Once upon a time, I had a job and did this thing that people refer to as “work”. My husband and I always knew that staying at home was important to us, so when we found out we were expecting our first child, we immediately made plans for me to quit my job as the pregnancy progressed. We figured that my career was somewhat flexible, and I’d be able to work part-time on nights and weekends. The plan was for me to find a job for just a couple of hours a week when my son was six months old. Well, six months came and went. When he was about ten months old, I realized I had completely dropped the ball on even considering returning to work and thought that would be a good time to start a (very) casual search. Then when we learned we were expecting our second child, I thought, “Why look for a job now?” and haven’t turned back. It’s been four and a half years since I’ve attempted to engage in any type of job search. My husband (not so) jokingly refers to me as retired and isn’t convinced I’ll ever return to work, even after the kids are all in school. The more time that goes by, the more I’m not so sure either.
Now that we are expecting our third child, it seems that the odds of me returning to work in a full-time capacity in the foreseeable future are slim to none. Thankfully, I don’t experience the feelings that many stay at home parents struggle with. I’m not bothered by being “non-contributing”, whether it be to society or the household, feeling as if my brain is going to turn to mush, or that I’m not engaging in anything greater than myself. I’m perfectly content staying at home; it aligns with my personality, my values, and it works for my family.
With that said, there’s no other career field I’d want to be in than the one I was in. I absolutely loved my job! As a mental health clinician, I thrived on the constant unknown of what a day might bring while also seeing progress in clients. It was never lost on me how difficult it was for some people to share their lives with me and trust that I could help them benefit from that in some way. Just trying to explain how much I love my career field is leaving me with a yearning to drop my kids off at the closest daycare and get back into it!
A couple of months ago things took a turn. An opportunity to return to work on an extremely part-time basis fell into my lap. The timing, the time commitment, and the job itself seemed like the perfect prospect and I was eager to jump on board to work alongside Bradley Hospital. After completing a week-long training, I am officially a certified instructor of Mental Health First Aid (and I have the koala bear to prove it!)
While I was enthusiastically engaged in my recent training, I gained additional gratitude for dual working families. Although my husband has always been fully engaged in all things related to the kids and household, there is that never ended mental load that, historically and statistically, falls onto the female head of household. While I was largely unavailable for the week, my mind was constantly racing with thoughts of if the kids were getting enough healthy food choices, if they had everything packed for school and activities, if they were on time for everything, if the house was being picked up adequately, if they were getting their naps and heading to bed on time, if, if, if.
Aside from wondering if the kids’ lives were continuing flawlessly to my exact non-control-freak standards, I had extremely limited time with my family and for myself. I saw my family for about ten minutes in the morning, as I was making breakfast for myself and tossing on a jacket and returned home at night just in time to read each kid one book before they clonked out for the night. I was exhausted when getting home and didn’t spend any quality time with my husband, rather I spent the evenings prepping some things for the next day, and went to bed earlier than usual. I didn’t have time to go to the gym in the mornings and got home too late in the evenings to make any of the classes either. I have always looked up to dual working families and been in awe of how they do it. I think of one family in particular that seems to somehow have endless time to enrich their kids’ lives, spend time as a family, pour energy into personal relationships, and grow personally, educationally, and professionally without seemingly blinking an eye. I have no clue how they, or anyone else, does it. I thought that a week of being out of the house during work hours would give me some insight, but instead I was left even more bewildered at how families get everything done.
Working families…please share your secrets. Is there some type of “extra three hours a day” that you have secret access to? Do you each have a leprechaun that does all your errands and cleans your house? Do you take a pill that makes four hours of sleep a night sufficient? I have always had respect for dual working families, but my respect has recently skyrocketed. My curiosities about how human you are has also increased. Although I’m fairly certain that you each have a leprechaun or two doing the behind the scenes work.