Second Shift

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces. – Bridget Jones” I nodded so hard I thought I’d give myself whiplash.

Maybe “fall spectacularly to pieces” is a bit dramatic in my case, but hear me out.

During my years of being somewhat underemployed in both a financial sense and as far as time and energy required to do my job, I threw myself into our home and family. And I enjoyed it! It only seemed fair that if Ed was bearing the brunt of the financial burden, the least I could do was make sure that everything under the roof he was keeping over our heads was in order. I worked four days a week with zero expectation of overtime, which left me with one whole weekday to run errands, make calls, be home to deal with repairmen, and so on. It made sense: I wasn’t the primary breadwinner, my job wasn’t deadline-oriented, and I had a little extra time to burn. Someone needs a ride to the airport? I’m on it! Forgot to get a birthday card? I’ll pick one up and make sure there’s postage on it. Need someone to brainstorm Christmas gift ideas and browse stores? That’s where I’m a Viking! And again: I did these things willingly. I’m confident that if the roles were reversed and I had the more demanding job, Ed would have done the same. My contribution was largely simply making life easier for Ed, and by extension, our families.

The accepted narrative within our families was largely that Ed – poor, sainted Ed – was saddled with this loser of a wife who didn’t have much of a career and certainly wasn’t adding children to the mix so of course she should be happy to pick up the dry cleaning! She should be happy that anyone wants her at all!

But now, I have a job that I not only love (seriously, it’s a revelation to walk into work without a sense of dread) but that requires more of my time and energy. Add in a slightly longer commute and my available hours to get stuff done is shortened dramatically. And while my earning power isn’t quite equal to Ed’s, it’s leaps and bounds better and we’re working similar hours. In fact, he’s had to wait for me on more than one occasion as I race to meet a deadline or talk with my VP. As cheesy as this sounds, I feel like it’s finally MY time career-wise. And I’d like to be afforded the space to grow and make my goals happen.

AND YET.

It’s entirely possible that I’m not being direct enough about what I need, but it also feels pretty damn obvious that if one area of my life is ramping up, another is going to need to take a backseat. And when I am direct about that need, I’d like the courtesy of the same understanding that I’ve afforded everyone around me for years. Which is: OK, I’ve got your back. You do you.

So while everything isn’t falling spectacularly to pieces necessarily, it feels like I’m failing in one area of my life where I’ve always felt like I had my shit together. It’s hard to celebrate my new success when the reaction I get is that I’m selfish or neglectful. But then I remind myself that I’m not asking for any more than I received before; I’m just asking people to maybe handle their own lives so I can focus on mine for a minute.

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2 thoughts on “Second Shift

    • Oof, so much easier said than done. I’m torn daily – hourly! – between telling myself to suck it up in the name of family harmony and doing exactly as you advised. I’m just as culpable in this convenient pattern we’ve all fallen into. It’s like dealing with toddlers or the criminally insane: you can’t show any sign of weakness or backing down, and that’s where I fail. I talk a good game, say no, and then when pushed end up caving because it’s not worth the fight. But maybe it is?

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