About six months ago, I took a part-time job a 15-minute walk from my house. I set up a schedule that allowed me to drop off and pick up Monkey from PreK and lined up two babysitters for my gregarious Munchkin. As my first day of work approached, I packed three lunches--Monkey's, Munchkin's and mine--set out clothes and planned out the day of drop-offs and hand-offs, dashing around in work clothes that had been languishing in the back of my closet for nearly two years. For the most part, work fit into the schedule I'd already established with the kids. We were always out the door at 7:50 am and back home in the early afternoon. The main difference was that while Monkey still went off to school, Munchkin was home with the sitter while I went to the office.
My job has not only made the daily logistics more complicated, but also thrown off what used to be a relaxed kid-centric summer routine. After registering the kids for their assorted schools, I found myself scrambling for child care because of an almost two-week gap between camp and the first day of school. Because of that, the kids had to adjust from their regular care providers to having their (marvelous) grandparents watch them in a new house, attend a new camp, back-up care and school within a matter of weeks. The strain of juggling so much is evident on their little faces.
Monkey has spent various mornings asking why he can't stay home while I work. Even Munchkin, who was excited about going to school has had her days crying about my departure. And I, for the first time since Monkey was a newborn, I have found myself hitting a wall every evening around 5pm, completely out of patience, ideas or the energy needed for dinner and bedtime routine. Overwhelmed with learning to maintain an entire house (instead of renting an apartment) and making my children comfortable in a new environment, I don't seem to have enough time for much more than work, ferrying the kids, cooking meals and passing out from exhaustion. Emails don't get written, errands aren't completed and my hope for a calm persona erodes as the clock ticks towards bedtime.
To top it off, I feel guilty for feeling so off-kilter because I know I have it easy. Most of my friends work full-time and here I am struggling with a part-time job with an understanding boss. I may be the primary caregiver, but my husband steps in when he gets home and I'm not parenting alone like my twin sister or millions of other single parents. I don't even carry the pressure of being the primary earner in the household so I don't think I should be--or deserve to be--stressed, but I am.
I have considered that life would, of course, be less complicated if I didn't work. Yet, I enjoy the challenge of sharpening a set of skills not required in parenting. I like drawing on my marketing skills from jobs of years past and the social media skills I've developed as a blogger. I've learned a new database system and about an entirely new industry that I find fascinating. I have flexible hours that allow me to spend lots of time with my children and I know that's a difficult arrangement to find. Every year that I'm working and honing my skills means that my return to the full-time job market when my kids are older will be that much easier.
As for my children, I know too that my daughter benefits greatly from the activities her daycare provides. She's made a new set of friends here and I get the feeling she enjoys interacting with someone besides me. My son, for all his complaining enjoys kindergarten immensely and is slowly warming up to the wrap-around care and the new relationships he is developing. I too enjoy my time away from the kids because after years of being home full-time, it's nice to appreciate them anew when I come to their classroom door.
In the end, I suppose some of this stress will ebb once my family and I have settled into our new home and new routine. I'm going to continue working and attempt to find that elusive balance of work and home life. In the meantime, I'll tackle that 5pm wall of fatigue in the hopes that soon I can emerge on the other side, stronger and happier.