Until a few years ago, I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t work. I babysat when I was a teenager then worked through high school, undergrad, and grad school. I always had at least one job, if not two. I continued working for a while after having kids, but decided to stay home when it was no longer feasible to work. By the time our second child was born, my husband was working a lot of hours — insane hours. He often worked nights and weekends and traveled a lot. We decided together that it was best for our family for me to stay home. And it was best at the time. So, I stopped working. I filled my time with volunteer work and did my best to embrace that season. I did plan to go back to work eventually, but the busier things got with our schedules, the less likely it seemed that there would be a good time to return.
Then, a few months ago, it was time.
I started applying for jobs, and I found a great one. So, I went from a stay-at-home mom to a working mom. And it’s everything I thought it would be.
I thought I would enjoy working again, and I do. I have a great boss and coworkers, enjoy the work I do, and I am challenged every day. After so much volunteering, it’s also nice to get paid. I was very fortunate to find a job with flexibility that allows me to work and still participate in activities with my family. I know that isn’t always the case, but I hope it’s becoming more common.
I thought I would have to cut back on some things, and I do. While I do have flexibility, I still can’t fill up my time with all the volunteering and activities I used to do. I still love to volunteer, and I can do some, but I can’t do it all. I have to choose selectively.
I thought I would need to be intentional with my time, and I do. I have to be very purposeful and careful with how I spend my time if I will have any hope to get things done. Routines are more vital now than ever, and I have to seriously prioritize my commitments. I also have to accept that some things just aren’t going to get done. I need to keep my to-do list realistic and manage my expectations.
I thought exercising would be a challenge, and it is. I love working out, and I used to joke that it was the only hobby I made time for. For me, exercise is a matter of sanity, not vanity. It is one of the top ways I clear my mind and de-stress. I used to spend five or six days a week at the gym, and now I am doing well to go twice a week. Again, this is an area I have had to really prioritize. Instead of long workouts at the gym, I may just squeeze in a quick 30-minute workout at home. But I will take it. A little bit is still better than nothing.
I thought it would be hard to find balance, and it is. Again, I am thankful that I have flexibility and work in a culture that encourages work-life balance, but I struggle with balancing everything I want to do. I want to do all the things, but I just can’t do everything at the same time. I want to work hard, be a good wife and mom, cook nutritious food, keep my home spotless, read all the books, have plenty of time with friends, and have my children in every activity, but I just can’t do all of that all the time. I can only do some of that some of the time. To be honest, I had the same struggle as a stay-at-home mom. Everyone is busy and everyone is trying to find balance. This hasn’t changed.