Archive for October 2013

Brain not stimulated in sweatpants

October 4, 2013

I am a master at sleeping through the night when not woken by one of my children, so it was a shock to be startled from dreams the other night. I felt around the covers the way I search for a pen on my desk, tapped my feet as I do while preparing lunches in the kitchen, and blinked, as at a computer screen in a windowless office during daylight. All of this because I wasn’t sure where I was.

I wouldn’t say it was a relief to be in bed, with hours of sleep time left before dawn. My newest routine involves being dressed and ready to leave for work as my children head to school every morning. I have a hard time calling it “work” when it doesn’t involve laundry, managing the bathroom, activity, playtime and eating schedules of three little humans. I quite enjoy this thing called work I do with other adults on weekdays. It’s a routine which will become dull with that inevitability of anything we repeat over and over, but for now, is completely refreshing.

And the world of adults is equally as entertaining as that of children. Add and subtract certain frustrations. Traffic for spilled milk. A slow-talking janitor for a whining two-year-old. The entry-level position (for which I am grateful, it’s a foot-in-the-door as I am told over and over) for bum-wiping.

Women are making all kinds of choices these days, but our one restriction will never completely disappear: that of the career-halting reality of having children. Of course, different women are managing this in various ways. For me, I have spent the last decade supporting my husband’s career and making babies. I am glad, thanks to the women a generation before me, I have the choice to access childcare, and look for a job. It’s been a year since I started to work on this plan, and it is finally a reality. I am eternally grateful I have three wonderful children to make a childcare plan for. The truth is, I have been out of the workforce for five years, and am starting from zero, once again. And yes, I want it all.

I’ll be blunt: I found being home with my children extremely isolating. I never enjoyed “playdates”. My style is more, kick the kids out the door so I could engage my brain in my writing. I have no regrets about having been home with them (and seeing all of my kids’ firsts is a gift I cherish), they are great kids, and we get compliments about them all the time, in particular, how polite they are. If me being home with our children had anything to do with their (so far) good natures, then it was worth it. But I have a brain, and it wasn’t stimulated in sweatpants.

One working mom I know once said, “Your children will be happy if you are happy.” I felt stuck at home. Now, I offer undivided attention to my children when we’re together, rather than trying to do two things at once. Of course there is still the laundry, my husband and I still have meal plans to make and barf to clean up from the kitchen floor, turns to take when someone is up in the night. And, I continue to pursue my fiction writing. But if I’ve learned anything over this last month of being back at work outside the home, it’s that we are all, barring any real health issues, capable of more. Not less. Everything and anything we do can become repetitive, and it’s the more that will break up those routines, keep us motivated, and show our children how to do so, also.

Practicalities

I spent too long fretting over how it was all going to happen, but in the end, me going back to work outside the home only made sense for us this year (even though I would have been glad to have done this a year ago), with two out of three kids in school full time. There’s enough juggling (sick days, appointments, activities to manage) without adding extra confusion to that nasty Kindergarten year, of 2.5 hrs. of school in the middle of the day. And financially, with two kids in full time daycare, one in after school, I would have been paying to work. Yuck. The balance is slightly tipped in the right direction with (only) one child in full time daycare, two in after school care.

First thing was to get our youngest into full time daycare. I decided on the one I wanted, ignored the people who said “you’ll never get in there, the wait list is years long” and called or emailed the director every day all summer until she offered me a spot.

It took another week to figure out after school care for our other two children, a couple of days of my husband picking them up early so I could get settled in my job (teamwork!). But same thing happened with that: once I decided on the program I wanted the kids in, I bugged and bugged until I got two spots.

The job? That part now seems easy compared with organizing three children. A few months ago I dug deep into my past, summoned one or two of the best references I hadn’t realized I had, and they really came through for me. I’d also been concerned about how my resume looks, seeing as I haven’t had many long-term positions. But none of that matters when you add up experience, a positive attitude, and determination to get out there.