This is a picture of my first associate and me just before I started working at the job I had for almost 14 years:
This is a picture of all four of my current associates and me just a few short months ago.
Suffice it to say, it isn’t just the photo quality that’s changed over time. I’ve changed a little bit in the last 13-ish years, too! Sure, I’m a little older, a little (ahem) bigger, and a little (OK, a lot) grayer since I started this whole SAHM gig. But I’m also a lot smarter, a lot more confident, and a much better mom at 40 than I was at 26. In fact, I’d say it’s just in the last two to three years that I feel I’ve really hit my stride in my current job.
So WHY in the WORLD did I think it was a good idea to rock the boat and go back to work this fall? Is it because I was bored just sitting around eating bonbons all day while my kids were off at school? Maybe it was because I wanted to see if magical fairies would show up to clean my house for me if I was busier outside the house?
Or, perhaps, maybe it was that I felt it was time to do something for me. Something that would shake up my world a bit (ya know, because kids don’t come with enough surprises on their own). Maybe it was because I wanted to feel like I was contributing financially – even just the tiniest bit – to our family budget. Maybe it was wanting to challenge myself to see if I really could do it. In actuality, it was all of the above.
Now, before you think that I have said adios to full-time SAHMotherhood, let me clear things up. I am currently employed outside of the home for 6 hours a week. On top of that, I volunteer with our parish youth ministry for about 2 hours a week (more or less). Add in travel time, and I’m occupied with “work stuff” for about 11 hours a week. I am in no way kidding myself that this should be as difficult or taxing as full-time employment. Hear me when I say it is not.
What it is, though, is a whole new world for me. And in my short month of being “back to work,” I have learned a few things about myself. Things that maybe I had forgotten over the past years and things that I have come to appreciate more. Maybe you other mamas can relate…
No. 1 – Weekends Do Exist
When your day centers more around a child’s circadian rhythms and feeding schedule and less around punching a time card, day of the week really doesn’t matter much. With little kids, it was easy to feel like I was on the job from the moment I opened my eyes in the morning until I closed them at night…and beyond! As they got older and started school, my days naturally gained more of a schedule, but the content of those days really stayed pretty much the same.
Now, though, for the first time in a long time, Saturday feels like Saturday and Sunday has that feeling of restful anticipation that I used to get when I worked full-time. That simple change of being out in the world every single Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday has made the rest of the week feel different. And it’s definitely different for the better!
No. 2 – Time Management is Crucial
It’s a truth pretty commonly acknowledged among SAHMs that we work one job from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, then another one from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The hours the kids are in school are filled with household management, volunteering, taking care of smaller kids, doctor appointments, shopping…all the basics. But the beauty part is that we get to do most of that on our own schedule. We can decide when we want to do what. Then the afternoon hits and you’d better hold on tight. Homework, practices, the dinner rush, school meetings, and CCD classes keep moms and kids hopping!
In the past month, I’ve found that everything I used to be able to do over a period of five days, really now needs to be done in only two. That freedom of doing what needs to be done whenever I decide to do it is noticeably lessened. Now, I prioritize and schedule the things I deem to be truly important. On one hand, I miss the relaxed manner of my 8:00-3:00 days. But on the other hand, I’m finding that I’m getting a lot more done! It certainly holds true that the busier you are, the more you accomplish. Not to worry, though, my 3:00-8:00 job is still every bit as busy as it was before I started back to work!
No. 3 – I Enjoy Stretching My Brain
Many were the days over the past several years that I wished I was still smart. I wanted to frame my college diploma with the words summa cum laude and hang it in a place of prominence as proof of my former intelligence. Even though I knew I hadn’t lost too many IQ points, it’s hard to feel smart when you’re wiping butts and noses all day.
Going back to work has afforded me an opportunity to reach back among the cobwebs of my intellect and clear them out a bit. Every day at work I talk to other adults, think on my feet, and improvise when things don’t work out as planned. I smile. I laugh. And I feel like I contribute to something larger than my own little world. I leave stimulated and looking forward to what we’ll do the next time. It’s such a great feeling!
No. 4 – Mothering Isn’t Just “What I Do”
Nope. It’s not just what I do, but rather an indelible part of who I am. It’s in the very marrow of my bones and I wouldn’t change that for the world. At work, volunteering, here at home…taking care of other people is a natural part of how I express myself. I used to think that making sure other people’s needs were met and loving on them as best I could wasn’t as capital-s Serious as other jobs. Turns out, I really enjoy taking that aspect of myself that I thought wasn’t important enough for the real world and using it to make myself better at what I’m being paid to do! How freeing is that?!
No. 5 – Shower at Night!
That sounds frivolous, doesn’t it? Stick with me, though. It ties back to that whole time management thing. I’ve always thought of myself as a morning person. And mostly, that’s true. I’m not a snooze-button pusher. When my alarm goes off, I wake up. It’s that easy. However, for all that is good and holy, PLEASE don’t make my alarm go off before 6:00 am!
Since I am still the one in charge of getting my kids ready and off to school in the morning, I really need to be dressed and presentable by 6:30 on the days that I work. That simply doesn’t give me time to shower and wash and dry my mop of hair. Showering at night, though, has some serious advantages. I can take my time. It relaxes me before bed. My hair gets some extra conditioning love (wavy gray hair needs all the conditioning it can get, man!) And I don’t go to bed with my makeup still on. All kinds of good stuff!
And it means that my mornings can still be devoted to my kids and giving them the best possible start to their day. Which has been the goal all along, yes?
So, what is this new job?
What is this fabulous new position that is growing me as a person and bringing new challenges to my life?
I’m a preschool music teacher! What else would I be, right?! It really is the perfect segue back into the working world for me. And I’m grateful each and every day for the opportunities I’ve been given. Stepping out in this new adventure has me feeling like a kid again… Look out world and watch me grow!