Well, it’s taken me a few months to come out with this, but I quit my day job.
You should know, first and foremost, I loved my day job. Yeah, there were crappy days and sometimes crappy seasons, but I love to work. I’m kind of a junky like that.
Specifically, I loved the people I worked for and with. Every day was new and fresh and different. That was excellent.
After a night of fitful sleeping (the twins did this sleep regression thing for like, a year, that just about ended me), I would awake to the sweet sound of my alarm clock. Or, in a wave of terror and panic, I would awake to two eyes staring at me from three inches away from my face. Either way, most work mornings were terrible. Corralling twin two year olds, convincing them to wear the clothes I wanted them to wear (for expediency’s sake), getting them moving in the right direction (towards the door) and also making sure that I was presentable – all by 7 a.m. so that we could run out the door, stop at Starbucks, drop the girls at their sitter and arrive at work on-time – was a fiasco. Nearly every day someone cried. Maybe it was the twins. Maybe it was me. Maybe it was a squall line of stormy tears that ended almost as quickly as it began. Maybe it was a freaking hurricane that lasted two days (“Mom. Mom. MOMMY. Remember how yesterday SHE wore the pink dress and I didn’t?” Commence tears. For two days.). But there were almost always tears trying to leave the house.
Oh, and last winter I was very pregnant and it was -20 several mornings.
It was … amazing? Yes. Amazing. Like, amazing that I didn’t develop some sort of twitch.
Or maybe I did.
Anyway, that was just the mornings. If I had night meetings, my mom (St. Mary Kay) did pick ups and I arrived home after bedtime, exhausted. If I didn’t have night meetings, I picked up two tired and hungry two year old toddlers and schlepped them home to try to make something that looked like dinner that, very often, they wouldn’t eat anyway. And then, because hygiene has always been a priority in our house, I’d hose the kids off in a very unfun bath, sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” as fast as I could, and put them to sleep.
I’d like to pause right now and give a big shout out to single parents out there.
SINGLE PARENTS! Holy crap. How do you do this, ALL THE TIME? Seriously. Good for you. GOOD FOR YOU. Single parents do not get enough credit or sleep or time off. While Frank was gone for four days each week, I was by no means a single parent. I had a safety net that came home and let me sleep and made breakfast and did tuck-ins. And baths. So, all I’m saying is, I have a strong appreciation for the legit single parents. You rock.
So, back to me.
I did this three days a week. On the fourth day, because Jesus is kind and my Mother-In-Law loves her grandchildren (St. Sandy), the kids would get to stay home and paint and color and have fabulous tea parties with GrahSandy.
And THEN, Frank would come home. Now, while a lot of people do point out that he had the benefit of a full night’s sleep at a hotel and dinners out and so on, WHICH HE TOTALLY DID AND I NEVER FORGOT THAT FOR EVEN ONE MINUTE, the flipside is that he was staying in a hotel with paper-thin walls, in an uncomfortable bed and eating at Chili’s-type restaurants for every.single.meal. As an aside, I do not actually want to know how his body has been chemically altered by that lifestyle, but if any scientists are curious about the effects of Chipotle-Chili’s-Panda Express-only food pyramid lifestyles, Frank is totally available.
And then he had a terrible commute to and from work. Thanks to the brilliant Wright Amendment (which ended on 10/13/14 – woot!), Frank could never fly non-stop to Dallas from Midway for work. He always had to stop. Sometimes he had to change planes. No matter what, a generally short 2 1/2 hour flight would be dragged out at least an extra hour or so – possibly more.
Once he landed in Chicago, he had another hour to two hour drive home, depending on traffic. His route often covered four Interstates/Tollways/Expressways, so every time he has to exit/enter a new road, there was a significant opportunity for a back up.
So that was fun for him.
Often he would walk in the door and I would launch the nearest twin in his general direction as a means of saying “hello darling.” He learned to reflexively drop the suitcase in order to catch the child. He’s spry.
Fortunately I didn’t work on Fridays, so we used Fridays to catch up on stuff like seeing our children. And chores and paperwork. And moving houses. We moved houses last year. I just finished unpacking recently. So, yeah, we got that going for us.
And laundry. Do you know how much laundry a family of four generates? That’s nuts. Now that there are five of us, we’ve reached epic levels of laundry.
I’m saying all of this to say that the way that our family was operating was unsustainable.
Considering all that we went through in order to have a family, I was realizing more and more that I was going to get to the twins 18th birthday and probably say, “What the crap was THAT?” in reference to their entire childhood.
That’s not cool.
And then we were adding a third child to this situation.
When Annie was born, I found myself looking at her little fingers and her little face and thinking/praying, “Thank you God for sending this baby to save me from myself.”
I don’t think that’s hyperbole; Annie’s birth probably saved our family from the future we were racing toward.
I would’ve kept working if we only had the twins. I would’ve muscled through it and done the “grin and bear it” routine. I would’ve missed events at school and stuff at work, feeling inadequate and terrible in both arenas. Frank and I would’ve put our marriage on ice and hoped there was something left when the kids went off to their small liberal arts colleges along the Mississippi River or in Upstate New York (or maybe a Big Ten school, I don’t really know). We could’ve done it. I would’ve done it.
It would’ve been a mess.
I wondered while I was pregnant with Annie how it would play out if I kept the crazy cycle going. And always, I just sort of knew, we couldn’t stop the landslide – so we better just sidestep it.
At first, when Frank and I started thinking about this change, we kept looking at our checkbook. But, in an unspoken way, we kind of knew that God would provide and He seems to open and close doors for us in a weird way. We decided to trust this rhythm we had with God and we had with each other and make this move.
On my last day of work, I was filled with relief and … something else. Turns out, thanks to an abundance of psychologists in my life, this other feeling was grief.
It was hard to quit. As I said before, I love to work. I love projects and check lists and people and ideas and all manner of work-y type things.
I just do. It’s weird, when I think of it, how much I do like to do these things.
So while it was hard to release the death grip I had on working, I did it.
I did it because I love my family. I love my husband and I love my children. I did it because all of those stupid cliches are sometimes true – people on their deathbeds don’t say, “Gee, I wish I worked more.” People dying say, “I wish I had more time with my family.”
I give mad props to the women who work and have families and can do it all. That is awesome. I so wanted to be that woman – the one who could work and, like day to evening Barbie, transition effortlessly to caring for my family with organic homemade food and manicured hands. It’s just that, for me, the reality is this: I. Can’t. Do. It.
In some ways I felt like I was a failure because I couldn’t do it all. I couldn’t sustain all of these fires I had burning without getting burned myself.
Staying at home with the children is work, no doubt. And I went through a hazing week a few weeks ago that caused me to see my hairstylist earlier than normal to touch up my roots. My dear friend, St. Eve, had to increase her data plan due to the insane amount of text messages she received from me, many consisting of things like “Sweet Jesus help me!” and “OMG YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED.” It got so ugly, she stopped reading my texts while eating.
Enough of that, though. (for now)
When the rays of sunshine are long, stretching across the floor of our office/study/gathering area and the twins are busy drawing a very important picture for me to review and Annie is spreading spit-up across her blanket and the floor; when the sink is happily full of dishes from meals eaten at home; when the girls’ fingers are prunes from long bath times playing; when we have a stack of books to read at bedtime from the library; when we can take our time walking to school in the morning holding hands and saying “hi” to Miss Leslie-the-Crossing-Guard (and Carrie can give her a flower); when our kitchen window is full of pictures and when the five of us are snuggled on a couch – when those moments and days and experiences happen, my heart is full and happy.
And when a whole bunch of other stuff goes down (future blog posts, maybe), I sometimes wish I could be somewhere else. Like at a job. Or hiding in my bathroom with the door locked.
But no matter the situation, this is a pretty awesome gig: this staying-at-home business.
SInce I’ve been at home, I wanted to blog more. Write about Ellie and Carrie and Annie. After all, this blog is for them. But no matter the blog posts I was writing in my head, I could never put them down because before I could write all of that, I had to write this.
So here it is. Sort of word vomit. Sort of an explanation.
To my daughters: if you work outside the home and have children, awesome. If you work outside the home and don’t have children, awesome (but get some dogs that I can spoil or travel a bunch so I can bore my friends at The Home with the minutia of your latest adventures). If you stay at home and have children, awesome. If you stay at home and don’t have children, seriously, what are you doing? Go to work. Or volunteer. Geesh.