A few months ago, I was interviewed by some students in Grade V. The interview was focused on social justice and how my daily work contributed to a more inclusive school. I answered those with ease, confident that the programs and policies I was working on was, indeed, making a difference.
Just as the students were packing up, one of the students stopped, turned to me, and asked me a question that clearly was on his mind.
"What's it like to work with your husband and what's it like to have your children at school?"
So cute, right?
I actually get this question a lot now that, as this student astutely mentioned, I work with my husband and work at the school where my children attend.
I know what's driving the question. Most people want to know, "What's it like to spend ALL day with your family? Like, no breaks. Like, all day. Like three hours in a car, six hours during the day, and then go home and eat dinner, watch tv, and talk to your family all day?"
Frankly, I love it.
See, before we were all in one place, we were all over the place. The three children were in three different schools (aka three different drop offs and pick ups). My husband, at one point, was living three states away from us. What quality time we had together, as a family, was usually spent trying to catch everyone up on what was going on in the house.
Now, we are all together.
Having my family together brought me joy that I had not expected, though. I consider myself to be a generally optimistic person, but having my family meant I never worried about where they were or how they were feeling or whether nor not I was going to see them much during the day. I no longer have to worry if I'll be late for pick-up, if my child will be the one looking longingly out the window, or if I remembered to sign the over due permission slip. With that weight gone, I found I was happier, more relaxed, and generally, more kind.
People often ask the question, "But, doesn't it always feel like you are at work if your family is at school and your husband is at school? Doesn't that feel like work never ends?"
On the contrary.
It feels like family time never ends.
And, folks, that is awesome.
In my current situation, I see my youngest child when I'm in the lunch room. And, while he's carrying his sandwich back to his seat, he stops by to give me a hug. When I see my oldest child in the hallway, she and her friends scream "HI, MS. TALUSAN!!!" from afar. The other day, when my middle child was having a bad day, she found me and cried on my shoulder.
My family time never ends.
I recently read this fantastic article by Dr. Kerry Ann Rockquemore about how to avoid over-investment at work. And, her advice is so solid. I'm happier at work because work isn't all that I have. Even in social justice -- a life long commitment vs a 9-5 job -- it's easy to over-invest because, by gosh, injustice never sleeps.
But, I have to.
I know that, while my work only slowly chips away at the centuries of institutional, structural, and emotional oppression of communities and people, it will all be there tomorrow. Hopefully a little less than it was the day prior; but, I know it'll still be there tomorrow.
Dr. Rockquemore's article reminds me how important it is to have healthy boundaries at work (or, in my case, opportunities to bring your whole self to work). It's important to have people to talk to or check-in with who aren't connected to your work. And, it's important to remember that work is only a small piece of a larger pie, even though there are times when it's all consuming (note: pie and consuming references not intended ... it only made me want to find some pie).
I've never liked the whole work-life balance mantra. Instead, I talk about work-life navigation. Work-life integration.
Last summer, I made a plan. Rather than start the year and write down the schedule I have, I decided to write down the schedule I wanted. It's basically just the bones -- wake up, bed time, and some stuff in between. But, I used this as a guide. And, this schedule was very different from my reality. In reality, I woke up much later (and began checking email from my bed) and went to bed much later (and still checked email from my bed). But, this schedule gave me the guide for what I wanted. I built in time with the children. I built in time for myself. I built in time to go to bed.
I could basically fill in what I needed to during those hours, but I knew that it had to fit within those parameters. And, for the most part -- with the exception of programming preparation or a consulting trip -- I stuck with it.
Try it out.
What's the schedule you WANT? How can you structure your day to fit into that schedule? What must go? What must stay? What are you willing to take on or to part with so that you can create boundaries?
But, most importantly, where do you come in to all of this? When and how do you get to experience joy? And, what structures must we dismantle so that others can explore their work-life perspective?
I used to push back on these ideas and think that a "flexible schedule is a privilege, not a right." And, friends, yes, I agree. But, I also believe in resistance. I also believe that caring for myself is an act of resistance.
If that's news to you, then print out this next graphic and paste it on your wall, make it your desktop, or carry it around with you.
Peace and time,