If we’re going to talk about work-life balance, I have to start out with the honest truth. I do not work outside the home. To some, that probably removes me from the conversation immediately. I am a stay-at-home mom who tries to do some writing on the side and holds down the fort here full time. That said I have two rambunctious little boys, aged 3 and 4, and my husband is a full-time tugboat captain which means he is often at sea. His current schedule has him gone Monday-Friday and we are grateful to spend the weekends together, but he leaves the house at 4:30AM on Mondays and doesn’t get home again until 7:00PM on Fridays. During the week it is just me and the kids, day in and day out. His previous schedule had him at sea roughly half the year; his current one is more variable. In any case, like all stay-at-home moms I am busy. I am not doing morning yoga and drinking smoothies on the couch. But, I also thought I was doing plenty for myself.
Some days after the kids are in bed, I will take a nice, long soak in a hot bath. Sometimes when they both nap in the afternoon, I will drink a cup of tea and watch a Gilmore Girls rerun. I’ve also helped myself by raising the boys to enjoy the same things that I do, so that we can all go on long walks through the woods or farm fields.
In my mind, these were the things keeping me sane. They brought a great deal of contentment to my everyday life. But, though they made me content, they didn’t bring me a ton of real joy. I had lost touch with the things that thrilled me, the things that made me throw my head back in hearty laughter, the experiences that left me so exhilarated that I could only grin and shake my head afterwards. There was no excitement.
We were content, but were we too content?
In many ways contentment is the enemy of adventure. It’s easy to find contentment in the everyday, mundane comforts of daily life. My morning coffee before the boys wake up, steaming hot and cloaked in the warmth of my boys quietly sleeping upstairs. Stealing an hour to exercise and shower, boys playing with their legos or watching an episode of Wild Kratts in the next room. Taking the dog for a long walk on a rainy day. Drinking tea while snow falls gently on our skylight. Spending a day at home without accomplishing much of anything. It’s so simple. It’s so easy. We are so content.
But with the purchase of our new boat, we’ve plunged headlong into a different kind of joy. It’s the sheerness of being on the edge of our dreams. It’s the excitement of working towards something, dreaming about it and taking the first big concrete step towards reality. It’s the fear of knowing you’re financially invested and that you’ll only get one shot. It’s the fear of unknown challenges ahead and the adrenaline rush of running towards them instead of away.
We launched the boat last week and took delivery of it this weekend. It was in many ways the opposite of how I’d imagined it. The weather was cold, damp and windy. We hadn’t bent the sails on yet, so we couldn’t sail but instead motored into a bumpy seaway, me on the helm and the Captain wrestling canvas into place up forward. We shivered in the cockpit as the wind nipped our ears. Though it had been almost 90 degrees the day before, I layered on three fleeces and a raincoat and the wind still got through. Down below, the boys were nestled into bunks, bundled in sleeping bags, napping to the rhythmic hum of our engine.
When we arrived at our mooring just a few hours later, it suddenly became just as I had imagined. The Captain got into the dinghy to attach the mooring pennants and I motored the boat around, standing by for him to wave me closer. For just a few minutes, it was just me at the helm and the boys down below sleeping. It brought me such joy to have that moment, where I was doing something that I used to do routinely that brings me such pure happiness, and I was doing it by myself with my children sleeping quietly in their bunks. A wave of relief washed over me. I’ve still got it, I was thinking as a grin plastered itself across my face and I pulled our boat up to the mooring. As I shut the engine off, the boys woke. Junior asked what was next and when we told him we’d go ashore, retrieve our cars and pick up dinner on the way home, he cried. “I want to stay here.” His eyes brimmed with tears. When we told him again that we needed to go get the cars, he pleaded, “Can we come back in the morning? Can we have breakfast here?”
Sheer joy swelled in me. I was afraid the boys wouldn’t be able to nap onboard. When they did, i was afraid they’d wake seasick or grumpy or cold. I was afraid they would hate it. But they napped soundly and woke begging for more. They love the boat possibly as much as their parents do. They want more.
And that brings me sheer joy. We have the whole summer ahead of us. Adventures line the horizon. We haven’t fallen victim to the comfort of contentment. We are just getting started.