September 24, 2014
I have arrived
^^^A letter from my littlest student who is just learning to read. It says "thank you Mrs. Brooke"
Before I had my baby, it was always the plan to stay at home for the most part. I felt so blessed to have that opportunity. I wanted to be home with her, we had a workable one-income budget, and we had no viable childcare options that we felt good about. I was really looking forward to being home with her. In fact, I was literally fulfilling my lifetime dream of being present and not having to work full-time while raising my family.
However, it was always the plan for me to keep being a teacher. Being a teacher is part of who I am, and I never want to stop. When I left Meadow, I had options lined up. My husband worked the early shift, so he could come home and watch the baby while I went to do private tutoring in the afternoons and evenings. I even had two little boys I was going to tutor. I also had some online teaching leads. It was going to be the best of both worlds.
Then, it was summer, and I had the baby. The next month and a half was a happy whirlwind (it's still a mystery where the entire month of July went). Relatives came to visit, we did fun things, school was out, and we spent a lot of time soaking in every inch of our tiny baby. I was sleep-deprived, but so incredibly happy.
And then, abruptly, school started. And all my plans started falling apart. The kids I was going to tutor had to back out for financial reasons. I got a job offer to teach an online class, only to get an email the next week saying the number of enrolled students was less than the company anticipated, so they didn't need me after all. I was going to volunteer doing an after-school club at the elementary school by my house, but they only wanted volunteers who had children attending the school. I posted ads on KSL, Craigslist and Facebook advertising my tutoring services, and got absolutely nothing in response.
It became very quiet during the days at my house. That isn't to say I didn't keep busy, because I did. I went on a walk with my walking buddy every single day. I did an exercise video every single day. I showered. I grocery shopped and made dinner and went out with friends and blogged. I even kept up with the laundry out of sheer desperation (you know things are bad when I'm voluntarily doing the laundry). And all that on top of the many hours spent each day feeding, changing, bathing, snuggling, and playing with my baby girl.
But still, for whatever reason, it wasn't enough. I know lots of mothers who are so happy doing the things I do every day, so why did I feel like something was still missing? The part of me that will always be a teacher was dying. I started to second-guess everything. Was I a bad teacher? Why didn't anyone want to hire me? Was I supposed to just give up teaching and learn to be happy without it? What happened to all our plans?
Each day while my baby napped, I would send out more applications to teaching companies and advertisements for myself to tutor. I became convinced that when you apply for a job online, it literally gets lost in cyberspace and nobody actually reads it unless you have a connection with that company (I still believe that, actually). I was getting more and more desperate. I knew I could spend my time shopping or doing crafts or watching another show on Netflix, but none of those options were meaningful to me.
I couldn't see the lesson I was supposed to be learning. Was it really God's plan for me to give up teaching altogether when I wanted it so badly? Or is this just my Type A, can't-ever-rest personality? I was always so happy when I was with my baby, but it felt like my world was shrinking. I had this fear that I wasn't Brooke anymore, I was just Claire's mom. I felt so overwhelmingly guilty that I wasn't satisfied when I had been given so much. Really scary words like "postpartum depression" and "anxiety" started swirling around in my head, and that terrified me. I would have pointless conversation after pointless conversation about it late at night with my husband.
And then, out of the blue, I got an email. Someone saw my ad, and was wondering if I still had any spots open for tutoring on Wednesdays. I wanted to tell her "Yes! Every night of the week is wide open!" Instead I told her yes, I could definitely make Wednesdays work. And then I got another email. Just like that, things started falling back into place.
I still do the same things during the day. Feed my cute baby, play with her, exercise during her morning nap, go on a walk, do the groceries and the dinners and the blogging and the diapers. I even do the laundry if it's a desperate, no-clean-underwear situation ;) But somehow, everything feels different. Now, I spend a few hours a few nights a week tutoring children, and that makes being a mom and a homemaker and a blogger and everything else so much more meaningful. I feel like myself again.
It sounds ironic, but when I spend two hours in the evenings not being a mom, I am so much more joyful when I get to be a mom the other 22 hours of the day. Taking time to do things for me, things I love, makes me so much happier when I get to do the job I love the most - raising a family.
I guess what I've been wanting to say is that I finally arrived. Everyone's work-home balance is different. Some moms I know are totally happy working full-time and raising children. A lot of moms I know are totally happy not working at all while they raise their children. It took a long time for me to arrive at my work-home balance, and it wasn't the situation or the time frame that I originally planned on. But it is so much better. It's different for every mom, but this is the situation that's right for me. I am happy and busy and balanced, and I've arrived at that sweet spot. And with my darling baby girl and my wonderful students, it really is such a sweet spot to be in.