Saturday, November 22, 2014

Still a SAHM

You might say I've got a new lease on life. I knew things would be different when all of my kids went back to school in September, leaving me as a school day empty nester for the first time. My life is definitely different, that's for sure. Just maybe not quite in the ways I expected.

I thought I might be a little sad, and truthfully there are times when it gets lonely and I miss having a mini buddy to cuddle with and to run errands with me. But mostly I'm not lonely at all. After our dog passed away in September, we adopted Marla in October. She is a good companion. Sometimes Chris is home during the afternoon, and other times I meet my mom, mother-in-law, or a friend for coffee, shopping, or what have you. Then we've had the days off, half days, early release days, and kids home sick. I am rarely alone. Being the introvert that I am, though, a nice quiet house to myself is an absolute treat. I relish the peacefulness.

I never thought I'd be bored, and I wasn't wrong about that. On the contrary, there aren't enough hours in the day. I did think I'd have more time to do things like work out, practice my French (with Rosetta Stone), and organize my house. But what I'm finding is that the days slip away before I know it. I'm not just sitting around watching television and reading all day either. Actually I very rarely watch TV, and I don't even have much time for books.

What have I been doing with my time? Besides the regular stuff like grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, errands, walking the dog, and cleaning?

Maybe you've noticed I'm back to blogging more regularly, although I hope to be better about that as I get more accustomed to my new life. That's one thing. I've been making curtains for Bethany's bedroom, and I am no pro so that takes a lot of time. Since September I've had 9 days of kids home sick from school. N.I.N.E. So add taking care of sick children to the list. Then there's the occasional weekday get togethers with friends and family that I mentioned, although those are often tied in with with a necessary chore, like walking Marla or shopping for new boots for the kids. I organized the school book fair, volunteer to chaperone field trips every chance I get, and will be helping the kindergarteners roller skate in PE class in the coming weeks. Bethany is going to China on a school trip in the spring, so we have been fund raising for that. In other words, I have spent tons of time collecting returnables from neighbors and friends and taking them into the store, and making homemade goodies for bake sales. I have plenty of activities and tasks to keep me busy.

I also recently acquired a temporary, work at home job. Just a simple one that allows me to work at my convenience, for as many hours as I can. This right here has been the most eye-opening event of my new life.

The thought had crossed my mind that once all my kids were in school full-time that maybe I'd get a "real" job. You know, the kind that would require me to brush my hair, wear actual pants, go to a place of business and interact with co-workers. It's been a lot of years since I've done that.

Then reality set in. I don't know many employers that would take kindly to NINE impromptu days off due to sick children, not to mention early release days every other week, four half days, and a day off for elections. All that in less than three months. I know people do it. People put their elementary school kids in the after (and sometimes before) school program and give their middle school kids house keys to let themselves in after school. They share sick days with their spouses (Chris doesn't get sick days and really can't call in at the last minute in his line of work), hire babysitters, count on their parents quite a bit, and beyond that I don't even know what all they do. Everyday, all over the place, there are families that do these things. I am in awe of them and their phenomenal juggling abilities.

Here is what I think, for me personally, for my family. Life is hectic enough. Life is, in fact, so so SO hectic. Could we use the money? Oh my gosh, SO MUCH! Couldn't we all? But I like to see my kids in the morning before school, to pick them up after school, and to help them with their homework. I like them to know that if they're sick, they can call me and I'll pick them up and bring them home where they can at least be sick somewhat comfortably. I like to say yes when Connor's friend's mom calls me and asks if I can drive her son home from school, and to let Lucy's BFF come over after school so I can drive them to dance class together. I like to be able to check "yes" next to the box asking if I'd like to be considered as a field trip chaperone, without worrying how I'll shuffle my schedule to do it. And here's something else. I am mentally re-charged when I am ALONE. I like being alone sometimes, crave it, need it.

However, believe it or not, it's not all about me and my own selfish needs and desires. A long time ago, when I was immersed in diaper duty, round the clock nursing, and multiple strollers and car seats, I thought my kids would need me less the older they got. I'll admit that a part of me, the most overwhelmed and sleep-deprived part, sometimes looked forward to that day. The truth, I've come to realize, is they need me more, but in different ways. Now they can dress and feed themselves and use the bathroom (more or less) on their own. They can do chores, make their school lunches, wake themselves up with an alarm in the morning, and so much more. Yes, they can do a lot, and they don't need me anymore for many of the things for which they once depended upon me.

But there are other things, some I never thought of or considered until they reached up and smacked me in the face. Like that they'd need me to drive them all over town, to be at their games and their band concerts. To email their teachers when they're having troubles, to listen and wipe their tears when they've been burned by a friend, to assure them that they're smart and beautiful and good, to proofread reports, and to make sure they're packing more than just leftover Halloween candy in those lunch boxes. Sometimes they need me every single moment that they're with me, right up until they're asleep for the night, and by then I am spent, physically, mentally and sometimes emotionally. And then I keep going, often spending hours after they are fast asleep doing things like making sure they have clean underwear and cereal bowls for the morning and printing out papers that are due the next day. I know you know what I mean, fellow parents. Our kids need us, and that doesn't stop at any magical age.

So that brings me back to my new job. Like I said it's temporary and flexible, and I can work at home. It's only been a couple weeks so I'm new at this, but wow! It's hard to squeeze in a job with everything else. I have my blogging and social media things I do, but those are more sporadic and not paid by the hour. It's hard enough to make time for those little, occasional jobs.

At this moment in my life, I simply cannot fathom how I would work these kind of hours outside the home. I do not know how other people do it. This past week I've been able to juggle sick kids, half days, parent teacher conferences, and a whole lot more while still working. It hasn't exactly been easy but I've managed. I don't know how I could have been working in an office or anyplace other than home while simultaneously caring for a puking child.

I will say that having some extra money is great, especially with Christmas creeping up so quickly and the myriad expenses associated with older kids (you thought diapers were expensive! ha!). I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity to work while doing everything I can for my kids, but the eye opening part of this experience has been that I'm nowhere near ready to re-join the work force outside of my bubble of home and family. This is right where I need to be right now.

I like money and the things it can buy, but I don't like it enough to give up being available for my family at a moment's notice. I don't like it enough to say yes to latch key and babysitters and house keys. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with any of those things (here is where I'll mention that I myself had a house key in second grade, and spent my summers, school breaks, and many sick days being cared for by my aunts or grandparents).

Everyone I know is doing their best to survive any way they can, and it's all good. We all have to figure out what is best for us and for our families. As for us, I've been a SAHM for 13 years and we've been getting by, and we'll continue to get by. I'll continue to work at home as much as I can, falling asleep with a laptop on my knees more nights than not. But despite the new circumstances in my life, I will not be seeking any long-term employment outside of the home any time soon.

The funny thing is that I thought life would be calmer and less hectic with all four in school all day. Not quite!

1 comment:

Mrs. Weber said...

You do what works best for you! I just talked to my hubby about this the other day...I work part-time from home and the idea was I'd go back to full-time when the kids were in school. But like you, I don't think that is smart...One of us parents has to be flexible for sick kids, carting them around, helping in the classroom, etc. You are so right when you say they need us more when they are older (in a different way of course). I am pretty sure I will be working part-time from home forever. I just love the flexibility! Glad you are getting into a groove and figuring out what is going to work best for you and your brood :)