As a child, I dreamed of joining the circus. But as it turns out, I hate juggling.
When my first daughter was 6 months old, I went back to work. Being my first baby, and having the luxury of working from home, I decided not to put her into daycare until she turned one. It’s also prohibitively expensive, so if we didn’t need to, I figured, why would we?
I’ve done some stressful things in my life, but this period is the only time anyone has ever tried to stage an intervention for me (my mum, and more than once). I started getting physical symptoms. My breathing felt laboured, like there was something taking up space in my chest. I’d sit at my computer and suddenly feel a jolt of electricity running through my veins, as my heart jumped ahead a few paces. Adrenaline. I realised I’d subconsciously stopped wearing t-shirts, the constant stress-sweat rendering them unwearable.
To be clear, my job was not stressful. I wasn’t a paramedic or a hostage negotiator, and if I made a mistake at work, literally no one would die or even yell at me. So why the constant guilt, pressure and anxiety?
We joke about the mum-juggle, the ‘I need more hands’, the eyes-in-the-back-of-our-head, all the hats we wear. We label ourselves multi-tasking masters, effigies of efficiency, we laugh about how organised the world would be if only it were run by women. If you can colour code it, I’ll buy it. If there’s an app to make me feel like I’ve got it under control, I’ve probably already installed it. We streamline, map out, optimise, diarise. ‘It’s amazing what I can do with one hand’, I catch myself saying.
But as I neared the 42 week-mark with my second daughter, it wasn’t the birth, the shift from one to two, or even the sleep I found myself, well, losing sleep over. It was the thought of that 6-months to one-year phase. Because contrary to all advice, I’m doing the same thing again: working from home with a baby underfoot for 6 months, until she starts daycare.
But this time around, I’ve made myself a promise – I’m quitting the juggling act. No more spooning mashed banana into my baby’s mouth while I run a strategy session, the phone wedged between my chin and my ear. No more pushing the pram with one hand while I furiously type into the notes folder on my phone. And no more sing-songing soothing words over the baby’s frustrated cries while I just try to dash off this last email.
It means doing things a little differently. I’m getting up earlier, so I can have some uninterrupted work time under my belt before the 7am slam begins. It’s a game changer. But, I’m also reminding myself that things can wait. If the baby’s fussy, I might need to tap out of work for an hour and give her my undivided attention. This time around, I have the benefit of knowing that these pudgy-legged, giggly baby days are so, so preciously short-lived. And I’m not impressing anyone by keeping up with an email pace the speed of light. It’s unnecessary, and unhealthy.
One thing at a time. That’s my 2021 mantra. Done well. Done fully. Whether the ‘thing’ is a piece of work I can be proud of, or the important job of cooing at my 6 month old, the delight written all over her face – I’m giving it my all.
My hand-eye coordination’s always been dismal, anyway. Farewell, juggle.