I’ve been a work-at-home mother for nearly six years (SIX!) I realized last night.
The time line evolved something like this:
- Year one – newborn (six months or so) and working all the time when not with newborn; house cleaned periodically, but I probably only showered a handful of times.
- Year two – newborn stopped napping within this year and work shifted to early mornings and late nights; house was never clean.
- Year three – added a new baby and a toddler – work took place while toddler was in pre-K and new baby napped; house was so filthy we all wore shoes and blinders.
- Year four – can’t quite remember; it all became a blur. Maybe it was the dust hindering my vision?
- Year five – this past year, I have worked when I could, but work has been more difficult to come by as my daughter, in kindergarten, began after-school activities and my youngest stopped napping regularly. House has been cleaner, though. It’s amazing what one can complete when given a half hour of uninterrupted time.
- Year six – we shall see what this year holds, but both children will be in school – one for the entire day, another for three half-days each week. I suspect I will once again see my floors.
At each step I thought this: “Wow, now that the baby (or babies) can do so and so, I should definitely have much more time to get things done!”
How wrong was I . . .
You see, what really happens is time shifts around on you, as wiggly as Jell-o. You think you have it in your grasp, but you don’t.
When my daughter started kindergarten and my youngest a two half-day program each week, I thought I’d certainly have more time to work. In reality, I began volunteering at the elementary school, and while I did have some morning hours open, I also had enough time then to clean the house (imagine that!) and run errands child-free. Suddenly my six hours free each week to work turned into a few hours of work and several hours of other duties.
Today I began thinking about next school year (since I tend to work less in the summer, when the kids are home).
“Just think,” I told myself, “three half-days each week!” Of course, then I realized I would probably volunteer one of those days and would feel like I needed to do so in the other school as well, so one full day is cut out of my work schedule leaving me two half days to work.
During those two half days to work I’ll also be grocery shopping and running errands that I’d rather not do with two kids in tow.
Which leaves me about three hours, or about what I had when I had both girls at home.
Funny how time is. You think you have so much of it, and then you blink and it’s gone.
It’s the same with child-rearing. They are babies, and then they are in elementary school, or graduating high school. A girl I knew in high school has a son who just graduated from college!
So yet again today, after a while of stressing about how much work I won’t get done next year, I realized just how quickly it all goes, and how one day the kids won’t want me around and I will be able to work all I want.
Then I’ll look back on these days and sigh. Or cry. Or probably both. I’ll be wishing I could have just a few more seconds with my girls.
The key to working at home, or working while raising a family, is this: Realize you will never have enough time to get it all done. Let things go, like dirt beneath the refrigerator and stains on the carpet. Hardly anyone notices them, anyway, and you won’t remember them in fifteen years.
Instead, enjoy the important details that grow fuzzy over time: wet baby kisses, a toddler’s sticky-finger hugs, a teenager’s soccer game, and college graduation.
Because before you know it, that’s where you’ll be — and then you’ll have all the time in the world, but you’ll want the old days back (this I can almost guarantee!)