A Stay-at-home mom, that is.
When people ask me what I "do" for a living, I usually answer that I am MOSTLY a stay-at-home mom. I have not worked full-time since September 2002, and the majority of my day is spent caring for my home and children. But I have worked part-time for a good part of the past decade. In all, there was only a 2.5-year period where I was home full-time.
I have had so many part-time jobs, and quite frankly I am tired of keeping that kind of a schedule. I am convinced working part-time is the hardest thing a mom can do. I am home all day and do all of the "mom" things a stay-at-home mom does. But then I have to go to work - and work means crazy hours and giving up time that most other people consider "off" time. Evenings and weekends. Ugh. And, I make very little money at my part-time job, so I still have all the money concerns of other single-income families. It's not fun.
Last January, I was hired as a teacher's aide in our local high school. I loved my job, but the high school has very different hours from the elementary schools so I needed to find childcare for my two oldest children. I was lucky to find a friend who was willing to watch them and not charge me and arm and a leg, and it worked beautifully. But alas, she went back to school and could not do it any longer, so I quit my job and went back to school myself.
I am attempting to earn my teacher's certification. I have a degree in English, so I am going for secondary education AND special eduation. My state has some big changes in place, so I am trying very hard to finish my classes by the end of 2012. It may or may not happen, for a variety of reasons (the two major ones being money and time).
So, I have been taking classes, which I enjoy, but it creates a lot of stress in our house. I didn't know how lucky I was to be an undergraduate when I was 18! School is so much harder when you have to fit a house, a job, 3 kids and a husband into the mix! But I have also been applying for full-time jobs as well.
But I get conflicted when I try to decide what is best for us. I like being home, and now that the kids are all a little older, I have a nice amount of time TO MYSELF each week. It's heavenly, and I have waited almost a decade to get this time. I have not had classes for the past month, and it is so wonderful to be home and have nothing else to do besides clean, cook, care for the kids and (gasp) maybe read some books that I want to read.
But then the bills arrive, and I feel myself having heart palpitations because we just don't have enough money to do everything we want to do. I look at the worn carpet and long for hardwood. I see my boys in bunkbeds and wish for a bigger house so that they could finally have their own space. I cringe when we take a car to be serviced, just waiting to hear how much it will cost. And then there are vacations - I grew up taking lovely trips with my family and they created lasting memories for me. I want so badly to do that with my children, and we just can't keep up every year. I know it sounds petty, and that I should be happy with what I have. Believe me - I am. But after pinching pennies and living paycheck-to-paycheck for 10 years, I am tired of it.
But am I ready to go back to work? When I spend time with the kids I don't want to leave them. This is the only reality we have all ever known. It's scary to think of changing that.
And that's why I am back in school. It's easing me into that change. First, I am relearning major time management skills with juggling home, jobs and school. Second, my program will take me at least until Decemeber 2012 to complete - if not longer - so I can not look for a teaching job for nearly 2 years.
It's such a struggle to decide what it right for me and right for my family. I am trying to be patient and have faith - and right now that is leading me down the path to continue with school. I guess I will only know in time if that is the right thing to do.