Today is my last day as a “part-time” employee at my church. This past year has been wonderful because I have had the opportunity to work two days/week and then stay home with my kiddos three days/week at an extremely flexible job. Tomorrow I will be full-time again, clocking in at 36 hours/week at the same extremely flexible work environment where I can bring in my kids if I need to, but will ultimately spend more time at the office than I have this past year.
Typically I am panged with regret on the eve of a big change–whether I am coming back from or going on maternity leave, changing jobs, or changing careers. But not this time. Why? Because I have finally accepted that I WILL NEVER GET THIS BALANCED PARENTHOOD THING RIGHT. And that’s okay. Here is a timeline of my work journey since having kids:
Ruth is born: 8 weeks of full-time maternity leave, 4 weeks of part-time leave. Began working back in higher ed. for one and a half months. Feeling level: intense and overwhelmed by the crazy hours of supervising, advising, crisis response, programming, etc. Did I mention we had a new baby that we had adopted and that I had become pregnant during this time? So, yeah, there’s that.
Ruth is 5 months, pregnant with Ila: working 40 hours/week at the bank. Feeling level: pretty good since it was an easy pregnancy with Ila and Ruth was with my mother-in-law during the day, whom she loves.
Ruth is 11 months, Ila is born: 8 weeks full-time maternity leave, 1 week part-time, return full-time 40 hours/week at the bank. Feeling level: steeped in postpartum depression and barely hanging in there. Wanting so desperately to stay home and yet work full-time. Feeling like I’m missing everything and yet wanting to miss everything. Probably the lowest point of my adult life.
Ruth is 15 months, Ila is 4 months: I went down to 32 hours/week working only 3.5 days/week at the bank. Feeling level: better and yet constantly feeling highly inadequate. What do you do with two babies who are at completely different developmental stages when it’s freezing outside because of MN winter and a late spring? Binge Netflix. Still steeped in postpartum depression and terrified that my children are addicted to TV at the ages of 1.5 years old and 6 months old.
Ruth is 2 years old, Ila is 1 year old: receive a promotion at the bank, back to 40 hours/week and traveling 30 minutes, both ways to my sister’s house twice/week and 20 minutes, both ways to my mother-in-law’s house twice/week. Feeling level: much better. I started consistent therapy and we had found a new church (the one I’m working at now). I love my job, I have a great boss who is flexible, understanding, and motivating. Our daycare schedule is crazy, but now I have time in the car to decompress, which was new to me and quite lovely, I must say.
Ruth is 4 years old, Ila is 3 years old, pregnant with Jane: still 40 hours/week at the bank. The girls are in pre-school 3 days/week and at my mother-in-law’s 2 days/week. Feeling level: okay, but worried because I don’t know how I’m going to afford going back to work with three kids and I’m also working a somewhat stressful sales job while embarking on a high-risk pregnancy. Therapy sessions and working out helped a ton as did a healthy balance of reading the bible and praying daily. Trying to “get ahead,” if you can really even do that, as it relates to postpartum depression.
Ruth is 4.5 years old, Ila is 3.5 years old, Jane is born: I take 13 weeks of maternity leave, give my notice at the bank, and begin working at our church in the office twice/week for meetings and at home when I can for the rest of the week. I work a max of 20 hours/week, typically averaging 18 hours/week. Feeling level: the best I’ve felt in my adult life. No postpartum depression. I spend more time with my kids. I spend more time with that cute guy I live with-Brian. Things finally feel steady. I may have found my calling.
Which brings us here, now. On the eve of my switching back to full-time, AGAIN and the very first time I have no doubts about a job transition. Why? Because this whole finding the right balance thing in parenthood is a myth. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a few unicorns out there. Some of my friends who stay at home, work full-time, or do a combination of both have no apologies. To you all I say, bless you! May we all aspire to your confidence. To my friends like me who feel guilty no matter what transition you make, I have this to say to you: you are where God needs you to be right now. This is what you were meant for right now. Will you have doubts? Yes! But are you doing what you can for yourself, your partner, and your kids? Then good for you! Keep on keepin’ on!
When I look at my timeline I know I was doing what was best for my family during each transition I made. Sometimes I was working just for the housing or insurance or because I liked the work I was doing, which is my case now. I think a big insecurity of mine that is still there deep down, is the fact that I cannot for the life of me stay home full-time with my kids. I’m pretty sure, if I’m honest with myself, I envy my friends who do this as a vocation. But God wired me differently and that is okay.
I think, especially those of us who are women, need to continue to lift each other up and clap whenever one of our sisters makes a transition or decides boldly to stay where she is, wherever she is. Because whether you stay home full-time, work full-time, or do something in between, your kids still see you as a remarkable human being who is doing what they can to make things work for your family. And if you don’t feel like they see you, know that I see you and I’m proud of you.