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What I've learned in 8 months back to work

May 1, 2015 - Jamie O'Hare
This past 8 months of Mom working full time has changed a lot for our family. Some days we are a well-oiled machine, and other days we are what my non-WV-born sons call a "runaway mining cart". Their description is apt! I have not blogged in a while because things have been crazy, and also because my friend Stacy Sacco will post something poignant about a very similar topic just as it's taking form in the jumbled mess in my tired brain!

I've learned that I can enjoy a job that isn't teaching, and maybe even enjoy it a little more than I enjoyed teaching. I've learned that a rotation of easy and healthy meals will save my sanity when my 3 year old wants me to hold her for an hour after we get home. I've learned that packing my own lunch and snacks is crucial, a hard lesson when office treats, stress, and poor planning led to a 20lb weight gain! I've realized that I am happier when I'm working because the Seasonal Affective Disorder barely touched me this year. And while my 3 year old misses me, she doesn't really enjoy being home all day with me on my days off when I have loads of laundry to catch up on. This was the first year that she would be the only child home every day, and so this was the first year that my working was even possible.

I've learned to rely on the judgment of my children's teachers far more than in the past. As a trained educator myself, I have high standards. In our early years here, we had some less than stellar school experiences in the Valley, and I've had to let go of the urge to swoop in and fix things when my kids were struggling. I have to remember that my kids are in the best situations that are available to us, and they really do suit our family's needs. As a result of being more hands off, I have one tiny girl repeating Kindergarten because she needs a "grow year" before proceeding to 1st grade at a rigorous private school. I have one child on slow-dose Ritalin because I can't spend three hours each night doing homework with him (he gets it all done at school now!). My oldest has nearly every paper from this school year still in his binder. It's his job to give important info to me, and when he doesn't, his amazing teacher gives me a heads-up. I've had to let my kids and their teachers figure some things out among themselves, and my kids have been better off for it.

I'm more mindful about getting time with each child. My younger son gets the half hour that we are waiting for his brother to get out of school to tell me everything about his day. My girls listen to Ramona Quimby books in the car while we talk. My older son and I connect on the ride home and while I'm cooking dinner, which he likes to help with. My younger daughter won't be put down for the first hour, and she falls asleep on me every evening. My older daughter needs my help for homework, and that's our pleasant time together, followed by stories. I'm also even more willing to ask my children to have specific chores each day. We all need each other!

One of the hardest lessons has been remembering to nurture my marriage. We have more money and can pay all of our bills each month. We work together beautifully. But we don't see each other much, and we have to make a special effort to be awake and undistracted in the evening or very early in the morning. Uninterrupted conversations just won't happen when kids are awake. Also, my bulldozer personality and unreasonable optimism can put a lot of pressure on him to make everything happen. When we are a team and are getting lots of emotional support from each other, we are unstoppable. When we are tired and feeling unappreciated, we question the wisdom of this massive undertaking.

But in the broad strokes, and when we are dividing labor based on everyone’s strengths, everyone is happier. We are able to contemplate moving to a house with more than 1000sqft and more than one toilet. We were able to purchase a second car. We are able to each work up to 50 hours a week and give our kids some financial stability while using only 33 childcare hours per normal week. We’re grateful for the friends, caregivers, teachers, and co-workers who have helped us to make this work. I’ve learned that I can rely on others and have things turn out better than I could accomplish alone. It’s been humbling and exhilarating! I have no regrets, just lessons learned that I can apply in the coming year.


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