Parenting is a juggling act. Deciding which activities to prioritize, which arguments to intervene and which to let play out, and figuring out which parent will get the kids to which activity are just a few of the things that are going on at all times.
Freelancing is also a juggling act. The days of a freelancer are spent doing research and working on projects with strict deadlines, while also trying to stay on top of new trends in the industry, networking and marketing yourself and your services, and handling administrative duties.
For those of us women who are both moms and freelancers, we have a lot of balls in the air at one time. I know, the juggling act is a pretty tired cliché, but this week it is the perfect one to describe my life. Most of the time I feel like I have all the balls in the air with pretty good control. I make lists, I have schedules, we have a big whiteboard with the family’s calendar on it, and when most things go according to plan, there’s enough leeway in the schedule to accommodate for the unexpected and spontaneous.
But this week, even with all my planning and scheduling and communicating, I was thrown off. We had a major storm come through our county that produced a tornado that did quite a bit of damage in Wilkesboro and surrounding areas, and left thousands in the county without power, including a good number of the schools. We were very fortunate here at our house to only lose power for a few hours Monday evening, and didn’t suffer any property damage. But surprisingly, we got a call late Monday night that Wilkes County Schools would be cancelled for the next day, for students and staff. That’s when I first realized the storm had been much worse in other parts of the county.
Immediately, I began to rearrange things in my head. The next morning I assessed my work goals for the week and prioritized the ones with deadlines. The kids watched a movie and played outside, work got done, and we all got to go to shopping for the last items needed for Halloween costumes. Not bad.
Then Tuesday night, the superintendent called again. School would be out for students another day. Wednesday, frustration came to a boiling point. I tried to work like the day before, but things didn’t seem to be going as smoothly. Caroline decided that morning was when she had to share with me some things going on at school. Middle school girl problems, which were important to her and couldn’t wait. Tell my daughter I couldn’t listen to her, I needed to work? No way. The mom in me sat down beside her on the couch.
After our talk I was back at work in my office, when Carter started working on his costume for trunk or treat. He needed to be shown how to work the paint pen, he needed help stitching on the velcro, and for my own sanity, he needed a spot on the table cleaned off and covered with newspaper.
Phone calls weren’t getting made, research wasn’t getting done, laundry was piling up, and the sink was filled with dirty dishes.
I felt like I was filling up with stress. My juggling act was failing. Balls were dropping.
So what did I do? I let them fall. I packed up the kids and our tennis rackets, and we headed to the courts for my weekly tennis game. I wasn’t about to give that up. Two hours outside, soaking up some rays, getting a little exercise and a great conversation with a friend. We topped off the day with a fun-filled Trunk or Treat event at church.
Today, thankfully, the kids are back to school. I have a quiet house to myself to work. And I’m getting things done. Sure, when the end of the week comes, I won’t have been able to cross everything off my work list. Updating my website to put on the books I edited through the summer and researching a marketing newsletter through Mailchimp will have to wait. Those are some of the balls I let drop. (Maybe a few other things too!) Usually, the balls that drop are work related. While I never miss a deadline, other things I should be doing, like administrative tasks and marketing chores, are the things that get pushed to the side. But I’m learning to be okay with that. There will be time later, when the kids have moved out and my juggling act consists of just work, not work and parenting, for me to market my editing services and work on my writing projects.
In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy playing UNO by candlelight, watching the kids have fun with their friends in the Halloween costume parade, and spending time with my friends. Because if I’ve learned anything from years of juggling, it’s that learning which balls to let drop is the important part of the act.