A few weeks ago, I returned to my second full-time job: my career. Granted, I was a working mom before we had Grant, but it’s still an adjustment being a working parent of two small children. The mornings can be hectic, and I consider the morning a victory if my clothes match, are less than 10% wrinkled, and Miles has on both shoes. Bonus points if he finishes his pancake before we load up to hit the road. Grant is easy at this stage, since he just sits there and waits for us to do everything (I know, so lazy).
Getting a toddler and an infant to school is no joke. With only one free arm, I’ve developed serious Ninja skills when it comes to wrangling Kid One. While most days he’s content to hold my hand and help me get Grant to his room, there are always those days (usually at afternoon pick-up) where he thinks darting down the hallway and into the courtyard would be infinitely more fun than getting his baby brother and walking nicely to the gate. And so, the pick-up process that took just minutes before we had Kid Two now ventures into the 15-20 minute range. The extra time usually involves a lengthy discussion with Miles in the infant room, since he’d prefer to stay there and play with the baby toys. Because he knows my mobility is limited while carrying Grant, he happily hides under cribs and behind rocking chairs, laughing maniacally and daring me to come get him. Half an hour later, we’re usually on the road and headed home.
Grant frequently cat naps on the ride home, but there are occasions where he’ll cry. I’ve explained to Miles that this is just what babies do; it’s their “thing.” No one enjoys listening to the crying, but it eventually stops. Miles has taken to experimenting with his own methods to soothe Grant. This usually involves him throwing whatever he has handy (banana, cup of grapes, toys) at Grant’s carseat. The level of crying is an indicator as to whether Miles had good aim. Grant has only been hit with a cup of grapes once; however, he has been hit with many banana peels. The ride home isn’t always perfect, but we’re getting there.
We squeeze in as much fun and family time as we can in our few hours after work and school, before bath and bedtime. Sometimes we get to play outside on the swingset, and sometimes we’re just building pillow forts in the living room. Grant doesn’t get as much tummy time as I’d like, but when your safety is directly related to your distance from and above your big brother, that’s just the way it is (haven’t found infant helmets yet). We’re getting there.
Dinnertime usually ends with some sort of food thrown at Grant. Also, food on the floor. And possibly in the fishbowl. It’s not a perfect dining experience, but we’re getting there.
We alternate bathtime with kids. There’s usually one naked child (most often the oldest) running around the house attempting to escape the tub. Last week he proudly skipped into the kitchen and announced he had to pee. Then he peed in the dining room. Bathtime efficiency is nonexistent right now, but again, we’re getting there.
Bedtime. Grant is asleep by 7:30p, giving us 45 minutes with Miles. We each get one-on-one time with Miles; we read dozens of books, get as many snuggles as we can, and he loves the undivided attention. Sounds like a small victory, but it’s big in our book.
If there’s anything the past few weeks have reminded me, it’s that the life of working parents can be messy, hectic, chaotic, and frazzled – but it can be the most loving, magical, special time, too. A long time ago, a very good friend reminded me that it’s not the quantity of the hours, but it’s the quality. Although our time together during the weekdays may be more limited, we make the most of what we have together; we make the weekends super extra-special, and we are blessed with that time, even when it’s pure joyful chaos.
People will often ask me if I feel guilty, being a “working” mom. My response to this is often that all moms (scratch that: ALL PARENTS) work. We just work in different capacities.
Each family situation is unique; what works for one doesn’t work for another. I can say with honesty, and without guilt, that I enjoy being a career mom. While I am a mom, I am not just a mom. I am a Christian first, and I am also a wife, a friend, a writer, a musician of average talent, an insurance agent, an avid reader, an above-average amateur chef, and a crazy cat lady. Each individually does not define me; rather, the collective of these things makes me the person I am.
It seems so often in today’s world that we as parents are encouraged to martyr ourselves; to take away all that is “us” for the sake of being a mom. But we are truly our best when we have all these things, because each one makes us happy. It is the completeness and wholeness of this happiness that makes me the very best at my two favorites: being a mom and a wife.
Your own happiness will build up and encourage that same feeling of joy and love in others, especially in your family. It fills me with unspeakable joy to see my oldest son doing things like “reading” The Cat in the Hat, pretending to bake a cake, climbing to the top of his slide, and worshiping our God through music. He does these things because we do these things; he sees our happiness, and finds that for himself as well.
As young children, we learn by example and by experience. If there’s one important thing I want my children to learn, it’s that you can be a single person with many, many facets. It doesn’t make you selfish; it makes you YOU.