23 July 2013, by Tan Yi Lin
It’s close to 1 a.m.
I’ve just finished typing a work email and shut down my office laptop.
Then, I powered up my personal computer to write this long overdue blog entry.
Amazingly, I’m still wide awake. Lucid too. This isn’t due to any energetic spurt of productivity on my part. More likely, the strong coffee (the cafe didn’t serve decaf) that my colleague bought for me at lunch – that I forgot about and downed in a rush at 5 p.m. – has something to do with this.
I returned to the office after using three out of four months of maternity leave. Just like before, when I headed back to work after giving birth to Coco, I’m spreading out the remaining month to take a day off every week.
Just like before, I enjoy being back at work: the challenge of undertaking new projects, the opportunities to learn, the social interactions with my colleagues, the ‘me’ time over the lunch hour (fitness classes, quickie massages) and the little vain things like wearing smart office outfits, toting a proper handbag (and not a diaper bag) and marching in time to the click-clack of my own high heels.
Just like before, I miss my girls dearly while I’m at work. It’s a good thing that I’m so busy that time simply flies by and soon enough, it’s time to hurry home to see them again.
Yet, things are no longer like before.
This time, I returned to the office as a mother of two. Double the responsibilities. Half the time. When it came to motherhood, I had levelled up.
This time, I returned to the office in a more senior role since being promoted in April. More expectations to meet. More tasks to deliver. More need for speed. When it came to my career, I had also levelled up.
It’s as if I got a double promotion. How do I manage the exponential increase in things to do? By bringing multi-tasking to a new level. Last week, I found myself four-way multi-tasking: eating, expressing milk, sending text messages on my phone and reading a printout of a work email – all at the same time.
I barely tasted the food that I stuffed into my mouth. My phone messages were riddled with typo errors. I scanned through the email – and promptly forgot what it was all about. As for the milk – it’s a miracle that I didn’t spill any.
And yet, this is the epitome of ‘having it all’.
I can’t deny that I don’t have it all: a loving husband, two lovely daughters, a joyful home, good health, career progression and financial independence.
I just wish that the perfect life didn’t have to be one big juggling act. It’s not that I don’t have the time to enjoy what I have been blessed with. I do – just that my time for each person or each task is very short. Just like juggling – the moment each ball lands in your palm, you have to let it go again.
The thing about levelling up is that it can only get harder. You have to react faster. Think harder. Work smarter. Execute sharper, more accurate moves. There is less room for mistakes. Fewer chances to try again. As you juggle more and more balls, you have less and less time to maintain contact with each ball.
But I guess therein lies the challenge in stretching yourself and pushing your limits. At the same time, there must be a limit to the number of balls you can juggle before you start dropping them all. Maybe it’s eight balls. Maybe ten. Maybe twelve. At that point, if you want to take on another red ball, you may have to swap out a yellow ball in order to keep up the juggling act. Something would have to give.
I asked my colleague who has 4 kids how she managed to do everything – and yet not collapse under all that pressure of running a household, caring for her children and holding down a job. You just do, she said. You just do.
In time to come, maybe I’ll level up to the point of being a champion juggler too.
For now, I’m happy being a less impressive novice juggler and juggling fewer balls, at a slightly slower pace.
(Couldn’t resist putting this one in: the little actress doing a spontaneous impression of Thomas’ “Uh-oh Face”)