Three tradeoffs


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People always ask me how I manage to have work, a family, and still have time to write. I always tell them I give up stuff, but they never believe me. Here’s a list of things I’ve given up recently. Please, friends, step into the creepiness that is my life.

1) I work hard, study up on my field, and make enough money that I can look really nice and buy actual grown-up jewelry. But when I had my daughter, my fingers swelled up to the point where I couldn’t wear my engagement or wedding ring anymore. Ok, just my engagement ring. I lost my wedding ring when I took it off to run on a treadmill because I was angry at Mr. B for something stupid after we had been married for three months. I never found time to replace my wedding ring, and I never found the time to go downtown, get my finger remeasured, and get my ring resized. I now wear a cheap woodland hedgehog ring I bought on sale from Kate Spade that makes it look like I’m either a hipster or married to Tom Bombadil. I also have enough money to get a manicure but never have enough time to get refills, so on any given day, I end up looking like I either just spent a spa day with the Kardashians, or like I washed some pots with my hands instead of a Brillo pad. Once, before an important meeting, I realized that one of my nails was chipped and I had absolutely no time to do anything about it, especially since I am never organized enough to have nail polish remover with me, so I scraped off all of my nail polish with my car keys. I told people at the meeting that I had a cold and couldn’t shake hands. But, if I tell you in the future that I have a cold and can’t shake hands, it’s absolutely only because I care about your immune system.

2) I try to pick up my daughter from daycare as early as possible so I can spend lots of time with her. One of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me was last week when I picked up my daughter from daycare and the office lady said that they were closing at 5:30 that day, and that I should pick my daughter up before then, but it probably didn’t matter since I usually came early anyway. The tradeoff is that, in addition to spending all day thinking very hard, I’m also constantly entertaining a toddler, and my house looks like it just came off a stint as the set for the next zombie apocalypse. There are Duplo pieces under each couch, and in my dreams. There is a small toy dog named Tolik, along with a variety of colorful books about dinosaurs, planets, and table manners in the downstairs bathroom. Yesterday, I found five granola bar pieces in the shape of five tiny fingerprints, stuck to my Very Nice Couch. They are still kind of there. I actively want to spend time with my kid, but as a result, by the time said kid goes to bed, I’m physically drained and therefore too exhausted to go to the gym, like I promised myself I would, like the Kardashians would. I have been to the gym maybe five times this month. I stopped wearing my FitBit because it started shaming my non-compliance. I’m a Russian Jew, so the guilt is already built in. I don’t need my non-sentient devices to help.

3) Mr. B, like me, has a pretty flexible schedule, and he can take over if I have an evening meeting or event. My mom lives nearby and I am fortunate enough to have her help when Mr. B can’t come home in time after work. This means I get to do fun, sexy stuff like give talks about big data strategy, MapReduce and Les Miserables, and teach SQL classes. The tradeoff is that, when I’m not doing those things, I want to be spending as much time as possible with my daughter (and/or scraping granola off the couch), and giving Mr. B opportunities to attend meetups he’s interested in. On the nights that we are both at home together, we, as introverts, are both usually so drained from the bedtime routine that we decompress by separately writing blog posts, separately watching TV shows, or separately just stare into space, trying to get the Kukutiki theme song out of our head. When my mom graciously suggests that we take a night and go out downtown, we look at her balefully. “Can we just stay here in sweatpants and watch an episode or two of Frasier on Netflix and not talk to anyone and not have to do anything,” we ask her instead.

My life is exhausting chaos. I am constantly trying to recalibrate the various buckets in it to make sure they’re balanced, making me feel like some kind of walking Lady Justice. But, in spite of how exhausted I am, I’m super-happy with where I am now. Sure, it’s nice to fantasize that I go to the gym, one day come home to a couch that doesn’t taste like peanut butter, and jetset with Mr. B to glamorous locales sometimes. But when I want to do that, I just read my blog posts from that ancient time before we had kids and I laugh, and laugh, and laugh.