Why Are There Only Trade-offs in Motherhood?

Photo by Corinna Hoffman Photography.

When I look at the clock and it’s only 8:30 p.m. and all four of my kids are asleep, a silent “Yippeeee!” goes off in my head. Thirty whole minutes to myself before I have to go to sleep in order to function the next day at work (because I will be woken up at least three times in the middle of the night by one or a dozen of my children).

So… now what? Watch one episode of Sherlock? But what about all that laundry upstairs that needs to get folded? There’s like three baskets. What about the book I’ve been trying to read for six months but always seem too tired to open? And oh, yeah… I haven’t made lunches yet. And the playroom is a disaster. And also I probably need to do an online Zappos order to get some sneakers for my son. Oh, did I mention I have 30 minutes? Sleep is non-negotiable. So which do you choose? Door number one? Door number two?

Every day, as adults, we all make quick decisions and trade-offs. We wheel and deal at work, negotiate to get a project finished, concede on this and don’t die on that mountain, lose the battle but win the war. You get the picture. Life is an endless back and forth of negotiation and trade-off. And yet, motherhood, parenthood, holds up a magnifying glass to the trade-offs we make and exacerbates it 10 times 10. There never seems to be a “right” answer.

This is a time issue, of course, and we all know 24 hours in a day aren’t enough. But with motherhood, it can feel like a Catch-22, a trap that puts you between a rock and a hard place, a never-ending game of always choosing the wrong door and ending up empty-handed, and winning at nothing — not even the laundry. I can sneak out for two or three hours for some much-needed time with my friends, I can go to Pure Barre for an hour, I can go run or maybe even take a nap on a rare occasion, but all of these things, good as they are, end up with me paying in some other way. Something doesn’t get done. Someone doesn’t get enough attention. I end up staying up later to make lunches or wash ballet tights or get ready for tomorrow. Always a trade-off.

Self-care” makes me want to scream every time I hear the phrase. Self-care is a live-in nanny, cleaning person, chef, and chauffeur. It’s 24-hour help to parent, work, clean, cook, plan, schedule, and, oh yeah, enjoy your kids. Self-care is not an hour getting your nails done, because inevitably you’re missing out on doing something else, or helping with homework or getting the kids to bed on time. And as soon as that hour is over, it’s like those 60 minutes of peace never happened, when you walk in the door and three out of four are crying.

I am not complaining about my children or the time they take. We didn’t plan for four, but it’s what we got, and I’m thankful every second for them. Life is what it is, and its most usually a challenge. I work outside my house, and I’m positive that’s the right decision. The tiny sweet moments of toddler giggles, watching my daughter dance, or my son offering his chocolate milk to his brother, those make it all worth it.

Sometimes, though, I’d like life to give me a break and not make me choose between one thing and another because inevitably both are things that I need or want to do. Right now, for me, #winning is folding laundry and watching Sherlock. And maybe a glass of wine while I multi-task seven other household chores. And still, I know, it’s not all going to get done. Door number one it is, I guess!

Meg is a working mom of four and an avid community volunteer. She has worked in corporate communications and media relations for more than 18 years, for a Fortune 500 company as well as a non-profit. She took some time off to enjoy life as a stay at home mom after the birth of her first child in 2008. Her sweet, introverted daughter, was excited to welcome her baby brother in 2013, and then boy/girl twins joined the family in 2016. Meg finds being an “office mama” a constant balancing act and never-ending challenge but enjoys the opportunities it offers her for personal growth. A Virginia girl at heart, she loves Florida’s warm weather, the great quality of life Jacksonville offers her family.


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