Back when the time came, the choice was easy. I was dying to stay at home with my children, and although we weren’t quite ready to live on one income once Harrison came along, we always knew it would be the ideal situation, for our family at least, to have me stay at home while our children are young. I continued working another year and got pregnant with Ella in the meantime. It was the summer following her birth that I resigned from teaching.
I loved teaching. I loved my students. I loved my colleagues. I know, however, that I couldn’t have possibly been the mom I want to be while being nagged by a bag full of spelling packets that needed grading. And I wouldn’t be able to focus in those staff meetings when my kids were staying late at day care.
I remember the freedom and excitement when I came home that last day. I was finally JUST Mommy and Wife (ha!). No longer would students (whom I loved dearly) occupy my mind as I drove home from work. No longer would parents of other people’s kids be calling me at 8pm to question the validity of my assignments. No longer would staff meetings and data collection take up any more space in my brain. All that space was now for my children and my husband. And it was amazing. For about two weeks.
When you can stop all of the chaos of your professional life so abruptly and turn to the simplicity of watching a child at play, a certain type of euphoria is met. Amidst all of those precious moments, of course, one might simply lose his or her mind in the redundancy of it all. How many times can one person hear the same book? Do we really have to go through this teeth brushing routine again? Even on the days when I truly believe I’m going to lose my mind, I know how incredibly lucky I am to be able to stay home with my children.
But there is some part of me that constantly seeks out other opportunities. Sometimes they fall in my lap. Others, I’ve found on job search sites. I don’t know why I even go there. I know in the end that this is where I want to be; that this is where my family needs me to be. I think it has something to do with my anxiety; constantly needing to know the next step, always looking forward. Sometimes that makes me miss what’s right in front of me.
As my kids sat for story hour, we all patiently listened to the elderly librarian read a book to the group, and then we participated in arts and crafts. I smiled at her comfort and happiness; she truly enjoyed this job. But, looking around, I could tell the children’s area needed a LOT of help. Many books were not appropriate for children; others were torn and tattered. Most of the titles were decades old, and I struggled to see any award winning books anywhere. I’m no expert, but as a former English teacher, I know what to look for in a library. My mind got to working…
“This would be my dream job,” I mused to Ms. Mary, the librarian. “I taught reading and writing for ten years and it would be a dream come true to be able to work on this end of things, you know, fostering a love of reading in young people.”
“Well you’re in luck! I’m retiring in April!” she responded.
I left the library feeling euphoric. This could be just my thing! I emailed the director of the library with an inquiry about the position. In response, he sent me the job posting.
I had the qualifications!
I had experience!
I had motivation!
Should I apply? Up until now, I had gone no further in my perfunctory efforts than browsing job postings.
And then I looked away from my laptop to see Harrison and Ella playing in the living room. Harrison was trying to figure out fractions (God bless him, he’s only 3!), and Ella was sitting down in just her diaper, negotiating with her dolls. “Would it be so bad?” I thought. “They would probably love going to daycare with all of the other kids and fun activities.” I got up from my computer, sat on the floor, and called them over to me.
“I have a question for you.”
“What is it, Mama?” Harrison asked. Ella just eyed me inquisitively as she sucked on her pacifier.
“How would you feel about Mommy going to work at a job!” I smiled, trying to make it sound really exciting. Perhaps this would seem like a great adventure. I turned my attention to Harrison. I wasn’t sure if he’d understand the implications, but apparently I don’t give that kid enough credit.
“Oh wow, Mama. Really sad. I’d feel really sad.”
It’s not always easy for me to “live in the moment” but looking at his big round blue eyes telling me now was not the time, I knew he was right. Now is not the time for me to be planning story hour; it’s the time for me to take my kids there. It’s not the time for me to take my kids to day care; it’s the time for me to take care of them myself.
I smiled at my children, and kissed them. Ella, more than a little perplexed, shook it off and went back to her dolls. Harrison decided now was not the time for fractions, and that snuggling would be a better use of his time. So there I sat, with a little boy in my lap, living in that moment. I soaked up the smell of his hair, freshly washed in baby shampoo, content that, at least for right now, I didn’t have to look any further for happiness, especially not in the classifieds.