Thursday, January 8, 2015

Just Enough Mom to Go Around

For the past several years I have worked "outside" the house a little bit. This is kind of a tricky concept. I have had countless conversations that go like this:

"Do you work?" (stammering, nervous giggling) "I mean, I know you work. I mean at something besides mothering?" (more stammering) "Not that mothering isn't enough! It's the hardest job in the world, but do you do anything else?" (nervous giggling)

Isn't it funny the way political correctness has changed our conversations? We try so hard not to offend, but inevitably offend anyway.

See the tempting ladder effect? 

Luckily that girl is just reading. 

And probably contemplating 

something else to get into.

Anyways, for a couple years I kept some extra kids a few days a week while their moms worked outside their houses. Technically I was inside my own house, just had extra little people. Again, not sure at the judgment of those mothers, but everyone survived. Things can get crazy at our house. We tell people to bring extra clothes and shoes when they come here, even if they are coming on the coldest day of the winter and only plan to stay five minutes because their children will fall in the creek/swim in the mud/try to boat down the creek in their sleds/get play makeup on their shirt/use nail polish to decorate their jeans/climb a pile of driveway stone and roll down it/pour sand down their shorts/rip their pants climbing to the tip top of the 150 year old magnolia tree (which is basically like a ladder - it's awesome and terrifying all at once)/paint with not just their fingers but toes as well/smear algae all over themselves and pretend to be the Hulk. These are real life examples. It just happens here. Maybe there is a problem with my supervision skills.

Back to working. Last year at this exact time I took a job working in a pharmacy. Outside my home. I was a teacher in my former life. You know, the one before kids took over and became not only my new life but my entire life. And while teaching is challenging, I knew I could do it. I knew it from the first time I opened my mouth and bossed my stuffed animals around. However, this pharmacy gig was way out of my league from Day One. But we know the owners (some of our dearest friends) and have "done life" with them for about twelve years now so he hired me on the sheer thought that I am able to have an intelligent conversation and have a brain so maybe he could teach me the rest. That was a questionable move on his part, but hey. He was paying pretty well, and I figured I could fake it.

I started working one and a half days a week last January, and I have to say those mere 15 hours seriously changed life at home. For one, I had to leave our Youngest with my mom two mornings a week, whom she absolutely loves, but for some reason that little girl loooooooves her mama, so this could often be an excruciating start to the day with me being able to hear her mad screams all the way out in the van. So I would cry on the commute (which should be about six minutes but due to crazy traffic in our town was more like 25) and try to "dry it up" as Preston so often admonishes our children by the time I got there so I could go in and help heal people.

I learned to answer phones, check people out, measure ankles and calves for compression socks, (I had to touch FEET on a regular basis.) make deliveries, talk to doctors' offices, and put away inventory. I had to learn a new language in which I could intelligently discuss toilet seats, walkers, wheelchairs and a myriad of medications, both the "real" kind and generic. My brain was always fried by the end of the day. I mean FRIED. And then this Fall....I can hardly talk about this...I had to start doing MATH.

This is not something I am good at. I have vivid memories (nightmares) of doing timed math fact sheets in first grade, and I still want to cry thinking about it. I am scarred. It's kind of been a joke my whole life that I can't do math, but it's actually not a joke. I know God doesn't make mistakes, but I think He left out that little lobe in my brain that deals with numbers and replaced it with a second conversational lobe. I mean, I can count, if it isn't too high, but that's it.

I started working more this fall so it was logical that I learn to do even more things to earn my keep. My employer wanted me to learn how to do some insanely hard (probably basic) math conversions, but I swear I could not do it. They would patiently, patiently show me the steps, and I would immediately try to work a problem but I would not even know where to start. It was crazy. And then I would come home to my faithful, faithful husband and ask him to teach me so I would be able to do well at my job, but I couldn't even replicate a problem or communicate what they were wanting me to do. So he couldn't help. Tears would be shed, prompting the "dry it up" comment. Maybe I should have just typed one "faithful."

So by 4:30 quitting time my brain was past fried. I mean, it was all I could do to drive myself home on the 25-minutes-but-should-take-six-minutes commute.

And even though I actually did enjoy my job and really, really love the three other people who work there, I would arrive home, exhausted.

And all these little people who needed me would need me immediately. To tell about their day. To counsel about playground drama. To help with their math homework. (which by this year of having a second grader is really getting out of my league) And supper had to be fixed. And laundry. And lunches (see this for why I no longer hate to pack lunches). And lots of times the breakfast dishes were still there. And the cleaning, groceries, errands, shopping, birthday parties, baths, clean sheets, playing games, reading books, snuggling, class volunteer, field trip driver, all the expectations of Mom. Didn't these people know I had already worked a whole day? I don't have the energy left for them, too. And especially not for clean sheets!

But somehow we made it. Each day, there was enough Mom to go around.

This semester (My life will always be divided into Spring Semester, Summer, Fall Semester. I can't help it. Those are the real seasons.) I will be blessed to be staying home with a few days of subbing strewn in here and there. We are going to try it and see if we can do it. We don't know if we can, but the line of events over the past six weeks has led us to believe this is where God is leading for this semester. (again with the semesters) This will be the first time ever that I have either not had a child to care for or a job to go to. I mean EVER. Since I was 18. (I count the passing out of ping pong paddles at the rec center on my college campus as a job. It was hard, getting all the ping pong paddles organized and sorting out the broken balls.)

So Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings are somewhat free. My mom is sure I will fill my time working for someone else. (Harassing the girls' teachers and inserting myself into their classrooms is what she really means. Once a teacher...) I have always been a true "Martha" in the Biblical sense of the word. Being still is hard for me, so I plan to eat lots of bon bons, work out, clean.

So for all you moms who work outside the home, I get it. I've been there now. I know what it's like. And you are amazing. You are sacrificing for your family. You stay up way past your bedtime to make sure your kid's favorite shirt is clean for tomorrow. You rush out on your lunch hour (or half hour) and shop for snacks, forgetting to eat your own lunch. You are a gift to your children. You are a blessing to your spouse. You make it so they don't have to try to balance two jobs. It is so hard to come in and feel like you have given all you have and then be asked to give more. But you do it. You are a superhero. Working has made me more understanding of Preston's need to sometimes come home and have just a minute. To not talk. And just not meet a need for a second. Working is exhausting. And then your family exhausts you more. 

And for you people who are staying home, in the throes of babies and diapers and bottles and endless games of Candy Land and episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, uneaten lunches, spilled snacks, five point harnesses, temper tantrums, lost library books, and the missed nap time, feeling like you are accomplishing nothing and in fact falling further behind with each passing second, mothering is enough! Believe me, I have to repeat this to myself, especially on days like today when all I have accomplished is to read Ballet Kitty three times in a row, build a house for the Squinkies (it makes me feel dumb just to type that word) and pretend I am a fairy who has the magical power of disappearing when a girl throws the Titans blanket over me. (Wasn't that a really tricky way to get to lie on the couch and be all cozy? If only she would leave the blanket alone for 30 seconds. And be quiet. And play in a different room. And I could nap. Then this would be a really fun game.) 

But mothering really is enough, even on days it feels pointless and repetitive and (gasp) you don't really love it. It really is enough. You, too, are making incredible sacrifices for your family. Perhaps you gave up a career you loved. Maybe you are foregoing Starbucks, vacations and girls' night out so there is enough money for you to be home and still buy diapers. You are the one who is available when the school calls that your baby is sick. You are the one who knows what your picky eater wants in her lunch box. You are the one who balances budgets, makes clothes clean, wipes noses and teaches shoe tying. These are IMPORTANT things! You are the one shaping and molding a life each day. You being home enables your partner to do their best at their job, knowing things at home are going to be ok. Preston is more excited about me being home than I am.

It's definitely different for everyone and some people want to work outside the home, while some don't but have to anyway, and others are home but wish they worked...outside the home...I mean, I know you work! I just mean.....forget it.

Grace for today and for life's new seasons,


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