Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Measuring Stick Has No Marks


Work or family? Work or family? Is it either or or can you do both?

In my experience, once my child hit age 3 and 3/4ths, I could do both. I can do both with several caveats: 

I work from home. (I also have part time work away from the home). We have a native plant nursery. Some tasks can be made interesting to a young boy. For example, we yanked dozens of 4' long pieces of rebar from our gravelly farm field. Beren happily pulled some and then raked leaves and clipped branches with hand pruners. 

First and foremost, I'm a mother. Luckily, I work with my husband, so we take turns on parenting, which includes stopping for snacks, boo boos, a push on the swing, or assistance climbing on some part of the farm infrastructure.

In no way does 'work' include sitting down to read or use a computer. 

And last (and first and second...), I'm a mother, so that means while Beren has been into growing to his rebar pulling self, I've been growing him. This means my participation in the business has been about 30/70, me/Jared. I'd graciously and honestly say that we're 50/50 parents, but still I've been able to pull off only 30% for the farm. 

When Beren was an infant, I hardly had time to make a half dozen 4" by 4" paper cut outs of wild birds for his mobile. In between diaper changes, nursing, and perhaps filling a cup of water for myself, I had zero time. He'd wake up as I trimmed out a killdeer beak or hummingbird tail. Sigh, don't you know I'm making this for you? How about another five minutes on that nap? Infancy and toddlerhood were so absorbing, and then again so is early childhood. 

When we began our nursery Beren was about 2. I really wanted to share in the work and did. Jared made space for me and held a space for me by being with Beren. 

But still, my role lagged behind Jared's. I felt deep pangs when I'd hear someone talk about "Jared's nursery". 

Business makes little room for children or families. Evening programs during bedtime, daytime programs during nap time or snack time or play time. Meetings and events with no space for a mother (or father) and child. I thought I might bring Beren along various places, and we certainly did. There were far more that we didn't.

After all, spending time as a family was one of the fundamental reasons we started our own business, and yet there was a push away from family. There was a little boy that needed me. There was a husband and business partner that needed me. And a me that needed me, whoever that was. 

After the whirlwind of setting up our farm on our own land and the slow fade into this autumn, we've had a chance to reflect on 30/70. Jared and talked about how we might become 50/50. 

We rolled out our empathetic listening skills. We talked about the way that some women participate in a family business...they do the books. I definitely have that role, self assigned. No glory, we agreed. We talked about our interests within our business plan, our passions, and our comfort areas. 

Like most of the good talks we've had lately, there are no immediate resolutions. There's no hope or desire for one. It's just important to talk.

A few days later, I baked a quiche that we'd take for lunch while making the Central Park delivery. "Making this quiche, is participating in our business," I said. "This is our farm and everything I do helps our farm. Whether it's packing snacks for our delivery or washing our work clothes. It's all important."

"I want some time to think about that," Jared replied slowly. 

"I just don't want to discount all the work I'm doing by saying I'm just 30%."

"Ok, but that's not the glory work you were talking about a couple days ago. And, I want you to be doing the things you want to do," Jared said.

I think 50/50 is the measure the modern, conscious family might try to live by. But really it's often felt like what we might fight about. It can be confusing to sort out who sorts the recycling, who goes grocery shopping, who waters the plants, who runs the tiller. How can it be measured, not by a calculator certainly. Weekly or annual tally? Perhaps by a sense of self worth? It's not easy when the measuring stick has no marks.

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