From Single Girl to Supermom
Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.
By R. Freeman
Balance has suddenly become my big issue. I always assumed, being the child of parents under 50, that I'd have decades before I dealt with end-of-life issues first-hand, and that my kids would be grown and I'd be settled in my career by then.
I'm 28, and have been married for two years. I work for a large software development firm, doing process quality analysis, a job which I didn't think I'd like until I started doing it a year and a half ago. My partner is a minister with the Metropolitan Community Churches, a non-denominational Christian church that has an affinity for, and ministers almost exclusively to, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) community. I'm very close to most of my extended family, at least on my dad's side of the family. I was married at my sister's house, with my parents doing the catering, my paternal grandmother doing the flowers, and my paternal grandfather taking pictures. My mom's side of the family is much more conservative, and, to my knowledge, none of them know that I'm a lesbian, much less that I'm married. I live in Arkansas, so my marriage isn't legal, but the community I live and work in is accepting. Most of my bowling league thinks we're the most adorable couple they know.
My maternal grandfather, who I've never been close to (mostly because of his fundamentalist beliefs, which are hard to reconcile with my sexual orientation) was recently diagnosed with inoperable, terminal cancer. He has less than six months to live. He's getting treatment in the city where my mom lives, 14 hours away from here. Mom is his primary caregiver, aided when possible by my father, my sister and my aunt. At the same time, my mother-in-law is in very ill health in another state; my partner and I, along with her sister and brother-in-law, are caring for her. All of a sudden I'm becoming fluent in hospice, bed sores, medications and caring for loved ones' needs from a distance.
I never appreciated how simple my life was when all I had to balance were a few social engagements and work. I'm now juggling the demands of my high-school age stepdaughter, household duties, a full-time job, church, a bowling league, and oh, yeah, a marriage. We've gone from two salaries to one since my partner lost her job, so we're learning to live on my meager, just-out-of-college salary. I've become a whiz at coupon shopping, can make a dinner to send to a sick parishioner or a potluck dish with the contents of my cabinets, juggle six errands and the phone on my shoulder while driving a teenager and her three closest friends to the movies and home again, and still cook dinner. Most nights.
The hard part is when I'm feeling lousy, or want to spend a few minutes vegging on the couch, or just need a nap. Who knew that the back seat of a minivan, with a few pillows and a quilt, makes a great napping spot while waiting for my daughter to get out of practice? I wish I knew how to squelch those 'selfish' needs without feeling deprived. I can't be juggling it all all the time or I may go crazy. My partner helps, of course, but there are some things that I feel only I can (or should) do. That makes it hard to delegate or ask for help.
I think the secret, hard won over my crash course in 'adulthood' in the last three years, is knowing what my absolute minimum needs are and guarding those with my life. I must have five hours of sleep at night or I'll fall asleep at my desk the next day. I must eat breakfast and lunch or I'll kill someone before I get home for dinner. I must have time to check my e-mail at home, without being interrupted, for at least 15 minutes a day. I must have a Diet Coke in the morning. Everything else is negotiable.
I'm adding in some time to call the grandparents (both sets) and Mom and Dad and my sister weekly -- and sometimes daily -- to keep up. I'm scheduling a marathon 3 day (28-hours-on-the-road) trip to go see my grandparents in a few weeks.
I never thought I'd go from single girl to Supermom, especially not before I turned 30. I wouldn't advise it for the faint of heart. I wouldn't trade it for the world, though, craziness and all. Discovering that my daughter and I can bond playing a computer game, seeing the Grand Canyon at night with the love of my life, even just getting the 'married lady' notes from my grandmother with recipes and coupons, all makes me realize that trading the easy times of single life for the challenges of adulthood was the greatest thing I've ever done. I've never been happier.
R. Freeman lives in Little Rock, Ark., with her partner and daughter.
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