To work or not to work, that is the question.
As I write this, I am blissfully sitting with my children on the beach of my town’s lake, listening to happy children splash in the water with the sun shining brightly and the smell of lathered sunscreen everywhere. I love summer and I love not working.
Now yesterday, when I was up at 6:00 a.m., out for a run, two loads of laundry deep, traveling to the dentist, grocery store, farm stand and then on to pick strawberries, build a lemonade stand and prepare for a low key end of the year party at my house in the evening, I wondered if this is the life for me. By the end of the day, my “real” job seemed relaxing and stress free.
First, I have to admit, I am incredibly lucky to not work in the summer. However, I also have to say, I chose much of my luck. I knew before children I would want to be with them as much as I could, so choosing a counseling profession where I had the same school hours as them made sense. And this profession required 7 years of full time college, so hard work and sacrifice also came into play.
When I had my first baby, I loved her beyond measure and agonized over the idea of returning to work. Even though nature and proactive planning allowed me four months of maternity leave, it did not lessen my working mother’s guilt an ounce.
Yet, I went back to work, stressing over daycare costs and feeling the need to spend every moment with my child. Even though she was happy, well adjusted and would go to just about anyone, I worried. It was completely my issue. But we needed the money and couldn’t possibly survive on one income. Until we did.
My husband unexpectedly lost his job when my son was 1 and my daughter 4. Due to the loss of income, we opted to have him stay home with the children. And by the way, he was an AWESOME stay at home dad or Daddy Daycare, as he preferred. He even became our friends back up childcare in times of need. But we had done the math prior to the job loss and it would never work. But work we made it, for two full years.
Making it work was not easy. We debated and number crunched. We looked at both long term and short term goals. We knew we’d give up salary potential, as well as retirement investments to make the decision to stay home. The debates were not balanced and neither were the sacrifices. Making it work included both of us working part time jobs for extra income and getting rid of our extra cable channels, land line telephone and any other “unnecessary” expenses we could think of. The two years my husband stayed home with the children were years he could not get back, with a job or with the children. We had to decide which years were more important to lose. In the end, the children won, their years were precious and their development fast paced.
My husband relished in his time home with kids. He grew a bond with his children he may have never experienced otherwise. They had their own jokes and rituals and TV shows they shared. Although when I came home to my 5 year daughter singing the theme song to “The Nanny” and “The Golden Girls,” I did seriously question calling around town for daycare openings. But the truth was, they loved it. And I loved knowing they were home with their Dad. Those two years flew by and once my daughter began full time school, my husband began full time work, and the craziness began again.
The decision to work when you have kids can be a tough one. Or not tough at all when you are a single parent. But none the less, both jobs are a challenge! Personally, I feel like I get the best of both worlds. I love getting paid to help people, truly love it. I also love adult conversation and friends laughing at my dumb, yet highly intellectual jokes…actually I need it! I love getting a paycheck to help pay for my home and the clothes on our backs and internet on my phone, I simply can’t go back!
I also love being home and bringing my kids to the lake, the playground, local farms, museums and picnicking as often as possible. And now that they are well out of diapers and can pack their own bags, I appreciate it even more!
When I’m home full time with my children, I greatly appreciate that I know what they are thinking, how they are feeling and what is influencing their day. It’s always strange to me when they start school and begin a new life on their own without me. I am left with holding on to faith that all will be well.
Each job has its challenges. During the school year I agonize over bills, not enough time with the kids and when I will have a few minutes or an hour to myself. When I’m not working, I agonize over my kids arguing, having too much time with them, wondering what “productive” feels like, and when I will have a few minutes or an hour to myself.
But the good news, no matter what, it always works out. This is a natural fact and one we can hold on to. It doesn’t mean that life doesn’t get hard, but it does mean that we can always make it better depending on the choices we make for ourselves and the way we view a situation. My husband was devastated when he lost his job, but we chose to make it work to our advantage and created a positive experience for our family. We took a gamble, won all our money back and made enough for a pizza on a Friday night. Most often, it really all boils down to perspective and how we adapt to change. And let’s face it, life is one big transition day after day!
So to work or not to work? The real question is how will you make it work for you?