^^^ This was taken during one of Ryan's attempts to get out of a nap by trying to lecture me on the importance of rest.
And he did it. Whew! On Friday Chris turned in his final, final paper for his first semester of grad school. He took Ryan and Conor with him to the professor's office to drop it off, and I do hope that becomes a tradition. Maybe I'm a bit too sentimental, but what a memory that will be! Walking with Dad to witness him hand in hours of hard work and then a stop at a candy wall at the student center to commence a glorious perk of the academic world - appropriately and thankfully long breaks. Hopefully we always have little ones who will want to tag along ... I mean, I will be happy to do my part to make that happen.
This break is welcomed. Very welcomed. It might have been evident on the blog, or really from its absence, that this year has been one of the happiest thus far, but it has also been one in which I struggled.
I'll put the boys to bed, and everything will have been good. Happy bath, cuddled family prayer on the giant beanbag in the boys' room, Ryan calling, "Thanks for praying with me, Dad!" and Conor waving, "Baaaaaayyyye! Baaayyye!" as Chris leaves the room to go start studying. And yet when I sit down after their breathing is steady and the washer is whirling in the laundry room, I sit shell-shocked from the constant catch-up of the day. Let's back up.
When I worked in Chicago, a lot of the superiors in my office worked from home for the majority of the week, and they all had childcare. Of course they had childcare! But back then, my baby was on the easy side of the belly, and I just didn't get it. I didn't get it! Why would they pay out the wazoo to send their kids to daycare when they had earned an awesome work from home job? Couldn't that give them the best of both worlds? Couldn't they just work during a consistent nap time? Couldn't they just work while the kids gleefully and obediently independently played? Couldn't they just work when the kids went to sleep for twelve uninterrupted hours? Occasionally one of my bosses would conduct phone meetings when her sick toddler was being a toddler in the background, and I could practically hear the silent screams of frustration in her head. Nevertheless, I was at the bottom of the daunting hill called student debt and I so wanted to stay at home with my baby, but we weren't sure if we were going to pull it off so all I could naively think of was the amount of money "wasted" and the amount of time lost. It didn't make sense.
Now, I have two kids on the difficult side of the belly, and I see vividly and clearly that it did, in fact, make sense. The status of Chris' job was slightly precarious last year and he was going to go to grad school anyway so we were proactive, and I had had feelers out for a while and many a novena had been prayed when I was basically handed an excellent work from home job and started within a few days of knowing about the job. Glory! We were so thankful.
What I was not handed was a game plan of how to peacefully carve work hours out of a day with a terrible-twos toddler and a four month old with no childcare because the job didn't pay enough for it, and I most definitely was not handed the humility to ask for grace and help and more grace and more help.
My stimulation level as an introverted stay-at-home mom went from being on the mark or slightly under to way over. Way over. That first month I would wake up and do work before the little ones woke up, go straight into caregiver mode when they did, the tornado of a morning while thinking of when I would be able to work, the messy lunch, the war of naptime while getting more frustrated by the second of lost time to work, the tragic brevity of synchronized naptime, the bouncing of a wailing babe who napped too shortly while I gave a truck driver a survey on the phone (one of my jobs for eight months was a truck driver exit survey conductor ... glamorous!), the ignoring the lack of housekeeping anywhere, the calling on Netflix to slowly snap the toddler out of his post-nap stupor while still bouncing the wailing babe and calling and calling, then the tornado of witching hour and dinner making and putting to bed and wanting to unwind, but being too wound up until I just fall asleep on the floor at the computer before I finish my quota for the day for the other (seasonal) job and thus start the next day already sorrily behind.
(I think it's pretty obvious that I adore Chris more than anyone on this earth, but I do want to throw in a quick defense for that helpful husband of mine. I'm happy to help provide for our family! I'm far from miserable; I've just struggled with how to do it gracefully. I'm not trying to be a martyr; I'm just being honest, and I have a hard-working husband who loves me and cares for me and is the bomb.com as much as he cringes when I use that phrase. Chris and I are still babies in the timeline of marriage and parenthood. Grad school is not just his dream; it is our dream. Staying at home with our children is not just my dream; it is our dream. We as a couple are both learning how love languages are fluid through marriage and parenthood and school, but getting to learn with him is pretty much the cat's pajamas).
I know my position is a privileged one, and I am fortunate to be a stay at home and work from home mom. I know my life is not a hard one. I completely acknowledge that and don't want you to think for a second I have it anywhere close to as hard as others. I just want to say loud and clear, "I GET IT. I get it."
I get why my coworkers had childcare. Not only did they need it to do their job justice in order to maintain their position with integrity and provide for their families, but they needed to not suffocate under the guilt and exhaustion of not having any sort of boundary between family and work.
Working from home with kids means you have a lot of bosses, guilt is your officemate and you have zero breaks. It is not for the impatient. And yet, here I am. I firmly believe that parents do not need to give their children their undivided attention constantly. I want to be able to waste time with my children,. At the same time, I also want my children to see that loving them does not mean constantly being a playmate. This year, that happy medium evaded me. I know some people are able to work from home seamlessly, but I am not one of them ... yet. Some days are good, and I heave a satisfied sigh at the end of a delightfully productive day, but some days started out with me crying over a pot of oatmeal. I do not have nappers no matter how hard I attempted to nap train them. Ryan is just recently able to play independently for a solid amount of time. Our schedule this year has also been thrown for a loop with lots of packing and unpacking and extra responsibilities. And unlike this rockstar, I just let my survival mode go on for ten months rather than pulling up my big girl panties and doing something about it. I cringe at the books I haven't read to my babies or the kind emails I haven't responded to or the frequency of pretending to ignore that the automatic play next episode feature is on in the name of twenty more minutes of work time.
But. But, but, but.
Humble is good. This year has given me quite a dose of always needed humility. And I have learned an incredible amount of what I am capable of, and possibly more importantly at this stage in life, what I am not capable of. I now have an even better work from home job with a boss who tells me, "Katrina. Your first job is to be a wife and a mother. If you get overwhelmed, stop." I know. Answered prayer, right? And it is.
We are taking this break to reorganize life so we can really take advantage of all the great parts of grad school and working from home. And I see a mother's helper for a few hours a week in my future.