Should I go back to work?

Typical Mommy during a day at home.
I have stayed at home almost exclusively for the last 13 years. I love my girls, love my husband and have gotten a lot of joy out of being here for them. But, I do feel a little lost at times. A little unsure of who I am outside of the "mom" role. I started to think about what I'd like to do last year when I was home alone during the days for the first time.

2004 - very focused SAHM
Last year I volunteered teaching English, at the kid's school as much as they'd let me, went to PTO meetings and even briefly volunteered to lead the middle school PTO this year. That was before I realized that was crazy and would totally overwhelm me.

While those things were good, this year I felt I was ready to get back to work and focus more on a career. After trying out teaching last year, I knew that was not the direction for this introvert to head. Did you know that kid's talk to their teachers? Like, ALL DAY? And then the grown ups talk to each other and the parents talk to the teachers.... And then I come home to 3 talkers and then Matt gets home and would like to talk. I love talking - really. Just not all day long. I need some quiet, some "no one is talking to me" time. Anyways, I decided to pursue an accounting focused job and then decide if perhaps adding some accounting classes to my resume would be a good plan.

I found a great position about 20 minutes from home.  Full time with not much flex in the schedule but lots of learning potential and some great people to work with. I interviewed on the phone and then in person twice. I figured that I was either a shoe-in or there was someone more qualified that didn't care about making much money (it didn't pay that well).

Got my "interview" self all ready!
The kids were a little excited for me actually. The youngest was super excited about going to after school daycare and anxiously asked me each day if I had heard about the job. My middle schooler was incensed. Seriously, I was going to make her walk home? And I really didn't like the idea of her home alone each day for the afternoon. She hasn't ever done that so it would be pretty radical.

And me? I was excited and terrified and my self-confidence issues all came racing to the surface of my everyday life while I waited to hear back. The questions of "Can I do this?", "Am I good enough?", "Can I work and still be a Mom?", "What will have to give?" and more.

I emailed the company and found out that I hadn't gotten the position. Queue the relief. Honestly, it would be such a huge change and there would be so many sacrifices - it just didn't feel like the right time. But, I still felt this sort of - What Now? Who am I then? Is being a Mom going to be enough? What else is there to me?

I think a lot of Moms struggle with those questions - if not the first few years, perhaps after about 10 years of staying at home. (So, if you don't think it yet, you just might in a few more years.) I honestly didn't struggle with it nearly as much when I had toddler hugs every few minutes, or a mountain of baby related tasks to conquer just so my kids didn't die. I felt important and definitely needed. I didn't want anyone else to do that job.

Now, it's harder. I don't always feel like doing all those jobs that make me useful to this family. I don't really want to clean the floors again, load the dishwasher, make dinner, wash clothes or make those lovely after school treats.

So - here I should end with some kind of happy, I figured out the solution, moment. Hmmm....

I can say - I volunteered at my girls' school yesterday and I felt better than I have in weeks. I felt useful. The tasks were easy but rewarding. Being in the school lifts my spirits. The kids are happy, the teachers are friendly, the school is awesome. And knowing that my girls can still count on me to bring forgotten tennis shoes to school, take them to Dr's appointments, pick them up for lunch on special days, pray for them throughout the day, pick them up from school, talk to them after school, take them to piano lessons, have playdates at our house and not be too busy for them makes it worth it. This is still my job. It's not time to split my attentions. They still need me and are still learning who they are.

I am choosing to be thankful for the time to devote to them. And acknowledging that some days it is a choice and some days it is the deepest feeling in my soul.

 I'm thankful for the days at home to capture memories like these:

Sisters being silly together.

My sweet Belle.

My bumble bee.


The Water Park Birthday Party

This party was a HUGE hit!  It was a wonderful hot day and our yard was filled with fun water-based activities.

My plan of action for themed parties is to get a couple good ideas, scale them back and then throw in a few original thoughts of my own.

I tried to use Pinterest to help me get started...  I think I am the only 30-something suburban Mom who dislikes Pinterest.  It makes me see what I could do - if only I had a whole lot more skill, time and creativity.  It makes me feel bad, just bad.  Sorry, but that is the truth.  I did use one idea from my Water Party board - I tried the tie-dye shirt (with a bandana).  Let me just say, it didn't look like the picture.  At all.

So, I actually found this link the most useful for an organized, but slightly creatively stunted person like myself.  It's just a long paragraph explaining how they planned their party.  Perfect!  I took a lot of their great ideas and made them work in our much smaller yard and party.

I first made signs for each of the "attractions" and labeled each area.  The Super Jump was our water balloon filled trampoline.  I had planned on 500 water balloons.  I'm not sure we made it to that many, but Matt and the girls worked on filling water balloons for most of the morning before the party.

The party included stations:  trampoline, slip n' slide, water slide, fishing pond, drinks, tattoos and bandana painting.  It was enough to keep the kids moving from one thing to the other and not bored.  We also had pizza and cake, plus popsicles to keep everyone cool.  It was a super fun party!

This photo doesn't capture her catapulting off the end of the slide and almost into the fence.  It was awesome!

I made these cute squirt bottles for the kids to play with at the party and then take home after.  I'll do a quick tutorial next week!  Easy peasy and they were used a ton.

And a few party pictures to show the whole thing in action.

Most of all it was the smile on my brand new 7 year old's face that made it worth it. She got a bit jilted last year since we were moving on her birthday and the years before that she didn't really have enough of her own friends to have a party.  Plus, her birthday is at the end of the summer and a lot of friends are forgotten, have moved or are traveling.  We were so thankful that almost all her closest friends were able to come.


Comparing yourself

Anyone else do this?  I thought comparing myself to others was bad but since I've had kids it has taken on a whole new flavor.

It's SUPER easy to compare your kids and your family to someone else.  Both positively and negatively.

I talk to other moms and I swear their kids do not fight like mine do.  They do not nod their head in agreement as I describe the level of cruelty I hear on a daily basis.

My strongest desire as a Mom is to see my kids get along.  And yet, I feel I have the worst kids in that regard.  I'm working hard to stop focusing so hard on it and start focusing on being kind to them myself.

Dang - finger points back at self...  I definitely struggle with kindness, patience and showing love in all situations.  And I am horrified when I see those same struggles in my kids.

So - here enters grace.  God's grace covers me for all those shortcomings and it also COMPLETELY covers my kids. And I must model grace to them.  So, I will step back, take a deep breath and calmly tell them to cut it out, love each other and then I will force them to hug.  Because I think that just might work.

Plus, pictures like this are good reminders that my girls really do love each other.