The strong, but stretched, women around me.

March 4, 2012

I found this a hard post to articulate… hence the gap since the last one.

When I first began this blog journey, I was SO nervous about this new world I’d entered and was questioning its dynamic at every turn – How many times a week should I be doing this? Will people drop off if I do less than two or three times a week? Are my stats good? Is anyone commenting? (finding it curious that the spam messages are about to overtake the number of messages sent to me!). All in all, a tad nervous.

I’m a full-time high school teacher – holding down four specific roles within the school – and a mother of two young girls. On a ‘normal’ week night, whether I cook or not, the ‘Me Time’ part of the evening doesn’t start until the chores – such as, cleaning up after dinner, getting everyone sorted for the next day (lunches for all, uniform, notes, sports clothes etc) and the never ending, girls’ bedtime routine, concludes – this is normally around 9pm. On some evenings, I would hop on the computer and start writing – shamefully admitting that I was more preoccupied with the blog than hanging with the Hubby. I then (always) get to bed late – around midnight (whether I write or not, for some reason, regardless of good intentions, I get to bed that late) – just to start over again at 6.30am. I find myself always telling my daughters how tired I am.

As I’m looking at my inability to ‘fit it all in’, I hear a few sobering stories from numerous girlfriends of mine and learn of their situations. All in the one week. It made me take a deep breath and conclude that we needed to strike a balance towards all this – and life in general.

BALANCE. It’s the key to everything.

Which brings me to the reason for writing this post. I hope that it gives justice to the women I want to write about……

Part two – Our Lot

Friend #1: I have a very close friend who confided in me – telling me how the pressures of her life are deeply affecting her. As she’s talking to me, I can see that, due to her wonderful sense of duty towards her family, she finds herself doing everything in her power to not let their problems affect her children (most importantly) and husband. Even as she’s talking to me, I can see how she doesn’t want me to worry either, as she speaks in an accepting, almost matter-of-factly manner, about her situation – even though it’s a gloomy one. I simply don’t know how she does it, holding her husband and three young children together.

But she does – and her family are so incredibly blessed to have such an inspirational and strong mother – however, it is affecting one person – her. She’s stretched to the limit.

Friend #2: In the same week, I spoke to another friend, who wakes up in tears every morning, due to a legal issue involving her husband. They’re a lovely family who stumbled onto some bad luck, and now find themselves facing a possible outcome, unimaginable a while ago, that would impact their family deeply, if it were to occur. This has been going on since last year and she – also – found herself holding it all together for everyone, especially her husband – but is now finding that she needs support too – she’s fraying at the seams.

Although these may seem, to some of you, as extreme stories, I know of SO many women – actual friends, not “I heard about this person, who’s a friend of a friend” – who are in a daily struggle to not only find balance for their families, but balance for themselves. It seems, however, that the pressure of finding that balance for the ones they love, means that many women are short changing theirs.

In this new, modern age of marriage and motherhood, women – AGAIN – seem to be taking the bigger piece of the responsibilities. If one is lucky enough to have a supportive partner in crime, one is also (hopefully) going to have a partner who shares the ‘chore’ load. Most times, however, even when the mother works full-time, the chores are still heavier on the female side. BUT let’s say, there’s equality on that front – it still appears the partner falls way short of equally sharing all the ‘worry’ that comes with their life.

As I mentioned earlier, my mind never seems to stop ticking with the million things that are bouncing around…well, there’s nowhere to bounce, actually – it’s all tightly crammed in there and ‘lo and behold!’, some things get forgotten. And don’t we feel a little guilt when we do? The pressure women find themselves under in retaining EVERYTHING that has to do with family and work can be suffocating at times because it’s unbalanced.

Question #22: Are women capable of finding balance in their lives?

Up until recently, I did both the washing for the family and the weekly shopping. As a full-time worker, the only time I could do it, was the weekend. As you can imagine, I started to become a little resentful at the fact that I wasn’t getting any break from work – whether it be a school or at home – because these two chores HAD to be done every weekend. I also didn’t want to ‘ask’ Hubby for help, at the risk of sounding like a nag – but if you don’t ask, how do you get the help?

This is why (I think) we are, where we are. Our lot.

But a few months ago I walked up to my husband and said, “Shopping or washing?”  He chose shopping – again. See, we tried it a few years ago, but it still felt like I was in charge of it all, just not actually going to the shop, so we quickly reverted back to the old ‘system’. So I said, “But this time you’re the boss of it” and he accepted.

I tell you, it’s been great. It’s incredible how difficult it was at the start, to ‘let go’ (when you’ve always been in control…) – but relinquishing that big chore was just the ticket. I got a bit of the weekend back – a bit more balance to it all. *worth it*

Baby steps, right? Then BIG ONES!

PS Due to this reflection, I’ve decided to simply post once a week. Just the ticket *big smile*

12 Responses to “The strong, but stretched, women around me.”

  1. Michelle Squire said

    so true Paula, and good decision to go to once a week with the blog.

    hang in there, i for one am always pleased to see this dialogue up and running, and a little guilty my thoughts and reactions rarely make it onto the keyboard and back to you, as I have ben caught up with an additional and unsustainable load of chaos for the last 2 months.

    we women are often our own worst enemies when it comes to control issues. yes there will be a phase of chaos while hubby or anyone else learns how to take on a role and master it. some clothes will come out of the wash a different colour and/or size and maybe some of the wrong brands will come home from the shops. but unless you relinquish some control YOU will be chaos. Is that the role model you want to show a child if you have one? no indeed

    gone are the days when the order and cleanliness of a home are the sole responsibilities of the woman of the house, and a reflection on her character. Noone in their right mind is going to enter a home and perform a ‘white glove test’ to check on your dusting this millennium.

    Yes, we can have more than prior generations of women did, indeed “have it all”, but we can’t have it all at the same time. mothering needs its own time and dedication that takes priority for a certain period.

    I heard Eva Cox speak at an International Women’s Day function last year, and was pleased to see a few men there too. She spoke about the idea of a civil society, work-life balance, what ‘feminism’ is today, and very interestingly: the notion of a 30 hour working week for all – men and women – to allow people to meet their caring and personal responsibilities and live their lives in a balanced way.

    SUCH a sensible idea.

    SO MUCH relevance.

    SO SCARY that maybe women have got lost since the feminist movement achievements of the 1970s…and are possibly slipping backwards…

    don’t get bogged down in the mundane ladies, keep the momentum going and keep the big picture in your sights. the world has changed and will keep doing so. we need to become team players who start to collectively be the change we want to see.

    • questionsforwomen said

      Thanks HEAPS for your thoughts, Michelle. Wouldn’t it be nice to have less hours at work? Makes SO much sense.
      Unfortunately, we have become such a greedy race of people (in the developed world) that the only thing we want is MORE and BETTER than the person next to us.
      The more you want, the more you have to work for it.
      I also agree that we have DEFINITELY gone backwards since the 70’s. Yes, we’ve gained certain (but still not equal) equilibrium with men in the workforce BUT the fact we are actually invisible in this modern age in ANY decision making to do with our world, is terribly sad.
      Thanks again for writing *BIG smile*

  2. Sarah said

    I know exactly where you are coming from, one of the hardest things for busy women to do is ask for help!
    I have recently started sharing the load with the grocery shopping and hanging out of clothes, what a massive difference two small tasks less a week can make! I just had to ask for help rather than cracking on like I always do.
    Women need to learn to ask for help, I don’t think it comes naturally.

    • questionsforwomen said

      I know, right? It’s in our nature to do it all but then we go crazy with everything going on in our heads. I also notice that men, generally, don’t come rushing over to stop you and offer their help – they need to be told (which I hate, just quietly, because you end up sounding like their mother!).
      So, I agree, on its own a task like washing and hanging up is not brain surgery, but it takes up so.much.time when you have a zillion other things to do.
      It’s SO important to feel like you have some down time.
      Thanks heaps, Sarah!

  3. Lily said

    Can I get an ‘Aaaaaamen!’

  4. Chris Donoghue said

    I was reading your blog, trying to read the magazine in my lap, and help my son with his homework! When I finished reading it occurred to me how ridiculous I was….doing three things at once…. Trying to cram it all in while I had the chance. There’s so much to do and so little time, even when you have a ‘happy helper’. I must add, that I have cut back to a four day working week in an effort to achieve that elusive ‘balance’ but always end up spending that ‘day off’ doing housework and taking my sons/my partner and myself to appointments. It sounds whiney, but some days I think going to work is far more peaceful lol Yes, it’s 12:06am, but I know I’m in good company (:

    • questionsforwomen said

      …I was ironing the girls’ uniforms when you sent your message! I hear ya!
      I enjoy the break work can give me too – rather than say, “I’m going home”, I sometimes joke and say, “I’m off to my second job”!
      It seems relentless at times – not impossible, but relentless. But this world and how it is now, didn’t magically create itself – we created it.
      The trick now is to uncreate it – go back to something simpler – tear down all those preconceived notions of what our ‘role’ is. But only we can do it and that’s the hard part.
      Thanks so much for your comment – I hope your day off ends up being a day for you!! You should absolutely do it. No chores on the day off!! It starts today. *BIG smile*

  5. Joy Geary said

    None of us can have it all. We can only do a few things well at any time. These are two unpleasant truthes When it is married to living standard pressures that seem to be continually climbing women will bear the fallout in most families. We live at levels beyond our years and possibly our means. We are geared to lives that have no let up. A return to less in everything is the key hard though it is.

    • questionsforwomen said

      I COMPLETELY AGREE!! As I said as a reply to the previous comment, WE have created this world – and women carry the brunt, but have little say about it. I think it’s relentless too. I have hope, though, that women will slowly start to make the changes in their own lives, that will eventually infiltrate into general society – just like this one has!

  6. Katy said

    Wow Paula, you’ve captured it – and now I am too stretched, mentally and physically tired, to even reply….. (Well thats what I was thinking!) its like everything in our lives has to be done quickly because there is no time to fit it all in, even though we keep on trying…..ahhh. breathe…and then start all over again!
    What is ‘me’ time anyway? Some days I have a hard time remembering… xxx

    • questionsforwomen said

      Yes! And when you do get this window of ‘me time’, the worst part is sifting through the guilt that comes with HAVING it! Now that I’ve offloaded one of the weekend jobs, I’ve been going to some theatre things more often to help with my Drama teaching, as well as networking – but I feel GUILTY! Then I worry about getting back at a decent time and I call ahead to say I’m on my way. What’s that about??
      I think we women need to start serious delegation and handing over the reigns more often to our partners. We ALL work, but we definitely carry more responsibility in our minds. And our minds are starting to spill over and it’s not good for our kids.
      Thanks Katy! It was so awesome to hear from you. xx

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