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Juggling life while being a parent

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By Julie Nelson Satterly

8:52 p.m. I remember when that time was early for me. I was just cracking out my books to study at this hour in college, or just beginning the front page at the Kernel on my night to supervise layout.Tonight, I’ve just sat down for the first time since I walked in the door. I open my portable office to go back to work, a place I just left four hours ago after having been there more than eight.I’m tired. I’m wondering what happened to the almost 12 hours that whizzed by me. I vaguely remember waking up at 6:45 a.m. — an hour later than I should have aroused — and the events in between that have marked yet another busy day. In all these times and numbers, though, there’s only one really weighing on my mind. 3 1/2. That’s the number of hours today I was able to spend with my 2-year-old son. Of those 3 1/2 hours, I was distracted during probably three of them — getting him ready for day care, rushing through breakfast, preparing dinner and even his bath. It was that last half-hour tonight that I rocked him in my recliner, admiring how fast he’s growing and regretting how much of his life I miss. Such is the plight of a working, now single mom. I know I’m not alone. As the number of career women in the United States increases, the challenge to juggle work life with home life grows more difficult. Even mothers who choose to stay at home with their children find themselves juggling numerous activities. I’m convinced being a stay-at-home mom is a career in itself. So I got online tonight, as my back and feet ached and I continued to wonder how in the world I do everything I do in a day’s time, to see what the world says about juggling work and family. Maybe someone has mastered it. I’ve tried to learn from John and Kate and their eight miracles on TLC — but watching them just makes my head hurt.Here’s what I learned. There’s a term for what I’m feeling tonight. It’s called “mommy guilt.” A May 2007 Good Morning America story on ABCnews.com, however, gives me some hope. It reported that a University of Maryland study found that, on average, today’s mothers spend four more hours per week focused on their kids than mothers in the 1960s did — from 10 to 14. Boil that down and you find that though fewer mothers were in the workforce in the ‘60s, they focused their time in different areas — and not all of it was spent with their children.In essence: Our job description has changed. We’re spending more time with our children while completing some of the day’s mundane but necessary tasks, and we’re including our children in those tasks. We’re busy tutoring, chauffeuring, supervising. We’re doing things differently. Still, according to the article, more than half of the mothers interviewed say they don’t have enough time with their children. It’s the “mommy guilt” syndrome, where working mothers especially regret the time they have to leave their children with someone else and share in the bread-winning responsibilities for the family. We want to be the best parents we can be, but find that we neglect ourselves and many other things in life just to squeeze in 3 1/2 hours a day with our children. We do the best we can. And we’re always trying to learn how we can juggle just one more thing.I’m interested to hear how some of our Oldham County parents are juggling life. If you’ve got advice to give, or just stories to share, visit www.oldhamera.com, look for this column and add your comments. I’d love to start a local discussion about the trials of parenting and how some of you are achieving your goals. 11:34 p.m. Almost 17 hours since I awoke for the day. And I’ll end it with a quote that hangs on the filing cabinet in my office from Maria Shriver — a successful working woman with a family whom I admire greatly. In her book, “Ten Things I Wish I’d Known — Before I Went Out Into the Real World,” she describes the perfectionsitic way mothers go about their lives, and encourages us not to wallow in it. “Perfectionism doesn’t make you perfect. It makes you feel inadequate. You are not worthless because you can’t do it all. You are human. You can’t escape that reality, and you can’t expect to. Self-acceptance is the goal. If Shakespeare were a superwoman, she might have said, ‘To be or not to be — takes time and wisdom.’”Good words to live by.

The views expressed in this column may not necessarily represent the views of The Oldham Era.