I was on the phone this morning with a friend and she mentioned that after she has kids and they are old enough to be in school all day, she planned on working full time because she didn't want to sit at home and do nothing all day.
I felt myself bristle slightly at the "do nothing all day" comment, but I knew she didn't mean that stay at home moms sit around and eat bon bons. No, I knew she meant that after the kids go to school, most moms expect their time to get more flexible and more plentiful. I know that's what I always thought before my kids came along and when my boys were really little. As I waded through diapers, sippy cups and endless rounds of Candyland, the bright light of kindergarten beckoned me with the promise of going to the bathroom all by myself and definitely more sleep.
I was right in some ways,, but completely wrong in others.
Before you freak out that this is going to be some post about the stay home mom versus the work out of the home mom, rest assured that that really isn't my purpose.
In fact, as fellow moms and women, I'm going to step on my soap box for a moment and say we really need to start giving each other some grace, especially when our decisions and lifestyles don't jive with each other.
Homeschool vs. public school vs. private school - we're all moms that love our kids and want the best for them. Stay at home vs. work from home vs. work outside the home - we're all just moms that love our kids and are trying our very best for our families. Bottle vs. breast - again, just moms who love our kids, trying to nurture our kids to the best of our abilities.
We can still be on the same team even if we do things differently.
Okay, I'm climbing down off my soap box now.
While I was right that my kids being old enough to go to school did net me more time in some ways, it also made me busier in others. For instance, once my kids started playing sports, I was tied to someone else's schedule of where we all needed to be in the evenings and weekends. There was a lot less freedom in our schedules.
Homework and horn practice and last minute trips to find an AR book at the library replaced diapers and cheerios and nap time. My kids issues and problems, while not as immediate and urgent as when they were little, were bigger and more complex. I couldn't fix things with a Dora band-aid and apple juice anymore. Some days, getting everyone where they need to be feels a little like a military strategy. I found I was still busy, just in a very different way.
My oldest son will be 15 in July. Since his birth I've been a stay-at-home-mom. I've worked part-time outside my home, and I've also worked from home. Currently, I'm doing a little bit of both, since I write for the newspaper from home, but I substitute teach periodically, and I also work two evenings a week at the library. There have been pros and cons to all of those choices.
While I've never worked full time, last year, I worked three part-time jobs on a regular basis and several part-time jobs on a more sporadic basis. During my busiest weeks, I was working over 30 hours.
And I hated it.
I was constantly stressed and felt three steps behind all the time. I hated that feeling. I also hated the feeling that I wasn't there for my kids and was missing out on crucial moments in their lives. I cried a lot - when I had time that is, which usually meant in the shower or driving to one of my various places of employment.
What I was missing in my life was margin. Margin is that gap between a day completely full to the edges and a day that has a little grace built in. It's something we all need, no matter what your work situation.
Let's face it, everyone has days where for one reason or another, there is no margin. Days where, if one thing goes wrong or you are delayed even 5 minutes, the rest of your carefully orchestrated hours blow up.
The thing is, you can't live there - at least not very long - before you become a stressed out mess. And let's face it, while my husband is the head of our home, I am the temperature gauge.
When I have no margin in my life, I find myself being short-tempered and irritable. No, I don't want to look at the picture you drew or the story you wrote because I don't have time because we have to get to the next thing!
Now, not only am I stressed and anxious and irritable, but my attitude has rubbed off on the kids. My husband starts snapping back out of self-defense, and our home is not a happy place to be.
Everyone has a different space mapped out for margin in their lives. We all need it, but it looks different for different people depending on lots of variables.
If your husband has a demanding job that keeps him away from home, you may need larger margins because you can't always tag team an emergency, or you may have a child with special needs who needs more intense care and intervention that someone else whose child doesn't have those types of needs.
I know a woman who works a full time, demanding job while her husband works from home and is available for the kids during the day. It works for them.
It can also depend on personality. Some women can handle a 40+ hour a week job AND still have margin in their lives. Other women can be overbooked and stressed out being a stay at home mom with too many outside commitments. The key here is to look at your own life, your own commitments, your own limitations.
The bottom line is, no matter what your mom "label" happens to be, if most of your days are such that if one little thing goes wrong the whole day is a disaster, you need to make some room for margin in your life. Preferably before you go insane!
What do you do to keep some margin in your life? I'd love to hear about it!
~ Blessings, Bronte