Compromising my way into work-life balance

Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI've just finished twisting our 12-year-old's curls into about eleventy-billion tiny, two-strand twists, and my hands are still slick with conditioner. The little two are tucked in bed, stuffed animals clutched in their sweaty little hands. The other big kids are playing "Rock Band" on the XBox with my husband, just a couple of feet away from me in the family room. It's past bedtime, and bits of conversation (like "We should be concentrating our efforts on Killasaurus," and "Daddy! We should play San Francisco now!" and "That's such a sweet song and then they hit you with the 'f' word...") poke holes in my concentration as I try to write.

I could -- should, really -- go to another room so I can get my work done. I mean, the work has to get done. But I'm loathe to leave. Even when my husband hands me the mic and asks me to sing "Maps" -- an obvious sign that I'm not going to get much done if I'm also expected to sing lead -- I don't go.

Sometimes, the thing that really gets in the way when I'm trying to juggle work and family is myself. More...

Kids grow up so fast -- too fast, really. I creep into my kids' rooms late at night and wonder how that little kid turned into a 5-foot-10-inch 15-year-old overnight. My toddler was babbling in complete sentences earlier today, which boggled my mind because, really, wasn't he just born? I don't want to miss any of it. I miss enough of it as it is, some days.

So I compromise. If I finish two articles early, I can leave my computer off this weekend and hang out with my big kids, watching silly movies late into the night, perhaps with a snoozing preschooler on my lap. If I push deadline an hour later, I can give the little kids their baths instead of asking my husband to help. I can take the long bubble bath I've been longing for, but only if I bring that book I'm supposed to be reviewing with me into the tub.

The compromising continues at the office, I'll admit. If I work through lunch, I can leave early enough to beat rush hour and be home in time for dinner. If I stay focused and knock every item off the to-do list, I can slack a little tomorrow. If I bring some work home with me, we'll beat deadline and everyone will be happy.

So, I really should decline the invitation to perform, carry my laptop into, say, the dining room, and start typing. But I don't. I take the microphone and sing. Off-key, of course. I'll stay up late and get my assignments done, but for now, at least, I'm with the band.

Lylah M. Alphonse is a full-time editor, a freelance writer, and mom and step mom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day on Work It, Mom!, and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat.