Some years ago, a wise friend taught me that there is no such thing as balance. With my four children all under the age of ten at the time, imbalance was a daily occurrence for me. Each day was filled with dirty diapers, cooking, cleaning, and toting children, car seats, and diaper bags from one place to another. I often felt guilty that I spent most of my time on the chores of child rearing and not its pleasures. Certainly, there was no time for personal pursuits. My youngest is now nine years old and my oldest almost nineteen. Yet my friend’s message still rings true. I may not have to change diapers and cart strollers everywhere, but my life is still out of balance.
A year ago I started a small business: a mobile ice cream venture. This year I’ve taken a much bigger step and am opening an ice cream store. After I spent months negotiating a land lease and obtaining permits from our local municipality, my building arrived on June 2. Since then I’ve run back and forth between home and store, lining up a plumber, electrician, carpenter, and more. I make almost daily trips to Lowe’s for lumber, nails, light fixtures, sinks and more lumber. One morning, I left the house at 6:30 a.m. By the time I got back home, the kids were making their lunch.
I have supplies to order, permits to pull, a logo to create, a website to build and a blog to write. Meanwhile, I still have gardens to weed, tomatoes to prune and stake, and produce to pick. There are sprinklers to set, pets to take to the veterinarian, and then sprinklers to move. Somewhere in between, I have finished To Kill a Mockingbird with Clancy and Maggie, complete with literature vocabulary, questions, and discussions. (We didn’t quite finish by the end of the school year.) And I’m still finishing a writing project with Clara that she started in school.
The farm chores have increased this year too with the multiplying rabbits, more goats, and the addition of ducks.
In particular, the ducks need to be moved almost daily. And the goats decided to use the new tarp I’d erected for their shelter instead as a jungle-gym. Rather than going under the tarp, several goats managed to climb on top of it. In 90 degree weather, I managed to secure yet again the now torn tarp. Plus, the guinea eggs in the incubator have begun to hatch.
And the household chores have not disappeared; cooking, cleaning, laundry, and bills. And when Jeff had surgery, the children and I helped him during his recovery. Lately, my workouts happen between 7 and 9 p.m.
Obviously, my business pursuits come with a price. One evening as Clancy, Maggie and I loaded my ice cream cart, canopy, tables and supplies for an event (Jeff and Tennyson were gone), Clara Belle came to me with a big smile on her face.
“Mom, you have to come see the baby rabbits! They’re out of their nesting box and they’re so cute! You have to see them!”
I looked at the time. I was supposed to be set up at the event already.
“Clara, I can’t. We’re late and I’m not done loading.”
“You can come and just take a quick look,” she tried again.
“No, Clara. I really can’t right now.”
Her smile faded.
“How about I go see the rabbits with you tomorrow?”
She forced a smile, “Ok.”
It’s been 15 years since I’ve been in the workforce. And starting my own business is so much more than just showing up for work. The disappointment on my daughter’s face made me wonder why I was doing this. Perhaps I should wait until all the children are grown. And there’s the dilemma — mothers with other pursuits are torn.
My children are my proudest achievement, yet I have many dreams. However, I’m constantly vexed by my inability to simultaneously succeed as both mother and entrepreneur. When I’m reading a story with my girls, I’m distracted with my to-do list that will easily take me past midnight. When I’m checking off the to-do list, I feel like I should be spending time with my kids. My friend was right: balance is impossible.
But I couldn’t forget my daughter’s disappointment. So that weekend she and I did farm chores together: we moved the ducklings, fed the rabbits, and then sanitized their water bottles. It was hot, sweaty, dirty work and both Clara and I managed to get at least one cut in the process. But it didn’t matter. Clara Belle was smiling.