When I recently read "Why Work-Life Balance is a Crock," I smiled a long satisfied kind of smile, the kind you get when you realize you're not the only one who absolutely positively can NOT do it all. I am a mother of three girls, two in elementary school, and one in middle school. My husband of 18 years works out of town five days a week, and is, therefore, unable to assist in any kid duties. I also work part-time, yet, somehow, the lines between part-time and full-time often get blurred (in terms of hours, certainly not pay or benefits). I also volunteer at our church as well as at my girls' elementary school.
This is why I am able to laugh at the many goof-ups that have begun to define my crazy over-scheduled life. This past September, I took the lead role in organizing and carrying-out our school's annual Back-To-School Social for 900 people. This was no small task, especially since it fell on my youngest daughter's birthday, as well as the day after one of my most critical work deadlines. Sleep during the months of August and September was not an option for me. I worked tirelessly on all three equally important projects.
I made lists, lived with my Blackberry glued to my head, and even wrote the one most important task on my hand — yes, on the palm of my hand with a red Bic pen. My hand screamed in blood red: "Cupcakes to School at 11:50." This was one task that I absolutely could not blunder. My daughter Parker would never ever forgive me. I glanced at my scribbled hand numerous times on the morning of September 9th. I looked at it as I met with vendors, picked up dry ice, and talked with school administrators about tent deliveries. I stared at it in defiance as I remembered to pick up the cupcakes from the bakery, with plenty of time to spare.
At 11:45 on the morning of September 9th, I arrived at my daughter's school. I did a quick rear-view mirror check to be sure I was presentable for our elementary school. Moms at our school follow one of two very strict unwritten dress codes. You may choose to arrive at school, fashionably out-of-breath, as if you have just flown in from a summit in Prague, dressed in a dark power suit with a bedazzled lanyard sporting the name of your prestigious company (preferably SAS, GSK, or Cisco, as we are in Cary, N.C.). Your other option is a quality name-brand tennis skirt or other sports attire, preferably in black with a touch of hot pink. The former of these two choices may have on tasteful make-up. The latter, of course, is limited to nude lip gloss. I chose the sports attire and nude gloss for my big day.
At 11:48, I signed in at the office, carrying 24 gorgeous cupcakes, juice boxes, birthday plates, and coordinating napkins. I had exactly 12 minutes to "be present and engaged" with my daughter at her cafeteria birthday event before meeting the tent set-up crew near the volleyball courts. I beamed as I walked into our noisy cafe. As soon as I walked in, I caught a glimpse of my middle daughter, Taylor. I smiled brightly as I waltzed right to her table and set down the treats. I asked her class to hold up one finger if they preferred chocolate and two fingers for vanilla. Then, I asked Taylor's good friend to hand out the napkins and plates, while another handed out juice boxes. I noticed a bizarre look on Taylor's face, but I didn't have time to let that look sink into my head. I was down to four minutes at this point. Taylor's classmates eagerly held up their fingers to designate their cupcake flavor choice. I quickly threw down lavishly decorated cupcakes on each plate while the fourth-graders squealed with delight.