Career vs. Family: Reprise

Back in 2012, I wrote a post about career versus family and the balancing act that must be done when one is trying to “raise” both. So now I can provide insight to my past self because I am in the position of having a career and a family.

But if we’re being realistic, I don’t think I have much more insight than I did then, except I realize that I could never be a stay-at-home mom. I always thought I could because after all, my mother did it. So why couldn’t I? I was so wrong. The three months of maternity leave I did take were hell on earth, and I couldn’t wait to get back to work so I could feel like I was actually doing something.

But you ARE doing something! You’re raising a baby! people tried to tell me. It didn’t erase the fact that without work and no routine to speak of, with sleep deprivation and zero energy, I was starting to get severely depressed. I was honestly thinking of dropping the baby off at the fire station and checking myself into a mental health institution. It was that bad.

Then I went back to work and the world brightened instantly. I went back to normal. The fog lifted. Everything was better. My hat is off to the stay-at-home mothers of the world. I don’t know how you do it. I admire you deeply.

Even so, all this is not to say that I would choose career over family. A career should serve the family, not the other way around. The family does not exist to serve one’s career, and if it does, you’re doing it wrong… or you’re a politician.

My three months of maternity hell leave made me question my own motives. Do I love my job at the expense of my family? I don’t think so. I try my best to keep my time within the standard eight hours a day and not take on unnecessary extra work. I keep it in my head that a job is a job, and a job cannot love me in the way that my family can. If I lost my job, it would be devastating but ultimately replaceable, but if I lost my family, it would be devastating and irreplaceable.

Perhaps if circumstances were different, and my family was in a situation where I did not have to work to keep us afloat, I would have enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps it was just postpartum hormones, and not simply being out of work, that made me so miserable. Perhaps if I had started my family before starting my career, I would have wanted to stay home with the child(ren), but alas, today’s economy really doesn’t allow that. Gone are the days when one can get married straight out of high school or college and expect to live on one person’s income while supporting children.

As my son gets older, perhaps things will change, and I’ll be better able to balance career and family. Now I feel like one or the other always gets the short end of the stick. “They” say things like Do what’s best for you and your family, not what everyone else thinks is best, and that’s what I try to do. But man, those comments from the peanut gallery can really get you down. (And that’s a post for another time.)

The Four-Day Schedule

If you had a choice between a “standard” work schedule (i.e., Monday through Friday for 8 hours each day) and a “shortened” schedule (i.e., Monday through Thursday for 10 hours each day), which would you choose?

At first, the shortened schedule looks like it would be great. After all, you do get Friday off, so you can get used to having long, luxurious three-day weekends. I personally don’t think I would do it, simply because cramming 10 hours of work into a single day would be painful mentally and physically, especially for four days in a row. My job involves thinking and basically being inside my own head all day long, as well as sitting in front of a computer screen, so I’d overthink myself into panic mode and strain my eyes. Other jobs might lend themselves better to 10-hour stretches.

To me, the main problem with the standard work schedule is that it can get tiring going into work five days in a row, especially if you commute every day. My solution to this would be not to have a day off on Friday but to have a day off on Wednesday, so your 10-hour workdays would be broken into more “bite-size” periods. Another solution would be to work remotely on Wednesday if possible so you can avoid the commute and use the time that’s normally spent driving for more worthwhile things, like cleaning or cooking (or maybe even working on a hobby if you’re very lucky).

What do you think? Would you work on a 4-day schedule if you could?

Minutiae, My Specialty

I was having a hard time titling this post because my mind blanked. I was going to title it “minutiae is my specialty,” but then I remembered that “minutiae” is a plural noun. “Minutiae are my specialty” made it sound like I was trying too hard (like those annoying people who insist on using proper grammar in every aspect of their speech), so I took advantage of one of the myriad uses of the comma.

Anyway, before I get too sidetracked while explaining my crazy thought process… the point of this post is that editing matters. If you think skipping editing in your quest for publication is OK and you can rely on readers to find errors after you’ve put your work out in the public eye, think again.* You cannot always catch your own errors, and if you do, you often catch them too late. (I’m sure you’ve had those terrible, stomach-dropping moments when you realized that you sent an email with a mistake in it just seconds after you actually hit “Send.” And as Murphy’s Law would dictate, it was most likely a very important email.)

Formatting minutiae matter, too. If you’ve ever picked up a self-published book and noticed funky line spacing, margins that are just a bit too wide, or copy that’s littered with extra keyboard spaces, then you probably won’t trust the author to tell you a good story as much as you would if she had paid attention to the formatting. Oh, it’s just an extra space. It doesn’t matter, the author might say. Nobody will notice. That kind of thinking is dangerous because it leads to dismissing so many of those little things that they gang up and overtake the work, making it appear sloppy.

However, the great big caveat is that perfection is nonexistent. In your own work, picking at the minutiae (or having someone else do it) is important, but it is equally important not to get too bogged down in it and know when to let go. As writers (and editors), this is a fine line to tread.

*And believe me, they will find errors after you’ve published… and they will never let you forget them. Best to edit before publication.