Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Need to Work When Your Heart Says 'Home'

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Working. Mom. The two are just about synonymous to me. Show me a mom that doesn’t work and I’ll show you how I can glow in the dark. Now if you’re meaning a woman who is a mom AND an employee at the same time, we can talk. I’ve recently entered that realm, myself.

My entire life my plan was to be a stay-at-home mom. Sure I would dream of being a veterinarian, a disc jockey or a storm chaser for a while – but I knew my career would be motherhood, and it was never a question. The path wasn’t smooth, but I made it; a divorce, second marriage, two miscarriages, and nearly two and a half years of trying to conceive and I finally become a mother just a few short weeks before my 26th birthday (I always figured I’d be about on my third kid by that age). So really, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found myself needing to go back to work full-time, right?


Dead wrong.

If you had told me two or three months ago that I would soon be working full-time, I would have told you to take a hike. I would have told you I would live under a bridge before leaving my baby. I would have told you I would never do it – no way, no how! And I would have been wrong.

My husband lost his job at the beginning of February, and a month later with no leads I was calling up my good friend, Mike, who is also a recruiting manager for my previous employer. I left on good terms with the company, having gone on maternity leave and then discontinuing my employment to stay home with my baby (forever, I’d hoped). Mike told me there was a part-time job available from 8:00 pm to 12:00 am and I could have it if I wanted. Luke and I spoke about it and decided it would be a good move: a little extra money coming in and very little time away from Porter. I decided that it would be really tough, but I could do it.

I transitioned easily back to the company. In a way it felt like leaving my regular home to spend some time at my second home. I could do this. I desperately missed putting Porter to bed at night, but I could manage. I still had the whole day with him.

A few weeks later, I started feeling like it would be prudent for our family to have benefits, as our medical coverage from Luke’s former employer ran out at the end of February, and we went through March on prayers that no one would get sick. I then embarked on a hesitant journey of exploring the option of working full-time. I couldn’t believe I was considering it. I second-guessed myself constantly. Were the benefits and extra pay worth the time away from my child? Was I being selfish in wanting that little bit of security for my family?

I considered a graveyard position, working 2:00 am to 10:00 am, thinking somehow I could be Superwoman and work full-time in the middle of the night and then come home and be an effective mother. After a lot of thought, prayer, and scratching out Pros vs. Cons lists, I realized Zombie Mom was not what my son needed.

Our bishop came by our house one evening to let Luke borrow his Bobcat to move some gravel. Bishop and I chatted on the front porch and I had told him of the graveyard shift I was considering. He told me (with the disclaimer that he was advising me not as a church leader, but just his personal opinion) that if he were in my place, he would try to find a normal day job with normal day hours and find a babysitter for Porter. At first, I was shocked – haven’t we been counseled that mothers are primarily responsible for the care and nurturing of their children? How could I be the primary caretaker if I was gone all day, five days a week? My heart hurt and mind raced, but what he said next made sense. He told me that my most important relationship was with my husband. If I was working odd hours, we would essentially become ships that pass in the night, and ships aren’t known for their excellent marriages. Bishop told me that if I could have a good relationship with my husband, things would be okay; if my relationship with him deteriorated, the rest of our family would follow.

I got back in touch with Mike, but of course by this point all of the normal, daytime positions were filled. Slightly exasperated, I said, “Mike! They just need to create an assistant position for you and then you need to interview me for it!” With a smile he replied, “Funny you should say that…”

As it turned out, he had just received approval that day from his boss to create a part-time position that would assist him in his hiring responsibilities. Of course I thought this was great, but I expressed to him that the main reason I was considering transferring from my night shift to a daytime position with the company was to have benefits for my family. The next day, he came back and let me know he could offer it to me full-time, after all.

I still didn’t jump at it. I had wanted to work with Mike just about from the time I first started with the company in the fall of 2008. It was more money per hour and the company had excellent benefits – but could I leave my child? Was I pursuing something out of self-interest? Was I looking for a way to escape the everyday mundane tasks of being a stay-at-home mom? Was I looking for a distraction from the stress at home related to job loss and financial upset? Would Porter hate me forever for leaving him? Would God hate me forever for leaving my son?

I accepted the offer, but still felt slightly unsure. I put up two pictures of Porter at my desk and set a photo of him as the wallpaper on the brand new shiny laptop the company gave me. I left my heart at home each morning when I walked out the door.

It has only been a month, but I am grateful I don’t question myself anymore. I am grateful for the most incredible, sensitive boss I could ever hope to be blessed with. I am grateful for the flexibility this full-time position has offered me. Need to work from home for a few hours because I can’t find a sitter for Porter? No problem. Need to take a few hours off because I need some Mommy time with my best little bud? Take it.

I am also grateful that the Lord prepared me for this difficult decision – one, He knew I would have been too dead set against even a couple of months ago to consider. He helped me transition to a part-time job, and then helped me transition from there to what I had always considered the unthinkable: being a full-time employee and mother.

The key for me has been to realize that I am not the first woman to have to leave her child or children to go to work; nor will I be the last. My own grandmother became a widow when she was 28 years old and was left to raise three young children on her own. Life is hard, and the sooner I get over being offended by that, the more effective I can be. I am a woman. I am a daughter of God who loves and provides for me. I can do this. I can do anything.

It’s hard. Every day it is hard and I am exhausted. This change came at the right time, though. I have just finished nursing Porter for good, so I did not have to give anything up abruptly. I get to put him to bed again at night. I have a few precious hours in the evenings to enjoy his eight-tooth grin and laugh when he speaks his own version of “please” and “thank you”. I know these small things are tender mercies. I still leave my heart at home every day, but my mind is so occupied with my rewarding, busy job that I am left with little time to think of where I’m not. When I am home, though, my time there is very sweet. And best of all, I know my little boy still loves me.

Adrienne Knighton
Adrienne is the stepmom of 10 year old Austin, the regular mom of 1 year old Porter, and the BFF of Lucas since 2005. She is from Virginia but is currently enjoying life in Provo, Utah. She loves writing, singing, playing video games and making others laugh.


Laura@livingabigstory said...

What a great post! It's easy to make judgments from the outside on what another person should do or what we would do if we were in that person's position -- but you've described so well what you needed to do for your family.

Thx for the insight!

Susie said...

Brilliant woman, you make me cry. This is a fabulous post. Never in a million years has it ever crossed my mind to think a judging thought toward you in this tough decision you have made-- I have only hurt for you to have to make this sacrifice. But hearing your decision in such detail is incredible and inspiring. You're so right. We do what we have to do for our families, and sometimes that is so, so tough. And yet God helps us through. The bishop was right, and I am so glad he was there to offer that insight at that moment. You and Luke need that time together, and things are going to work out babe. Love ya so much. I wish I could be that daily sitter for Porter, but I'm glad for the caring women who are stepping in for you while I can't. Thank you for sharing this piece of your soul, neighba. Hugs.

Shawnie said...

Love the idea you convey, how life didn't go at all as planned and the reluctance to leave that plan. I'm not sure I've ever met anybody whose life went as planned. If they really exist, they must of slipped through the cracks somehow and the angels in heaven will be scrambling to make up for lost time. None of us escape it...

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