As I look at the calendar and realize that it’s nearly the end of January, I am once again asking myself an all too familiar question: Where has the time gone? How is it possible that I’m four weeks into 2012 and have yet to really accomplish much on my to-do list? The answer — time.
This year, my husband, my daughters and I created a set of family new year’s resolutions. Each of us spent some time thinking about it and then, popcorn style, we shared our ideas. Interestingly, they all had a similar theme — time. Whether it was spending more time with the family dog (our adorable but somewhat rambunctious chocolate labradoodle Misha) or spending more time as a family exploring and experiencing the Washington region, almost all of our family resolutions involved time.
For the most part I think that I “manage” my time fairly well, and I somehow seem to balance the myriad of demands for my time (although it’s often not pretty and my daughters would probably argue to the contrary). But I do so only because I am supported by the most amazing community of friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues. I am surrounded by a support system that allows me to pack 48-hours worth of everything into a 24-hour day, and for those times when I can’t, I have the resources to call upon others to help.
Take the past couple of days for example. I’ve been under the weather battling a January cold — at home, my girls and my husband stepped up helping with dinner, making school lunches, and generally not arguing when asked to help out. At work, I availed myself of paid sick time and stayed home for a couple of days to recover, while several co-workers emailed to inquire if there were any tasks that they could take off my plate.
But what if that wasn’t my reality? What if I was one of the more than 200,000 women and girls living in poverty in the Washington metropolitan region? What if I was one of the more than 118,000 households headed by a single woman, and I didn’t have a support network to call upon? What would happen if I lost my job because I was too sick to go to work? What would happen if my time truly weren’t my own?
Recent research from Ascend attempted to answer some of these questions by lifting up the voices of some of the most vulnerable families across the country, asking them critical questions about their views of economic security, children, and the future. In citing the challenges of raising children, both married and single parents agreed that these challenges are much more difficult for single parents, citing everything from financial concerns to the difficulty of not having a partner as a sounding board, to time management. When asked about these challenges, one single mom said, “My time. Pretty much the use of my time. You know there is so much you can do in a day and you are by yourself.”
So while I gaze at my to-do list and wonder where I’ll find the time to get through it, I am humbled by the knowledge that I will get through this list because I am not alone. I am surrounded by friends, family and colleagues who will all help me check off my tasks until there is nothing left… well, almost nothing.
Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat is the vice president of Washington Area Women’s Foundation.