When someone asks me "What do you do?", it isn't an easy answer. Do I answer, "I stay at home with my kids" or do I list off my various part-time jobs as a fitness instructor and blogger? Usually I do both. It's such a weird place to be, a SAHM part time worker, right in the middle of both "mom" categories.
As someone whose significant other earns almost all of the income for our family, are my part time endeavors even significant enough to call "working"? Even combined, none of the jobs pay much. As someone who only works part time, I am definitely thankful for the flexible schedule that I get in exchange for the lower pay. I love that I can work a few days a week at 6am, part of one weekday, and then a few hours on the weekends doing things I love. It is all a huge blessing.
But there's also the parenting part.
As a part-time worker, I don't get the financial benefits or structure of full-time professional childcare I would have as a working mother. I know, because I've been a full time working mother. When I worked full time, we had a nanny who came during set hours. If I worked full time right now, the kids would most likely be in preschool. In both situations, they would benefit from the experience and training of a professional educator and childcare expert. Someone who would teach them to read before they even go to kindergarten, most likely. They would be taken care of during set hours, during which I would be free to do my work (unless they or the nanny were ill, of course -- been there, done that!).
Instead of a professional educator and childcare expert, they have me. Well, part of me. Because I spend the majority of my "spare" hours in part time work, I am not using that time to scour Pinterest for worksheets, set educational goals, read about the developmental milestones they're supposed to be hitting and target their activities accordingly, as most of my other mommy friends do. We have fun together, sure! We go somewhere almost every day, but it's most often the pool, the museum, the zoo -- somewhere that they can run freely and play, not learn specific things. The goal is to be physically tired so they'll take a nap. My poor second child still doesn't know any of her letters. Neither of them understand the days of the week. I think about what it takes to do all that, the extra hours that I can't seem to pull from thin air, and I just want to take a nap too.
It's only due to our food intolerances that I spend as much "homemaker" time as I do: making our own bug repellant, soaps, bread, and toothpaste. In fact, that's probably how I am using the time that I should probably be teaching my kids valuable things like Scripture memory or full moon intention-setting. That illusive time goes to hand-making things to keep Little Sir from getting diarrhea due to stomach irritation. Driving to the chiropractor. I have to make a conscious choice every day not to feel bad about how much more I should be doing.
There's the mommy guilt, but there's also the career guilt.
As a part time worker, there are a ton of opportunities to take it a "little further". Getting my RYT200 is one of those. Not a day goes by that I don't think about it, but I also know that it's just not realistic right now. Taking that kind of time and financial resources away from our family while my children are this young is not something we are in a place to do at this time. But then another client or friend asks me to teach them what I know about yoga and I just want to do it SO BADLY!
If I am honest with myself, having one foot in the working world provides some welcome gratification in contrast to the endless energy suck that is my precious children. Not once will they say "thank you" to me (except when Daddy makes them!), but my clients and friends do say positive things about my part-time work. It takes a conscious act of the will every time to step back into those unappreciated Mommy shoes and away from the seemingly fulfilling fitness instructor/blogger shoes.
As I was writing the first draft of this post, my daughter came into the room three times asking for me to sing songs. It has taken me about 3 days to complete this post, due to interruptions of the same kind.
I know in my heart that these are the best kinds of interruptions. That singing all the songs is what life is made of, and not the Facebook-ing, the Pinterest-ing, the 6am classes, the handstand practice, the Sanskrit pronunciation.
My friend Janelle was speaking today of a kind of selfless support, of having a job that consists of supporting others: being the wind. I love that analogy. As a feminist, it's important for me to remember that I can choose what work I do, and that one kind of work is not exclusive of another kind. I CAN be a SAHM and a part-time worker, and neither one is "not enough". Both are exactly what works for me right now, regardless of how I answer the, "So, what do you do?" question.
Jenny is the author of Living-Consciously.com. It's about being conscious of the impact we have on our earth by green living as well as being conscious of of our own bodies through natural health and wellness, fitness and nutrition.
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