I took a job. The kind where you get paid. The kind where people say things like "Oh, you're working now," or, "How do you like working?" You know where I'm going with this right?
I was working before. I worked full-time at my previous job and then I did over-time every day. Now I work full-time at a job and then do overtime looking after my family every day. I have always been working. It's just that very few people recognize full-time parenting as a "real job."
This is, of course, not news to anyone. The debate about working moms versus stay at home moms has been waged ad nauseum. We have heard every possible view point on the issue. That's not my soap box. Am I disappointed that people take my "real job" more seriously? Sure. Is it frustrating that only now, can I complain about fatigue with impunity? Yes it is.
My point is a simple one. Being back in the external workforce has validated my decision to stay home with my children more than ever before. First, let me be clear before the trolls raise their pitchforks. I know I am lucky to have a choice, even although I feel it is not simply luck. The husband and I have actively and intentionally set up our lives in a way that allows me to stay home. Regardless of our careful planning, saving and economizing, I do see that not everyone has the opportunities and choices I have. I see that.
My circumstances being as they are - I had the choice of working or staying home. Having been in this job for only two months I know that staying home was the right and best thing for our family.
Having time to be with my girls, cook for my girls, do the laundry, shop, plan our commitments and social lives had given us the gift of calm. We were organized, unstressed, prepared. I had time to read with them, talk with them and play with them. Everyone got their needs met - when they needed them met.
I have not forgotten all the things that make staying at home difficult. I do remember that the halcyon image I just painted above was not the every day norm, but in general it was our overall experience. Now, it feels like we have time for nothing. We are eating take out foods most nights. Emails go unanswered for days. Everything gets done at the deadline. I spend the weekend doing laundry, chores and food shopping. I do not experience weather. I am tired, too tired to read anything more than the shortest of bedtime stories from overdue library books.
I like the job. It's fun to do something with my brain. It's fun to interact with adults for long periods of the day. I took it because it was temporary. I wanted to dip my toe. I will be unemployed again by June. Only I won't be, because I will go back to my other job. The one that allows homework to get done and walks to be taken. The one with sunshine and discovery, neighbors and story time. The one that doesn't find my children in tears most days because the pace of their life suddenly accelerated from a manageable 25mph to a careening 90mph. The one where the husband and I are not squabbling over who should meet the obligations of running a home and the needs of four people.
I now, more than ever, see the value in my staying home. I know two months is nothing, we'd all get better at this, more used to it. We'd pick up our pace and our new normal would feel much easier but our old normal would be lost and our old normal was good, really good.
We were happy, we were connected to our community, we felt able to give and participate. We had down time to recharge. We ate more healthily, exercised more and cared for our plants, pets and friends in a much better way. Life was better - for all of us. We had time.
Time should not be underestimated. Staying at home should not be underestimated. I know that now in a way that I could not fully appreciate before. I am grateful that I am getting the chance to see the true value of my work as a stay at home parent. This is the only way I could have really known for sure, to cast aside doubt stirred by the endless opinions out there. Come June I will hold my stay at home head high.