It was a week of adjustments.
The girls went back to school and I went back to working full time. Our wonderful, lazy summer was over and as sneakers replaced flip flops, I had a sense of excitement with a bit of anxiety mixed in. As a stay-at-home/part-time working mom for the last few years, I have managed to be there for the girls, work for an non-profit organization I love, plan year-round school, social and neighborhood events , and volunteer for various charities. I have also managed to keep my sanity. (Well, that’s debatable – just ask my husband.)
I was definitely ready to return to the full-time working world. But a few days out, I began to get nervous. Although I was excited to begin working for a wonderful non-profit, I wondered how working 8 a.m.-5 p.m. would change my life. And more importantly, how would it change my family’s life?
Growing up in a household with an Italian mother, there was no such thing to her as a mother working outside of the home. My mother’s job was to take care of her family and our home. That was how it was. My sisters and I would come home from school each day to warm baked cookies, clothes folded and put away, and a sparkly clean house. When my mother began watching some of the neighborhood children for extra income, having a few more children around home became the norm.
We were so used to our mother being there, we could not imagine a time when she wouldn’t be. At times my father worked two jobs, so some of the “husband” jobs fell to my mother, such as mowing the grass, trimming the bushes, and painting the fence around our house. My sisters and I would join her in these chores, thinking nothing of it.
Later, after we were in high school, she began working part time in a local clothing store. It probably was a combination of receiving a discount on clothes and adult conversation that led her to work there a few evenings a week after my father returned home from work.
I knew early on that I wanted to be a mommy, and stay home with my children – at least while they were babies. It was a decision that came easily to me. Growing up the way I did, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. In my 20s and 30s I worked in politics, and well, let’s just say this feeling is not the norm. Women still had to push their way to get to the top in this very much male-dominated environment.
Most of the women I worked with were either childless, or moms who put their children in day care the minute they were born. Politics is exciting, but it's also a crazy industry in which to work. It’s 24/7 all the time, without stopping. To stop working all together and stay home? What? “Why would you want to do that?” was a question I heard often.
When my first daughter was born, I was working on a campaign and couldn’t just leave. Because my husband and I had decided to move closer to home when we started our family, I was fortunate that my husband ran his own business and my mother was nearby and was thrilled to watch our little one, so I could continue working. It was the perfect set-up. I loved that my daughter was nearby and I loved my work.
By the time my second daughter came along, I had transitioned into the world of non-profit. I realized that I wanted to continue working, but not at the expense of my family. I did not want the long, crazy hours. I wanted to be there to hear my baby say her first word and take my toddler to MYGym. I wanted to make homemade cookies with them and take them for afternoon walks. But I also loved working and wanted to make a difference.
Working for a non-profit allowed me to do just that. I had a kinder, softer schedule and my hours were flexible. I was doubly blessed. I could do what I loved, and still be there for my family.
The years flew by, and now my "baby" is in kindergarten and my "toddler" is in third grade. And, I have decided to go back to work full-time. It’s definitely time.
I think I was scared to imagine not being there for them every minute of every day. But I realize that being there and being present are two different things. It’s making the time I have with my girls count. Spending a few minutes alone with each of them when I come home. Feeling less stressed when I see them at the end of the day. Enjoying the time I have with them.
It’s also the little “extras” that seem to work for me, such as waking up earlier in the morning and writing them each a note to hide in their backpack. Making lunches the night before, so I’m not a crazy-running-around mommy the next morning. Both of my sisters work full time outside of their homes, in fact, they have always worked full time, and I don’t know of two more well-adjusted children, than their children. They make it work.
As I introduced my new after-school sitter to my daughters’ teachers on the first day of school, I was misty-eyed, feeling sad that I would not be the one to pick them up when the final bell rang. Some other person will get to have my daughters run out the school and share their day with them.
Five days later, I am so happy and proud of my girls. Proud of our family. They had a fabulous first week of school, and so did I. They did not cry and neither did I.
Our schedule is definitely tighter and a bit busier. We all wake up earlier, and do a little more. The girls are now dressing, and making their beds, earlier and without my nagging. My husband has done more and more each day to make this transition possible. In addition to picking up the morning breakfast routine, and dropping off at school in the morning, he’s also making dinner twice a week. It’s definitely a family effort.
As we picked out our outfits for Monday, my daughter leaned over and asked if I like my job. “Yep,” I say with a smile. “I definitely do,” I told her.
“Did you cry?” she asks. “Nope," I told her proudly, “I didn’t,” as we headed downstairs to make two – no, make that three sandwiches – for tomorrow’s lunch.