I am an assistant. This is hard for me to admit. I am not very important at the company where I work. I am new, true. But I am also very low on the totem pole in the grand scheme of things, which means that I deal with a lot of paperwork and spreadsheets and jobs that other people don’t want to waste time with and so have their assistant do it. That’s me. I’m the assistant.

This is not all bad. I get to work a very regular 40 hour week, have important but not stressful tasks and I am very much able to leave my work at my desk, far behind me by the end of the first segment of All Things Considered, crossing the bridge home in time for dinner. And I work in Human Resources giving me a broad exposure to all parts of the company and its power structure, the players and the decisions made. I enjoy this generalized cross section now. But I do hope to move up, be an expert, not be an assistant.

And this is why I have started to think about balance. Right now, it is easy for me to make specific quality time for my boys: when I get home, during the bedtime routine and on the weekends. They are young and so far have no schedules that we do not have immediate veto power over. They don’t go to school; they take long afternoon naps. I can carve the quality time out of their time to suit my current 8-5 schedule. And because they are young, I also have those lovely late evening and night time hours when they are asleep, to catch up, spend time with my husband, deep clean the kitchen, read. I even find a generous amount of time to sew and build, nurture a sense of creativity. We spend time with friends and family. Balance comes easily for assistants.

But if I move up–and for financial stability’s sake alone, I hope I will–then this balance will certainly come much more roughly, with more sacrifice and disappointment. The boys will be in school soon with events and sports and friendships that will take them away from home. Their schedule will start to dictate the time I can spend with them. The ease with which I leave my desk at 5 sharp now will give way to more hours and probably more responsibility and stress. I imagine sewing my own clothes will seem less appealing when I have the money to buy them. And the balance I have such wonder in now will certainly require a recalibration in both schedule and importance. I will need to evaluate and assign value to the parts to my life: my family, my creative interests, my work, my community, my new yorker subscription.

I hope I chose well. I hope I still stay up until 3 in the morning reupholstering the couch in the basement. I hope I am there for the bright defining conversations of my boys’ childhoods and also for some of the mundane ones. I hope I still lay on the couch in the evening across from James and talk what ifs. I hope I still read. I hope that for writing this now, I’ll be ready for it when it comes, that balance will come easy not just for assistants but for experts. Here’s hoping.

  4 comments for “Balance

  1. 07/19/2010 at 5:17 am

    Balance is the key. Unfortunately it is also the most difficult thing to achieve.

    My wife & I both work full time. She works longer hours bc she’s a manager & she makes way more money than I do. But since I’m a reporter I’m a slave to breaking news & the police scanner, which can make set schedules impossible.

    There is no magic formula and sometimes we achieve zero balance. But as long as you remember what’s important it all seems to work out.
    Daddy Files´s last blog post ..Goodbye Princess And Thank You

  2. 07/19/2010 at 6:11 am

    This is something I struggle with now. Working full-time, Daddy to two babies, husband, friend, and Blogger. I can’t just do one thing so I juggle many and hope nothing drops. Time Management is such an important skill that many of us don’t have. I know it’s something I need to hone in on so that not only am I “Balanced’ but that I can pass that on to my children. Great post and I hope you get that promotion!
    @DadStreet´s last blog post ..Got Time

  3. Heaterm
    07/19/2010 at 9:36 pm

    I too was once an assistant, pre-kids, and worked my tail off to move up, make more, put my husband & I in a better financial position. Promoted every 2 years until I had my son. Couldn’t make myself do the extra time, had to work smarter not harder, and did not get the last promotion. I realized my time at home is more valuable than my time at work. So we aren’t rich, but we have what we need & I get to see my family a whole lot more. Having a pretty sweet job makes it easier, of course. And having a pretty awesome husband who is willing to be a SAHD.

  4. Jamie
    07/24/2010 at 7:08 pm

    I too am an assistant. I’ve worked as an assistant in the same position for 17 years. I’ve trained 2 counselors, and 4 Program Manager’s. Not only do I do the spread sheets, memos and student registration but I tutor math as well. I make enough that my husband of 37 years doesn’t have to work even though I have summers off (love working at a school). I spend many hours with my grandchildren especially in the summer but I’m happy I’m not raising children at this point because I do spend so much time away at work. Balance is tough but perhaps if you do move up and around at your work you would be in a position to rearrange your schedule to meet participation needs of your children’s schedules.

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