I am the oldest of four children, three girls and a boy. My siblings and my parents live in Kentucky, so I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. Yet, we are all extremely close, particularly my sisters and I. We come from very strong stock, and my sisters are amazing women. They both work and have young children. I think they let me go through parenthood first to see if I’d survive before having kids of their own. My youngest sister Stacey, works from home for an insurance company, dealing with the aftermath of catastrophic weather. She has a 6 year old son Garrett, who is a human tornado. There’s no other word for him. He is mass in constant motion. Inquisitive, determined, inquisitive, loving, and did I mention inquisitive? Lesser humans would buckle under the pressure of such a ball of energy, but we’re talking about my sister. Did I mention she’s amazing?
For the moment, Stacey is, in essence, a single parent. Her husband, a former Marine, is working as a government contractor fulfilling a year long assignment in Afghanistan. He’s been home for just a few days in the interim. She has become both mom and dad, good cop and bad cop, lawn mower, dish washer, homework checker, house repairman, cook, laundress, and all the other things that go into running a home and family.
With the recent hurricane, she found herself working crazy hours to deal with all the claims as a result of the storm. Recently, she made the comment that she loves her job, but could do without another storm this season, as she hates being torn between her child and her job. It got me thinking…what is balance, and how do we find it?
We’ve convinced ourselves as women that we can have it all. We can indeed, as long as you’re realistic in your definition of “it all”. There will be moments that you’ll miss, but there will be bills that are paid. It’s a trade-off. There will also be moments that you get to treasure, because perhaps you passed up that big promotion that involved extensive travel. It all comes down to finding a balance, and more importantly, being okay with it. I work full time, my children know without a doubt that I love them. There are football games that I miss after school, but my son knows the minute he gets in the car when I pick him up, that I will want to know every detail, every play, even if they lost. And I’d like to know the name of the cute cheerleader making goo-goo eyes at him. There are times I get to see the last few minutes of the game, and I love those moments, even if he’s not on the field. I try to make one on one time for each of my kids each week, even if it’s just sitting on the couch catching up on school events or a silly TV show. It doesn’t always happen, and I’m okay with that. I know that if the schedules are to crazy, we have next week to make it up.
My sister worries about not being there for everything. With her husband gone, there are going to be times that she’s not. But I see my nephew look at her with adoration, or stop what he’s doing to just run to her and claim his hugs, and I know that he feels safe in her love. I know she cries sometimes when she’s frustrated or tired, but I know she also lets Garrett know it’s okay to be sad or upset. I see how she juggles 25 spinning plates to make sure she’s at his t-ball games, or lets him take her to dinner with a gift card from Daddy, and I know that when he’s older, he’ll understand what a strong woman looks like. She looks like my sister. She looks like all of us striving for the best, but knowing sometimes that all we have is “our” best. We need to trust that’s enough.
Karen Cluxton lives in Hatfield, PA, and has three teenagers – Halle 16, Owen 14, and Grace 13. Between shuttling kids to soccer, baseball and physical therapy, she trains in Mixed Martial Arts.