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What is success?

Finding time to raise your children.

As our world becomes increasingly chaotic, women often find themselves juggling careers, families, and a multitude of other life tasks simultaneously.  Mothers are expert multi-taskers.  However, you cannot do everything well, all at the same time.  Consider all the various tasks mothers are responsible for, and it’s easy to see how keeping all those balls in the air can prove difficult.  And for many women, hiring a nanny or assistant (or delegating parental duties to a non-parent, such as a grandmother) is not a first choice.  This is a brief peek into one woman’s life, and you can see how having a high-powered career is counterproductive to really being the Mom of the Year.

People often ask me what I do all day.  I work part-time outside of the home as a physician.  But more often than I am at work, I am performing my duties as CEO, CFO, treasurer, secretary, and administrative assistant for ‘My Family Inc.’  My days are very full, and I would argue that working full-time outside of the home and being a full-time, involved mother are mutually exclusive.  But people are perplexed by how busy I am.  “I wish I could stay home all day” they’ll say.  “What do you do anyway?”

You know what I do?

I cook healthy meals because this non-organic/fast food crap is killing us.  I do yoga and get massages, because taking care of my body, and staying healthy is the best investment I can make in this life. I read for pleasure (for the first time since college). I keep my babies out of daycare from time to time so I can take them to the park, then to the ice-cream shop...and maybe even to the mall. I manage the business that is a household (which is a full-time job). I make sure the bills are paid on time; I negotiate online payments, allocate funds for various usages, and manage half of our accounts.  I am the historian of our family - blogging, documenting, video-taping, photographing, and scrapbooking our lives...so we won't forget, and so the children will have a sense of what their childhood was like.

If not me, who will go thru my kid’s drawers and determine what fits and what doesn't, what I adore and will save for them vs. give to a shelter? If not me, who will decide where I want things to go in my home...how to decorate...and how to organize? If not me, who will take inventory of what we have, and what we need as a family? There are some things a house-keeper can help you with...other things, I'd rather do myself. If I don't change my own kid’s diapers, how will I be able to tell the pediatrician that their poop is consistent with prior poops? If I don't bathe them, how will I know that my little guy likes to play submarine with his Thomas the Tank Engine train set? Or even more importantly, how long would it take me to notice an injury or a rash if someone else (or various someone else’s) are doing the parental tasks?

If I don't read to my kindergartener, how will I know he's progressing as he should in school...and in life? If I don't find time to really talk to my daughter, how will I know who her friends are, and what they're like? I wonder if my friends know how much fun they are missing when they leave the house before having had the opportunity to dress up their cute little girl in almost-as-cute clothing...and spend time fixing her hair just so? Isn't this why we dream of having daughters? Why would you want to delegate all the fun stuff? And...if I don't have sex with my husband, and listen to his hopes and dreams, how can we stay connected in this partnership that is raising our family...and enhancing our lives? I waited almost 30 years to be 'mommy/wife'...and I want to be intimately involved!!

You know what I do? I walk my (often neglected, despite all my "free time") dogs, and train them to obey me. I do yoga so my back won't be sore after my shifts. I get massages and facials...and my eyebrows threaded. I do my hair, my nails, and read fashion magazines. I have like 4 blogs in progress...and enjoy being 'in the world' in this way.

I've discovered that I actually love photography...and it is not my style to do things half-assed so I actually devote a bit of time to this hobby. I am in a Sorority, and like many sororities, our membership doesn't end upon college graduation...and there are time commitments involved as we serve as mentors, organizers, advocates, and community activists in my Sorority as a graduate. I plan awesome trips for our family (that we have time to take because I don't work all the time). And not huge extravagant/over-compensatory (i.e. I work all the time so when we go 'on vacation' it has to be big so our friends will be impressed, and my working all the time seems justified) 3 week European-type trips...but rather Disneyland Resort trips...Legoland trips...Vegas trips...Tahoe trips. Frequent trips. Easy trips.

You know what I do? I can attend school field trips with my daughter. I can keep the laundry done (most of the time). I can be mentally and physically available and present for my husband. I can unwind and tend to my needs so I can be patient and understanding with my kindergartener and toddler without yelling all the time over spilled milk, literally. And without sitting them in front of TiVo'ed Little Einsteins cartoon for days on end (hours? maybe. days? no).

I can have 2 hour conversations on the phone with my parents...and/or my girlfriends. And I have the time/energy to spend a weekend or two a month (or at least every other month) socializing with good friends as a family (their kids, our kids, red wine, good food, background jazz playing, with the BBQ grill going, or tandori chicken and naan waiting for us in the family room...OR maybe an exciting night out at the bowling alley - the one with bumper guards to keep the bowling ball in the middle of the lane). And I have flexibility, and enough 'extra' time off that I can actually pick up shifts quite easily from other partners who need/want days off.

I have time to join and participate in Mother’s groups such as Jack and Jill of America.  I can plan activities for my children, attending meetings, and involve my family in rich interactions with other families in our community.  I garden and have afternoon tea with other moms to learn about what’s going on in the schools, in the community, and in the lives of those around me.

Homework.  Have you seen the amount of testing and homework children endure these days?  It’s a full time job just coordinating all of their assignments, school activities, extracurricular activities, and social development activities.

Above all...I just have time to think. You know, be bored...like a child in the summer, back in the day ('cause these days, kids are overextended and never have the pure luxury of just being bored). To just think. Think about investments, think about purchasing property, think about our next trip...and just let the creative energy flow. Think about ways to be more fully involved and engaged in this life I've been blessed with. Think about life. Think about my purpose...expanding my spirituality.

And, of course...time to *not* think...and just be.

Just be.

There are so many things to do when not cooped up at work...running around crazy, neglecting your own needs, and giving your family all of your “left over” time and energy. I am a physician, and I love working as a doctor.  Actually, I love being a doctor *because* I have plenty of time to *not* be a doctor.  I spend more time being a mother, a wife, a daughter, and an individual than a “worker.”  This is my definition of success.