Thursday, April 18, 2013

Finding Balance in the Chaos

by Allison Pang


I wouldn't say I have anything close to balance when it comes to deadlines vs household anything. It's more like juggling chainsaws that are on fire. And oh yeah, one of them is probably laced with acid. And there's an evil clown mooning me from the wings. Also? I can only stand on one leg.

That probably sounds extreme, but I'm not really sure how else to compare it. The day job is nuts. The children are nuts (and the boy child was just diagnosed with ADHD. It's been interesting.)The husband's law enforcement job is also nuts. (And usually a hell of a lot more interesting than mine, btw.) The amount of chronic daily pain I'm in is nuts (and fluctuates like mad.)

This  means that I don't really have a schedule, because nearly every day is different.

I work a standard 9 to 5...but I also live in the DC area. My commute home (a whopping 12 miles) could be 20 minutes...or 2 hours. It's usually 6 by the time I make it home, get the kids, attempt to make dinner, get through homework/extras/fun activity...and then it's about 10 PM. And then maybe, if I'm not completely wiped out, I start writing.

Some days are better than others.

The offshoot of all that is my housework is nil. It doesn't get done on any regular basis. I don't cook much either - I tend to buy a lot of pre-made things at the grocery store when I can. (Fresh stuff, not fast food.) Something has to give and for now the dust bunnies have won out.

Now, up until recently, the husband did shift work - midnights, evening, days, most weekends, overtime. I couldn't actually plan anything around his schedule, because even if I knew he was technically supposed to work from X to Y, I never knew when I'd get a phone call stating that a shooting had happened, or a high speed chase or a drug bust or a suicide in the park, etc. etc. I learned pretty damn quick not to make any plans. I had to schedule my time as if he wasn't going to be around at all. Bonus if he was, but it's saved me a great deal of frustration to just realize that's how it has to be.

(Yes, we do divide some chores, but my job has more flexibility when it comes to scheduling, for obvious reasons. That means the majority of doctor appointments, etc. falls to me.)

The good news is that for the last six months, he's changed positions slightly. For now, he's only working M-F...and he's usually home by late afternoon. And he has weekends off. The amount of difference this has made for me personally is nothing short of amazing. Much of the burden of sprog homework has shifted onto his shoulders, with the added bonus that it's nearly all finished by the time I make it home. (And that homework is getting more complicated and longer as the kids get older. It's a massive relief to know I'm not going to be stuck trying to figure out fractions and decimals all over again.)

Sometimes the dishes actually get done now.

So what does this mean for deadlines?

Each deadline that I've had so far has been completely different. In the past, I've usually had to just try to work around the chaos. It usually meant working until 2 AM or more if I had no other choice. On weekends, I'd take the kids to grandma's or try to find a babysitter.  If the husband was around and I had something immediately due, he'd usually take them out of the house for the day. (Because believe me, no matter the best of intentions, even if I'm working in a closed room, the kid distractions are many. Particularly when they were younger and needed more attention - it's getting better now that they're a little more self-sufficient.)

Sometimes it's not even about trying to manage MY time, but being forced to work within certain constraints.

For example - my first book? Had plenty of time - my editor had a detailed revision letter and gave me a solid six weeks to work on it. No problem.

Second book? My editor (diff from first) sent a scant revision letter and basically told me to turn it in "whenever." (And then just passed it right up to copyedits when I did, because...I don't know?)

Third book? Third editor (diff from second AND first)  gave me a good revision letter...but wanted it back within one week. Which was pretty much impossible. I did it in two, but only because I ended up using four vacation days from the day job to manage it. (Which is really pretty shitty, honestly, but that's how it goes, I guess.)

So how do I handle deadlines?

Chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.


  1. Wow. How do you ever get anything written? That's commitment.

    And chocolate helps everything. ;o)

  2. Flaming chainsaws dipped in acid? This I gotta see *pulls up chair and props head on hand*

    Really though, your life sounds like mine. But I live in the middle of nowhere so my drive is a guaranteed hour home. I am a lab manager so I get to take work home with me some nights too. Then the husband comes home with kids, food, baths (if they are lucky), mess, yup pretty much everything you said.
    I think I just got a chocolate craving just thinking about your life. Isn't life fun some days :)