Today is the first day of my long vacation. The kids still had school so I got up to help. Sarah’s car currently is un-drivable as it needs a leaky water pump fixed, so I made sure I could drive her to school. When I got home, the other kids were in the midst of getting ready and I realized that I was — how do I say this? — I was in the way.
I’m not around when the kids get going off to school every morning. I don’t cook them breakfast and I don’t make their lunches. I don’t get them dressed or brush their teeth for them. Something happened over the last year or so and all five kids got self-sufficient on me. And now we’re at a point where I don’t know where to be if I happen to be home in the mornings.
Oh sure, it was good that I was home because Sarah hadn’t had time to make her lunch last night before bed (hey, we were busy watching our recording of “This is Us”!) Therefore, I did make her lunch for her before driving her to school. But when I got home, I asked Helen what she wanted for breakfast only to learn she had eaten while I drove Sarah to school. And she said, “Since we braided my hair last night and I made my lunch already last night, and had my bag packed last night, and then I’ve already brushed my teeth, I really don’t have anything to do.”
But then she did something amazing. She made sure Dani had made her lunch last night (it was in the refrigerator) then went upstairs and asked Dani what she wanted for breakfast and came down and got Dani’s breakfast on the table for her — complete with her cup of water to take her medicine she takes with breakfast. Whoa.
I did fix Vincent his breakfast, but when it was time to get lunches together, Craig did that because he “knows how to make Vincent’s lunch.” Both lunches were thrown together (Dominic made his own) in a matter of minutes. I also helped Vincent get dressed because he can be rather pokey and the boys are signed up for Fit Team on Wednesdays, so we needed to get out the door earlier than the days they take the bus.
When I walked back in from dropping the boys off, the girls were heading to the bus stop. And boom…the house was empty of children, so I went and took a walk.
My thoughts on this morning are twofold.
One, I’m glad I got to see how mornings go when I am already at work because I will no longer concern myself with whether they get all their stuff done and out the door to school on time. They seem to have taken our cues on how to prepare and how to care for each other. I think one of the things many work-outside-the-home-moms (WOTHMs) worry about is whether we’ve dropped the ball in preparing our kids for life by not being available to them at every critical time to ensure they succeed. This experience helps me to continue the realization that this preparation for our kids is happening — perhaps EVEN BETTER than it would have been otherwise — even though both of their parents work full-time jobs outside the home (and even on opposite schedules). Homework gets done in the afternoons/evenings, we’re still doing other activities (swim lessons, soccer, cub scouts, after-school activities for middle schoolers, volleyball, etc)
Secondly, wow…my children are growing up and I cannot put into words how much love I felt for all of them as I saw them caring for each other (i.e., Helen preparing breakfast for Dani without even being asked to do so.)
Another little side note I will mention is that I noticed that my kids do not eat breakfast together, but each of them, individually yet quietly, took time to say a blessing before eating without being directed to do so.
I know I haven’t written much lately in the way of support for work-outside-the-home motherhood. Most of that is because over time, the guilt has subsided and the questions have been answered. All those questions I had about whether it was damaging my kids to be somewhere other than their parents’ care for non-school time and whether they would be emotionally ready for life without having a parent attend all their class parties and stuff like that — those questions are not questions anymore.
Being a WOTHM requires different things from everyone in the family. It requires some sacrifice. Yes, even sacrifice from the kids. They sacrifice that extra 100% attention from a parent before and after school. But they gain so much, too. They learn early and often to be prepared on their own. They also learn how to help each other and not rely on mom or dad to help out the sibling. They learn how to keep going and get things done without having a parent picking up behind them and pushing them out the door.
This is not to say that kids of families with a stay-at-home parent don’t also learn these things. Of course they do. They just have different ways of presenting the information and moving forward.
What I’d really like to say to my 35-year-old self who was just coming to the realization that stay-at-home parenthood was never going to be the way for this family is:
“It’s all okay. You’re doing it right for your family and it’s been right all along.”