Tuesday, September 20, 2011
September 20, 2011 ~ Day 285
The Pendulum Swings
Six years ago when our eldest child came onto the scene, I wasn't ready to stop working.
We'd gone from 0 to 60 in no time at all. One minute my lover was slipping a ring on my finger and we were exuberant about the lifelong adventure we were about to embark upon together.
The next minute we were (surprise!) pregnant, then married.
I'd just landed a new job, one I was thrilled about. A dream position.
I could not imagine giving it up!
So I didn't.
I went back to work when my baby boy was 6 weeks old.
My schedule read "75% position" but being me, I gave it 150% anyway... worked around the clock.
I put in 80 hour weeks.
Parenting was hard. I didn't understand it. Couldn't get my head around it. Everything about being a new mother exhausted me.
Work offered familiarity. Refuge. Intellectual stimulation. Success. An opportunity to make a difference. And... the chance to pretend for at least seven hours a day that nothing had changed; that I was the same person I had always been.
Except (haha) everything *had* changed.
My husband now stayed home part time with our child. He missed being in the office, running his company. We also had a nanny in our house, nearly a stranger (with great references) suddenly caring for our infant for hours on end, during the times when both he and I needed to be at work.
We also had a small, fractious human being crying at all hours of the day and night. (Who we loved passionately, wholly and beyond reason.)
* * *
Some days my office telephone would ring at two or three.
"Where ARE you?" my husband would ask. "I need to GO. I need you to GET HOME."
"I'm so sorry," words would tumble out of my mouth. "Time got away from me. There was a meeting. A student got injured. I had to send 20 emails. You know how it goes."
"You SAID you'd be home by 1:30," he'd sigh in frustration. "I need to know that you're going to be here when you say you will."
Throwing hours of grading in my satchel and racing home across the city, I'd feel like a failure.
Somehow, even though I was still putting in an A+ effort to meet the overlapping requirements of my life and work, for the first time I was consistently returning home with C- grades.
There just weren't hours enough in the day to do it all.
Or, at least to do it all WELL.
* * *
A year later we found out about the second baby.
"Maybe it's time you stayed home," my husband suggested.
Staying home sounded good. Tired of coming up short on both home and work fronts, I reasoned with myself that at least I would succeed in one arena of life.
"It's the most important job, too," I confided in my friends, "because at work you are quickly replaced but there is no-one who can truly replace a mother or wife. If I can only succeed at one thing, I choose my family."
For a while ~ and when I say a while, I mean for two years ~ this seemed to work really well.
We had enough money to get by as a family of four. My husband and I created a fair and balanced schedule for work and childcare, making sure that we each had a lot of time with our kids and some time left for ourselves.
"I'm so happy to be a stay at home mom," I shared with anyone who would listen. "I love my work."
I meant it, too.
* * *
Then came the snowball year: 3rd pregnancy, complications and hospitalization; death of Dad; poor US economy; husband's business grappling with said poor economy. Premature baby at home.
The jump from 2 to 3 turned out to be a quantum leap.
My elder children began to fight much harder, jockeying to cement their familial roles now that they had yet another competitor for our attention.
Staying at home became less fun.
I felt less well.
Stress reigned in our house.
* * *
"It would be great if you could go back to work," my husband said. "We could use the extra money and frankly, I think you would enjoy going back to work. I think you're bored. Or depressed."
"But I don't WANT to go back to work," I snapped. "I love being a stay-at-home mom. I want to be here for our kids."
Money got tighter.
Our smiles grew tighter.
I looked for a path toward healing and happiness.
And I found it!
* * *
We moved to a less expensive house in a fantastic neighborhood.
I enrolled our boys for school.
My little girl and I thrived.
Our dreams began to beckon.
And suddenly, going back to work didn't sound half bad.
So I did!
And I am!
I work now. I am a private tutor again. I LOVE my work. I love working with students and get so much satisfaction out of the job. I work hard, but it is always worth it. Always a joy.
I'm bringing home money to help out with the family budget.
I'm growing my clientele.
Best of all, I still get to spend time with my children. I've found a way (or so I thought) to do everything.
* * *
Tonight though, I came home late.
Here is what my day looked like:
cook homemade oatmeal with jam and cinnamon
bathe two kids
make a lunch
get everyone dressed
jump thru shower
9:00am take child to allergist
calm child thru appointment and skin testing, many tantrums
talk over results with doctor
give child lunch
1:30pm arrive home
put child down for nap
2:00pm - 3:00pm work on house & family stuff
3:00pm pick son up from school @ 3:15
3:30pm return home, get dance shoes and snack
4:00pm drop son at dance class
6:13pm drive to other client's house
8:15pm drive home
8:30pm home, need to eat!
My second client had four projects to get done for his Humanities class. They were due tomorrow. There wasn't really a choice about staying, at least not in my mind. My job is to support students in crunch times like this by helping them to stay organized, on task, and actively using their intelligence.
I left his house at 8:20pm and raced back to kiss my children good night. Flew across town and made it home by 8:30pm. Arrived exhausted, hungry and a little stressed. Fulfilled by the work though, with cash in hand to share with our joint account.
By the time I kissed the kids good night (made one of them an extra tortilla) and ate dinner, it was well after 9pm.
"Well? I'm tired," my husband sighed. "I've had a long day. I'm going to bed now."
"What? I just got home!" I protested.
"You were late," he pronounced.
"But I was working!"
"I work too, but I was here and did everything I was supposed to do. I made you dinner. You were late, and now I'm tired."
"Really? You're going to bed?"
"Maybe next time you can get home on time."
* * *
So it seems, the pendulum continues to swing.
When I work, it brings time stress into our home, and I can't adequately meet the needs of my husband and kids.
I barely saw two of my children today. My husband went to bed frustrated that I wasn't here to hang out with when he had time.
I feel badly.
When I stay home full time with our kids it brings financial stress into our home. I also get a little bored and depressed with endless piles of laundry to wash and tantrums to quell. My brain does need a little bit of an outlet, as much as I adore life with three kids.
So where are we left?
Do I work?
Do I stay home?
Can I do both, and do both well?
Is it possible for me to work without letting my family down?
* * *
I need to figure out, creatively, how to be a good mother and a good worker without breaking promises to anyone or putting too much stress on my sweetheart of a husband.
At a loss for answers right now...
Our pendulum is swinging again. I guess it's time to hold on tight and hang on!