Wearing an array of colorful hats. Playing the jester, the joker, the juggler. Smiling through it all. This is my life, quite possibly yours, and the lifestyle that too many of us will recognize.
A few years back, I would’ve said this is solely a woman’s challenge. While there may be more women than men who persistently juggle through their days and nights (for years), I certainly wouldn’t exclude the men I know — especially those who are sharing in child-rearing.
The bottom line is this: The juggling job is not gender-specific, but it is a hassle, a headache, and a hindrance to our health.
To my surprise: The juggling that comes with Empty Nest, at least for me, has shifted in shape but hasn’t disappeared. It’s no less hectic, harmful, and some days, hellacious!
This may be a function of the way I make my living; as an independent worker, I am often responding to requests with short notice, I take on new clients at every opportunity, and I have long-term projects of my own that toggle off and on the back burner. When you add the responsibilities of a house, a relationship, and a college kid who is home periodically, the number of conflicting priorities is surprisingly high.
An hour on the weekend.
In facing last month’s setbacks to my healthy eating plan, I’ve returned to 20 minutes a day of walking, when I can. Rain and pain may influence that schedule, and “when I can” is more challenging than one might think if you’re working across multiple time zones.
Granted, I love multicultural companies and their intriguing assignments, but I may be dealing with Europe at 7 a.m. and the US from 9 to 6, with a dose of Asia at 11 or midnight. So, finding a good time slot for exercise lands me smack in the middle of conflicting priorities: my clients’ needs versus my health.
I’ve always inclined toward the former; I’m trying to ease into the latter. The only way I can do this is by resetting boundaries, which is difficult for me.
Is that the secret to reducing our juggling job? Is expertise in boundary-setting the answer? But what about a global economy in which all resources are viewed as commodities? Haven’t we seemingly adopted the notion, and worse the practice, that if we can’t get everything we want out of Person A, we’ll simply replace him with Person B? And when Person B seems to wear down, won’t there always be a Person C, D and so on?
It follows that this is what many freelancers fear; if we say no or even “not today,” we face the possibility of no tomorrow.
Still, a 24/7 cycle with unpredictable periods of very long hours isn’t sustainable. Personally, I feel as if I’ve been on Deadline Detail in the worst possible way for the better part of 20 years. At times it’s exciting, but mostly, it’s just tiring. Is this little more than our (not so) New Normal?
And yes, I’m living another set of pressing deadlines and working (again) through my weekends as well as nights. Fortunately, I’m nearing the end of this latest series of time-crunched tasks, and I’m happy with the result so far, which makes the process less onerous (and even satisfying). To my dismay, I’m not juggling as well as I once did; my schedule here is slightly off. So I tell myself: If I can’t count on a little slack in the very place where I explore my overflowing (daily) crazy plate, then where else can I?
The good news: I’ve been stunned by the fact that I’ve improved my sleep habits considerably, achieving a consistent six hours even through this busy time. (I think this is a record for me!) I’m not entirely sure how or why, but maintaining the same hour for bed and tinkering with the latest time I eat may be factors. (I think I was going to bed hungry more often than I realized.)
Here’s the thing. I’m truly tired of juggling so many balls!
Sure, I’m a born multi-tasker. I’m fine that way. But it’s a matter of degree, and also, what’s at stake if I drop any one of the balls. And the balls I’m most concerned with these days are at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs — the fundamentals, including health.
Please tell me I’m not alone in this sense of unending conflicting demands on my time! I would love to know what you think and what you do to manage.
- Do you feel that it’s our economy, still weighing heavily, such that we’re worried about saying no?
- Do you find yourself having to choose between work (to pay the bills) and relationship (to fill your heart)?
- Are you choosing between work (those bills) and your health?
- If your children need you, whatever their age, do you find that you tend to drop everything and they become the priority?
- What do you do when you feel like there’s just not enough of you to go around?
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