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On juggling

April 9, 2009

As a working mom, I’m always trying to balance life in the office and life at home, juggling the commute and work day with dinner, laundry and QT with the boys at home. This week that metaphor is more manifest than usual —  a. because I’m approaching my busiest time of year at work and the busiest time ever at home, and b. because juggling (yes, actual juggling) has been a hot topic around my office.

I design educational summer programs for children and teens – in other words, I’m in the summer camp business. And having planned our curriculum last fall, now we’re faced with the extracurriculars – the kickball tournaments, movie nights, craft projects, discussion groups and, for at least one program in my office, juggling lessons.

According to my boss, “Everyone wants to juggle.” Thanks to my mother, who throughout my childhood practiced juggling with not only beanbags but also big wooden rings and hollow plastic pins, I’m familiar with that goal. Unfortunately, my brother is the only kid among us who inherited the talent to keep five balls rhythmically aloft while walking backward across a room (or breathing).

Very occasionally, armed with careful concentration and plenty of caffeine, I can juggle three. And since Jack arrived on the scene last year, I learned that rule generally applies to tasks as well as to beanbags or oranges. In the office, I’m happiest juggling a few projects — with too small a workload, I’ll battle sluggishness; if there are more than three high-priority deadlines, alarms start going off.  And I’ve always been the same way at home, looking for the proverbial “just right” middle ground between boredom and overflow.

Since Jack’s birth, boredom hasn’t come calling. But sometimes I’ve been flooded and overwhelmed, feeling as though I were juggling eggs instead of beanbags, with a real fear of dropping the ball.  When that happens, it helps to reassess – to not think separately of D, Jack, the time, the chicken, the salad, the laundry, bedtime, ironing and lunch tomorrow but instead to group them into bigger but more juggle-able categories – family, food, tomorrow. (Thank you, semantics.)

This has been a good week for our work/home scales: D worked late one night but brought home dinner; Jack came to have lunch with me at work; yesterday we made an evening of yard work and still managed to eat, watch LOST, and get to bed by 10:30.

I may be feeling overconfident, but that sounds like four things to me. Maybe I should take juggling this summer, too. I’ll work my way up to pins by practicing with my new favorite action figures.

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