cognizant of when he needs a little “guy” time.  Oh, and he totally got a high-5 from John Cena last weekend.  
I know, right? 
We’re improving our communication based on what we need as individuals and a couple, and how we can help the other, trying to make sure that during all this beautiful success, where we’re both growing in our work, that we maintain a level head at home and keep our family, our marriage, our children the real priority.  After all, they’re the reason we’re doing all of this in the first place, to give them the best life we possibly can. If we lose sight of that because we become too inwardly-minded, well, then it was all for nothing.  
So today, some Army-stress hit us hard, (you’ll hear about it later), and when Jason got home, he threw burgers on the grill. As I prepped in the kitchen, I stopped to look out our windows to the back yard, Little Miss on my hip, and we watched them play a little hockey on the grass and listened to the laughter. THAT is why we’re doing this, why we struggle to perfect our balance. Because these moments are so precious.  He’s here, not deployed, or TDY at some school, and I’m blessed to be able to have my dream career from home so I can experience our kiddos’ childhoods.
Some days we’re flippin’ rock stars, and other days… well, we order pizza.  
Truthfully?  I like both days, the hectic and the mellow, the wild and the tame. Because it’s our family, and we’re never going to be dull. We’re never going to achieve a perfect balance, because we’re always going to tackle the next challenge, and then we’ll have to figure out how to manage that. Good thing army families are good at being flexible.  😉
I can’t imagine anything more perfect than this beautiful chaos right now: we’re all together as a family, and I get my husband, my partner to help me navigate my way through this phase in our life, and kiss me, oh, and then run to the store, because we’re out of milk… again.

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