When I say a lot, I mean: he’s been working 12-15 hour days, even on the weekend.
To say it has impacted our family life is an understatement.
The other day, one of my boys had a melt-down. He wouldn’t stop crying & I couldn’t figure out why he was crying. After some prodding, he choked out–“I hate how dad’s not home any more.”
It made me so sad. Dads are important. And when they’re not around, there are repercussions, whether we like it or not.
I don’t like to participate in the “mommy wars” discussions (usually, though Lizzy has some good thoughts about it), because though I think it’s important for women to have a running conversation about rights & equality, & issues of work/home balance, too often it becomes a feud of “us” vs. “them.” The working moms vs. the SAHMs. I just don’t like it. I’d rather spend my time reading a good book or making cookies.
I’ve always provided in some way towards our family financially.
Of course, I include all of my work cooking, cleaning, paying bills, taking care of our children as work, but I’ve always brought in some sort of income, meager as it may be at times. And I like it. It gives me great satisfaction knowing I can help contribute towards our family finances. Not only that, but my work as a fitness professional for all those years, & now as a blogger, I have created spaces for me to develop myself in other areas of my life.
I love being a mom. It’s the hardest, most rewarding job I know of. But often I have guilt, you know, of the “mom-guilt” variety–I don’t play with my kids enough, I don’t listen or talk to them as much as I should. I yelled, when I should have spoken softly, like I know so-and-so would have.
For longer term bring joy readers, you know that I had a brief stint with home schooling. I home schooled my oldest for kindergarten. Then in 2012, I did for four months. Both times, it was a clear choice–I knew it was the right thing for me to do at the time. But after the second experience, & we moved to Texas, it was also clear that I should put my kids in public school.
I’m not one of those that believes that the country is going to hell in a hand basket because of the public school system in America.
Yes, it has it’s shortcomings, but I believe the free, public education that is offered in the U.S. is in part what has made our country so great. So many teachers give their heart & soul to these kids. I have several extended & immediate family member who are school teachers & they put up with a lot, for not very much pay. Most of them do it because they love what they do. Kids get an opportunity to learn, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status. It’s a great melting pot where kids learn how to get along with all types of people.
Don’t think I’m not aware of the public school system’s shortcomings–underfunding, bullying, drugs, boredom, “dumbing down” curriculum, teaching in a mass-produced way. All of the these are concerns, sure.
But I’m thrilled to send my kids to school each day. Why? Because they’re learning. They’re exposed to lots of ideas & people, places & things that I could never offer them.
Perhaps when I gave homeschooling a go, especially the second time, I wasn’t doing it the “right” way. At each day’s end, I was completely pooped. I felt like I lived, breathed my kids & at the end of the experience, especially looking back, I think, that was not good for me, or for them.
I realized I am only one woman, & I don’t have to be everything to everyone. I don’t have to be a sexy, well-dressed, perfectly groomed & fit wife bouncing with energy at all times of the day, a domestic goddess that puts to shame the likes of Martha Stewart, a Mary Poppins-like mother, a Charlotte Mason home educator for all my five kids, AND a brilliant chef & baker to boot. I just need to be my kid’s mom, my husband’s wife, & if I’m so inclined or by necessity, an active participant in the greater community & world through paid work or volunteering opportunities.
Which brings me to my next point.
I feel strongly in women pursuing a career, outside of home & family.
Of course, if a woman is absolutely content living completely in the realm of family life, more power to her. But I am not one of those women, & I believe many women are like me. And, I don’t think I’m saying this simply to justify my own behavior but, it is okay, it can even be a good thing for women to go beyond the reaches of her own home. Whether this be through volunteering or paid work, the world needs us. Yes, they need us to be kind, compassionate & attentive mothers, but the world also needs our contributions elsewhere. The contributions that only we can make.
I once had a conversation with a fellow Mormon mom of seven young kids (there were triplets in there). She had decided to home school. I asked her the reasons why. Her response boggled my mind. She felt like she wouldn’t be a “good enough” mom if she didn’t home school. What?!
I couldn’t believe it. I mean, she was willing & did bear seven children. She was running that household, as well as supporting a medical resident husband. On top of that, she felt she had to be personally responsible for the education of each one of her children (three of whom were only 1 year old at the time). Call me crazy, but I believe that fits under the umbrella of: “impossibly high standards to achieve.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my nearly nine years as a parent it’s this.
The most important thing about parenting is not whether or not we home school our children, or if our children are with us every waking minute of each day, or if we do enough DIY crafts with them, or if we enroll them at a language institute at the age of three.
The most important thing is that we create a stable, loving home environment where they know they are loved. Where their basic physical & emotional needs are met. The good news is, these two things can be achieved in a variety of ways.
For me, it’s clear I am a better mother & person when I have outside interests & hobbies (this blog!). It’s not good for my brain to be entirely wrapped up in my kids. I begin to feel isolated, dare I say crazy, if I don’t have any outlets.
It’s a delicate balance, to be sure. Our children need us, especially when they are young. They need stability. They need our love & attention. There is no replacement for us.
But at the same time, it’s crucial for us to realize that there needn’t be guilt if we have interests outside our kids. If we don’t want to home school. This doesn’t mean we love our children any less, or that we are any less of a parent because of it.
As Joseph ends this big case tomorrow, hopefully our family life will return to normal (whatever that is). The kids will see him more & everyone will be in a better place.
I’m reminded that the fabric of family life is a complex one. No two families look alike, but the thread that unites each happy/successful one is love, time, attention. And any parent, no matter their working status, whether they home school or not, with some thoughtfulness, discernment, & perhaps a bit of creativity can give that to their child.
Are you a stay-at-home parent, work from home, or work outside the home? Please, I’d love to know your thoughts about home schooling, working, pressures of doing things a certain way as a parent. All thoughts & perspectives welcome!