Sunday, November 8, 2009
Full Time Life
We had a big transformation in our household last week. I’m not sure the kids noticed it, but I felt it intensely. After over a year of being a full time employee I let go of the job I truly loved to be dropped down to the part time roster. I was fortunate that it was my choice. I am aware that unemployment rates are rising and a full time job in a great environment is a gold mine. Several friends immediately asked, ‘your choice?’ when I shared the news of my drop in hours. I understand their confusion. The decision was not made in haste.
I gave up the gold mine for something much more valuable.
Since the day I gave birth to my oldest child I have been at home. Several times through the years I held part time jobs, working a few hours at nights and on weekends, to help make ends meet. It gave me some great social time outside the house and gave my husband a chance to be a full charge dad when I was gone. But I have never worked full time, never been away from our house when kids were still in it.
I know many moms who work full time. I have a much deeper appreciation for what they are pulling off, now that I have spent a year juggling those balls. I can’t even comprehend how the single moms do it. It’s a feat that should have some reward, some recognition, some trophy that is presented after a big banquet.
The catalyst for my decision was a health struggle. For a few weeks in October I had issues with my leg. We were at the end of a long process to recast my leg, to make one that fit me better, and along the way I had several days where the only remedy was sitting on the couch, with my leg off. I worried about using up sick days, knowing the flu season was just around the corner. I worried about not pulling my weight at work, making co-workers cover for me time after time.
During a conference with my bosses, where we discussed how I could make up lost work time once my leg was better, it was suggested I think about taking a part time position that had just come open. I resisted. I loved my job. The people I worked with, the interaction with great patrons, and the helpful paycheck that landed in my account each month. But then more time on the couch opened my eyes.
For those few days that I was stranded on the couch I saw all four of my kids. A lot. As they passed back and forth, going about their busy daily lives, they stopped and chatted with me. We laughed together. Sam and I read more picture books together than we’d read all month. Isaac helped me as I hobbled around the kitchen on crutches and we turned out some pretty decent dinners. Dinners that found six people gathered around a table, sharing the events of their days and lingering long after plates were cleaned.
On one of my days of confinement I reviewed our family finances. The desperate financial situation that drove me to work full time had eased some. Some juggling of the bills and some changes in hubby’s income made it just about possible to live on just his paycheck. It dawned on me that we technically could live on a paycheck and a half. The idea began to grow.
It is now five weeks later and the process is complete. Someone else now holds my old job and I am finally home more than I am at work. I walked around last week, my first week back home, with a gratitude so deep it made me emotional. All of the things that were so ordinary in my old stay at home days have become downright magical.
I hum as I switch the laundry in the middle of the day, because I am so deeply aware that I am not switching laundry late at night or on a sacred weekend. I dig through cookbooks and find new things to make for dinner, aware that my children are no longer living on canned ravioli. Spending an hour in the kitchen, cleaning up, chopping vegetables, popping a batch of brownies in the oven, and creating yet another dinner is now a joy, not a chore.
Each day, each moment of each day, is now sacred. No matter what I’m doing I make a conscious effort to stop, turn, and face my children, as they trickle home from school and are ripe to tell me about their days. Each hug from my little guy, each high five from my biggest boy, fills me with joy and gratitude.
Because I am here to see it, here to do it, here to experience it. No longer feeling pulled in too many directions. No longer losing sleep at night, tight with worry about limited sick days and how to dole them out. The imminent future, the one where my oldest two children are off on their own, out making their own lives, is so close. My desire is to be here, memorizing every ordinary, common, challenging moment that presents itself while I still have them close.
I picked up my new leg last week. A pretty fitting event to occur, a new leg on the first week of my new life. I gave up the bigger paycheck. I gave up the gold mine. But I bought back time. A new leg, a new chance to know my kids better, an opportunity to be the mom and wife I want to be.
I feel rich indeed.