After Taylor was born I struggled and struggled with going back to work. I knew that I wanted to work. I knew that I couldn’t stay home full time. But I also knew the I was having a hard time finding a balance while working full time. After a lot of considerations and conversation, I did it. I went part-time.
I expected that I would find more balance. I expected to love spending more time with the kids. I expected that I’d get to know them better. And, honestly, I expected that they would probably drive me nuts since I am not used to staying home with them.
I feared knowing what to do when both of them were crying. I feared being unable to juggle them on my own. I feared that I would be stuck day after day at home with nothing to do.
What I didn’t expect is that working part-time would make me fall in love with our town. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things that I love about the CT shoreline. It’s beautiful, there is access to an ocean (ok, sound, but it’s better than no sound), it’s quaint, it’s safe. But it never felt like home. After 8 years here, I still felt like this was just a temporary spot that we were living in. 2 extra days at home with my kids and I am growing to love this town and area. I’ve discovered a ton of new spots, activities for the kids. We are rarely if ever at home and have a ton of things at our fingertips. I’ve gotten to know other moms and with that I’ve learned about new places to take the kids. I’ve started to take walks with them in the stroller outside of our neighborhood, explore new parks, take advantage of libraries, tune in to daily happenings of the shoreline. Suddenly I felt like I was part of the community and feeling like you’re part of something is amazing.
What I didn’t expect is that I would not only learn to juggle both kids, but do so with confidence. The fears and anxiety that used to rush me when Jon would tell me that he’s traveling overnight for a part of the week when I only had 1 toddler to look after disappeared. Sure I still felt a ping of “omg how am I ever going to get everything done and still look and act like a human being at work,” but getting 2 kids ready and out the door? Picking everyone up on my own? Cooking meals and entertaining and putting everyone to bed on my own? No problem! I’ve learned that the kids will both cry at the same time. Often. And that’s ok. You just evaluate your priorities (aw look, work taught me things about home) and tend to the one that needs it first. I’ve learned that we all do better if we get out after Taylor’s first nap and go somewhere fun. I’ve learned that Taylor, although still extremely opinionated, is really good at going with the flow. I absolutely love sharing these activities with them and when we’re out, everyone is always happy.
Now when I have to be on my own with the kids, I don’t think it’s a big deal. I’m not scared and I’ve gained confidence in my “mommy skills.” And much like feeling part of a community, feeling confident can make all the difference.
What I didn’t expect is to make friends. One of the biggest complaints that I’ve had about living in CT is that my circle of friends was very limited and most of them didn’t have kids or weren’t available. And let’s face it, working full time and traveling to see our families and friends that lived 2 hours away on weekends meant that we were rarely, if ever, available to do things ourselves. Add the long list of chores, taking care of the house, and actually buying groceries to feed our family (forget cooking), we just never had time to do anything here. I’ve always felt a bit isolated as a result. The times when I was able to see friends outside of CT, I felt upset when we had to leave and depressed the following weekend when we were all alone again. Times when things worked out with our friends here, I always wanted more but our own schedule precluded us from doing more.
Now we have a set play date every single Friday morning and a variety of options available to us the rest of the time. I’m never on my own and the kids have little people to hang out with. And having friends with kids the same age does something amazing to you – it makes you feel like you are doing things right. Sure, everyone is doing things differently, but we’re all supportive of one another and we are able to talk through what’s happening. Tot won’t nap? That’s ok, mine either. Baby was up all night? Weird! Mine too! From sharing “war stories” to giving one another advice, having my new “mommy friends” opened me up to a whole new world of happy and is a very large part of why I am finally feeling like I am part of this community.
What I didn’t expect is to watch my very shy toddler begin to come out of her shell and, *gasp*, socialize with other kids. Addison is great at home and daycare – she talks almost non-stop, runs around and seems like the happiest kid alive. She’s outgoing, fun, and very social. But if you remove her from her daily surrounding and her comfort zone and she shuts down. She’s silent, hiding between my legs. Not only is it hard for me to get anything done when she wants me to hold her if we’re out with someone new or somewhere new, but it’s hard to watch her turn inward when I know how outgoing she can be. It hurts my mommy heart to notice that she is scared of everyone and rarely ever participates in games with other children.
A lot of this is her personality and that won’t change. Peanut is a creature of habit, much like her daddy. Changes, no matter how small, are of great discomfort to her and she needs time to evaluate and adjust. I would never want to change that about her because it makes her special – she’s thoughtful and kind, she wants to understand the world around her before changing anything. But I also struggle watching her stand on the side lines while other kids play.
Our new play dates and on-the-go activities with other moms and kids are her new norm. The first few times she hid and asked to be held. But as we ventured out every day I have off and met up with new friends (some the same, some new), she’s started to accept that we will be around new people. She’s made a few new friends that she’s becoming comfortable with (our Friday morning dates usually have the same group of people) and she’s learned not to freak out when someone new approached us (on Thursdays we usually just go to wherever – playground, library, or if someone in the mommy group is going somewhere, we go there too). I started to watch as she transitioned from running away and crying when another toddler approached her to letting them play with her (hey, it’s not magic but it’s progress).
I realized that although daycare did teach her to be more social, it was another constant – same kids, same times, same surroundings, day in and day out. Our new “routine” has a good amount of variety to it along with a host of new faces and friendly people. As a result, she’s less shy around family members she doesn’t see daily and our friends from out of town that we only visit every once in a while. I love watching her accept some changes to her routine and learn to trust people outside of the dozen or so that she knows and loves.
And do you know what all this equates to?
Balance and happiness.
I am truly happy – happy to be at work 3 days a week when I’m presented with challenges and get to rely on my business skills. Happy to be at home and out with new friends, participating in our community.
(I am by no means suggesting that working part-time is the solution to anyone’s issues. But it was to mine. Except the $$….that part is hard, but that’s a whole different story, isn’t it?)