The other day I decided on the spur of the moment to get a haircut during the day on a work day. I was really nervous leaving work to get this done. Ordinarily I just ignore personal needs like haircuts, doctors visits, pedicures, etc. that tend to occur during regular business hours for as long as possible since my typical work hours extend before and after regular business hours.
Luckily, some personal needs can be put off longer than others.
I have a great head of hair and, as such, am one to ignore care and maintenance of said hair for months and months at a time. I average 1.5 haircuts a year on a good hair year. It’s just not a priority which is good because I have so many other things I can’t seem to get done be they personal or professional. Looking and feeling good are definitely on the priority list but they compete (most often ending up on the losing side) with making our house a home, parenting, and work.
My daughter also has gorgeous hair. She is only nine and thus also requires little maintenance of her lovely locks. Lately, however, it has been getting really hard for her to comb the tangles out no matter what products we try in an effort to dissuade these tenacious tangles. My husband is arguably great at doing basically all of the homemaking and the parenting but with our daughter he has drawn the line at putting in earrings and combing out tangles. (I wish I could say this is because he has experience with neither but there was that unfortunate period in the early 90s when my then boyfriend rocked a pony tail longer than mine.) Of note, we have both drawn the line at doing braids since we collectively suck at it despite how long our hair is or has been. So, lately a lot of my quality time with my daughter has been spent trying to get the tangles out of her hair.
It hasn’t been fun torturing her, especially since overall I have precious little time with my little girl. I have been working 60-120 hours a week since the day she was born. About three years into it, I made it even harder for her to get ‘mommy and me’ time by bringing her baby brother into the mix. All those days when I went to work before they were up and came home (if at all) after they were asleep broke my heart over and over again. To this day, I always make it a point to crack open the bedroom door and blow a kiss to my sleeping babies on my way out the door because it makes me a little less bad for leaving them for such long stretches of time. (Luckily these days I am heading out for fewer 40 hour single stretches of work compared to my training days; and occasionally, I even get to see them awake in the mornings.)
These past nine years I have been catching as catch can as a parent, first with her then with them both, first as a trainee and now as a faculty member. Some days I feel good about how I am doing and others I feel down right awful. Getting the work-life balance equation “right” is a constant challenge when you want to be the best parent you can while also doing “okay” (see, I didn’t say perfect) at everything else including self, home, and work. This past year, as I have focused more and more on my own wellness (because, after all, I want my kids to grow up knowing that taking care of one’s self inside and out is important no matter how challenging) I have also spent more time thinking about how to make the most of my fits and spurts of parenting. So I decided that my daughter and I should both get haircuts, not so much because I needed to (I had my last cut just 6 months ago) but because she badly needed relief from the tangles and I badly needed time with her. I was not on call. There were no imminent deadlines. Work could wait for a couple of hours.
It was her first time going to a real salon rather than a drive through haircut chain. That, in and of itself, was a thrill for her. Plus, she got to spend 2 whole hours alone with me when I was in a good mood. Driving there and back, discussing the futures of our hair, and marveling afterwards at how much difference a good haircut makes brought such joy. I was falling seriously behind on some grant writing and my work inbox had over a 1000 messages in it; but, somehow I managed not to think about that during those two hours as I enjoyed my daughter who, it seems, is becoming quite a smart, thoughtful, and pretty young lady.
I hope some of that has to do with the fact that I have been a good role model for her these past nine years despite my frequent absences from her daily life. (I know that bulk of it is due to her great dad and grand parents who have been raising her while I have been advancing my career but still I wonder if perhaps some credit might be due.) In the car I said to her, “You know, I am really sorry that sometimes even when I am home from work I am just too cranky or its just too late to spend time with you.” Her response, “That’s alright Mom, you’re busy all day taking care of people.”
So proud of this little girl with the great haircut.
(Tears. Again. As I write this.)