Last night, I hosted my book club because it was easier for the others to come to me, the emergency doctor on mat leave with a 3.5-week-old baby girl, than it was for me to travel.
One woman pointed to our Christmas tree and said, "Your tree reminds me of a task we use in therapy: take two Christmas ornaments out and put them on the floor. Don't put them on the tree. Just let them sit there. See how long you can last. It's for perfectionists, you know?"
My four-year-old son had done most of the decorating while I frantically cooked French toast for dinner (using homemade bread I made with my own hands, after my husband forgot to buy bread!). This meant the tinsel was looped mostly around the bottom of the tree, he'd smashed one glass ball, and all the Christmas lights were plugged in to various sockets, some of them blaring different Christmas tunes, all of them flickering enough to potentially trigger an epileptic fit.
I cleaned up the glass, grabbed the French toast before it burned, and muted the Christmas lights before I got marooned nursing on the couch while my husband left to put our son to bed. So yeah, my tree might make Martha Stewart cry. And yes, the first book club member to arrive helped wash my dishes. But I've got pretty good work-life balance. Here are my tips.
1. I married a laid-back guy
It does drive me nuts that he'd rather have sex and play World of Warcraft than just about anything else. But on the upside, we're both on parental leave and getting a bit of sleep instead of going berserk. That'll come later, when he goes back to work in a few months. He does most of the laundry, nearly all the grocery shopping, and has taken over the school lunches. Yay.
2. Save your money so that doesn't dictate your life
My parents raised me to save like Scrooge ever since I can remember. Now our house is paid off and our expenses are relatively cheap. It's important for me to dictate the length of my own mat leave, so after the Ontario Medical Association (me) and Employment Insurance (him) are tapped out, my corporation will pay me what I need until I go back to work. I know saving money is a laughable concept while you're in school, but when the money starts coming in, remember that paying off your debts means financial freedom, which as far as I'm concerned, equals just plain freedom.
3. Get a cleaner
I'm with RH+ on this one. I felt guilty at first, but now, I think it's a good idea to pay someone who does a much better job instead of constantly singing, "Clean up, clean up..." to my family and then end up doing all the tidying up myself anyway. I don't feel as alone trying to fight the tide of toys, dirty dishes, etc. and it frees me up to do other things only I can do, like write or nurse my baby.
Of course my work-life balance isn't perfect. I cut back on my shifts during my pregnancy because I wasn't functioning well afterward. By that, I mean that I almost caused a car accident on the way home on one shift. This did not go over well during a doctor shortage and I know there will be payback when I return to work. Plus, well, you already have an idea what my house looks like in between cleaning bouts: broken glass takes priority, not artistry. But for the most part, I am happy, which is more than a lot of people can say. Now I'm going to have a nap, which will make me even more balanced. Cheers.