I Can't Do It All

5:35 p.m. I'm leaving my office at the mental health agency to pick up my children from day care. Lots of traffic tonight. Will I make it before closing time? I think to myself nervously. I arrive with two minutes to spare.

In the car with the kids, I try to be cheerful and pleasant, but we're all tired. Bushed.

€œWhat would you like for dinner Burger King or McDonald's? €

While deciding among themselves, a racket breaks out in the back seat. I try to ignore the arguing and focus on my driving. I guess I am hoping the eruption will spontaneously dissipate. With all hopes of that dashed and obviously needing to control the situation, I break forth in loud declaration, warning of potential time-outs to be served upon arrival home.

I'm disappointed that my agreeable disposition could not be maintained for long.

7:30 p.m. Reading time with the kids, but there is no way I can muster the energy even to move. Not tonight. Not last night. Probably not tomorrow night, either. Thank goodness for Nickelodeon; the children and Brad [husband] entertain themselves.

€œ8 o'clock. Time for bed. € My nighttime prayers with the children lack substance and depth. That's because my spiritual life has lost its substance and depth. Come to think of it, so have date nights with my husband.

Brad worked 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, in worker's compensation insurance. And while he was a loving husband and doting father, helping dress the children each morning and drive them to school among other things taking on many tasks was something I wanted to do and felt I needed to do.

But it's clear I was out of balance. My family was out of balance. Something needed to change and quickly.

Off kilter and out of sync

I tend to want to have it all and to move at 100 percent intensity levels to get there, especially with my career. So when I graduated residency, I self-imposed a 30-hour workweek to be more available for our four children.

My life ran smoothly until I became more successful at my new job. Then I began negotiating for more money and the job title of medical director for the health corporation for which I worked. Was I merely being a good steward with my talents, or was I lured by selfish ambition? The worry of finances on my mind, I mistakenly gave my employer the idea that I may be available to work a few more hours.

Then came the words that led me down the wrong path at that point in my life: €œBut we want you to work full time. € At that moment a pot full of mixed emotions funneled down to a feeling of embarrassment. Imagine that embarrassed about asking for what I needed, for what my family needed, for what God was calling me to do. Looking back, I sensed a subtle but deep level of discomfort that working full time was not God's will for my life. But I was not as clear-headed then as I am now. I didn't realize the tremendous consequences I would suffer.

I didn't have enough backbone to say, €œI want the position and the salary, and I want to do it in 30 hours per week. € I didn't trust God enough that He had a plan for me, that He would provide a way. I didn't realize the simple lesson that when God urges no, I had better not say yes.

My fourth (and last) child, Brandon, was almost a year old when I went back to work full time. Did our family suffer tremendous consequences by my doing that? There were lost hours not spent with young children and a strained atmosphere when we were together. Perhaps those are not as tremendous circumstances as life and death, but they are tremendous in terms of health and affliction. Sure, we made it, though we didn't thrive as we could have.

Leaving home each day was a reminder that our family didn't have enough time together yesterday and that we certainly wouldn't have enough time today. We weren't as close emotionally anymore. It was hard on all of us I think we shelled ourselves up a little bit to better endure the miniature wounds we felt each day.

As both a workaholic and a successaholic, my going back to work full time opened the door for me to become busier and busier. And once I smelled more achievement and success, I was tempted to work even more. That's when my spiritual life lost its substance and depth.

I recall trying to pray with my children and the words not falling off my lips as they always had. Church became less important, and during worship and Bible study my mind would wander. In fact, it was a good time to write letters! I was in a spiritual fog.

I asked God to help me get my life back in step, but I didn't know how to proceed. I felt trapped. Day in and day out for two years I proceeded down the stressful path of full-time work. And I brought my family with me.

Finding equilibrium

I remember the day everything began to change for the better. I was listening to Christian music while enjoying a hot shower on a rare morning off. The lyrics rang out, inviting God to €œreign over dreams I dare not seek. € I always liked to change the words of that song to €œreign over all the dreams I seek. €

But that morning I felt an inner discomfort with my rendition, as though God were speaking to me. Instead, I sang the song in the correct way, praying that God would €œreign over dreams I dare not seek. € That's when a floodgate of emotion opened up, the fog cleared, and I realized how out of God's will I was.

No, it definitely wasn't where I wanted to be at that point in my life. I repented for trying to do things my own way and began earnestly to pray that God would get me out of these binds.

The first things to change were my spiritual priorities. We began attending church again on Wednesday and Sunday nights, and I stopped writing letters during the services. I was too busy listening and praying to be distracted by that! My daily Bible study resumed. Bedtime prayers with my children were once again rich, little wonder as to why.

Then it happened.

Soon after Brandon turned 3, I had finally sort of arranged my life so that I could quit one of my jobs. (Yes, I had accumulated another.) The situation was far from being perfectly worked out, but ultimately I let go of the medical directorship I had previously negotiated. The way things developed, I didn't end up losing much income since the other job provided a raise.

When I began spending more time with my children, Brandon reverted to separation anxiety he would cry and want me close, seeming to fear that I would leave. Now he giggles and carries on, especially when we play silly little games. I love that! I lay with my 5-year-old on her bed and we dream dreams of what we are going to do with her room someday. I also pick up my elementary school-age kids from €œparent pick-up € with all the other parents who do not use the after-school day care.

It's great to be a mom.

I'm glad that I am a doctor also.

Though I still struggle with my tendency to overwork, with my desire to please others and with being enamored with so-called success, I enjoy a great life. Yes, I wish I could do more both at home and at work, but I can't. I can't do it all. It's just not possible, as much as I would like it to be. I cannot be a medical director or high-powered hospital psychiatrist in private practice working 50-plus hours a week and be a full-time wife and mother.

It's not a matter of balancing when juggling is required.

A clown may be able to hold 16 bowling pins by wrapping his arms around them, but that is not exactly a circus act. He cannot do anything special with any of the pins since he is trying to manipulate too many. He can only effectively juggle about five pins. Period.

My family takes up three or four pins. I can juggle maybe one or two more maybe, if I am a very good juggler. But I have hobbies that are waiting and books that are gathering dust. There are so many opportunities, yet so many more responsibilities. But most of all, I want to be in the center of God's will for my life.

Now, about those date nights with my husband ...

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Other Things to Consider

Transitions: Changing Jobs, Moving

Relationships: Communication Gaps

Parenting Teens: Communication Problems