Jessica Wallace is a working mother and blogger extraordinaire who finds herself home for a short time, and trying to make the best of it. She’s over at Geekmama! Go take a peek!
I’ve held a paid job for as long as I’ve been legally allowed to. In high school and during college breaks I worked in fast food, from drive-though cashier to trainer to shift manager. Before that, I had a daily paper route. While at college I worked part-time in the evenings, and when my then-husband and I completed grad school it was my job offer, not his, that determined where we would relocate. For more than 20 years, my job has been an integral part of my self-identity.
Even when my son was born almost two years ago, I returned to work full-time after my maternity leave ended. My plan was to keep working until he and any future kids started their school years. But life throws curveballs sometimes. In April I chose to leave the company to which I’d given almost 12 years of my life. Since I wasn’t ready to retire just yet, my husband and I opted to keep our son in daycare for another month so I could focus on my job search.
So for the past few weeks, I’ve gotten to experience the other side of the coin – what it’s like for someone whose weekday doesn’t revolve around a nine-to-five (sometimes nine-to-eight or nine-to-midnight) job outside the home. It’s not a true stay-at-home mom experience, since there’s no kiddo to manage on top of everything else, but it’s something I haven’t dealt with since I was in high school.
I had all these grand plans at the beginning of my at-home time. I could relax, I could get caught up on housekeeping, I could work on those projects that have been teasing me forever! I was positive I’d get so much done this month. Silly me. Things haven’t gone exactly as I expected.
My first reality check was when my son woke me up at his usual time that first Monday morning. Apparently he’d missed the memo that Mom was supposed to get to sleep late when not working. Since then, our mornings have consisted of me getting up with him and getting him dressed, fed, and ready for daycare–pretty much the same as when I was working. The only difference is that I wait to get myself ready for the day until after the guys have left, unless I have a job interview or appointment that morning.
The next big surprise was all that housework that I thought I’d “catch up” on. Guess what? There’s always more housework. There’s always another room to clean, or more laundry to do. I’m sure that if I’d been at home full-time for the past couple years I’d have a comfortable routine by now, and the chores wouldn’t expand to fill all my free time. But for now, I have to limit myself. Finish the kitchen, put in a load of laundry, and work on just one other task at a time. Most importantly, don’t beat myself up for not having it all completed those first couple days. The clutter and unfinished projects have had years to accumulate; they aren’t going to be dealt with instantaneously.
On the upside, I’ve found that I’m enjoying cooking more than I expected. When my husband and I are both working, and getting the family home only a short time before our son’s bedtime, we tend to do quick-prep meals or pick up takeout. This past month I’ve been able to plan meals that are more time-intensive or require the kind of prep that isn’t easily done with a little boy hanging on to your knees.
The biggest eye-opener was less of a new discovery and more of a confirmation. A couple days into my second week at home, I watched my guys drive away and realized that I really did miss it. I’d been worried that I would find myself unmotivated to return to work after a couple weeks without it. It wouldn’t have been a bad thing, but it would have meant significant changes for our family. But I’ve realized that the stay-at-home gig isn’t quite the right fit for me right now, and I’m happy about that. I’m enjoying the break, but I don’t plan to make it permanent.
When I do return to full-time outside work, I hope I’ll take with me what I’ve learned, and that I’ll be less stressed about not being able to keep up with housework, projects, and everything else. After all, there’s always more to do, whatever role you play.
Jessica writes at Geekamama about the fun and challenges of raising a family while working full-time in the software industry.
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