Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mommys: To Work, or Not to Work?

My job is in the home, not in the workplace.  It's healthier - for me and for my family - if I don't work.

This is a hot topic in mommy circles, but please know this: my goal is to share my story, not to shame anyone.  This is my story, and hopefully it will bring you encouragement in some way!

The Dream
Since I was very young, I have wanted to be the one to take care of my children.  I have felt very strongly that I did not want to put them in regular childcare of any kind in order for me to work.  Because of the amount of influence a caregiver has, there are very few people that I trust to have regular time caring for these little ones.  I want to be the one to pour in to them, to educate them, to share my worldview, to train them.  

My Career/Mommy Journey
  • 2005 - First teaching job!
  • 2007 - Got married and managed marriage, grad school, teaching, and mentalillness fairly well
  • 2011 
    • Baby #1 - late-term preemie who spent ten days in the NICU; we came home with an apnea monitor that alerted us to his breathing or heart problems
    • I did not adjust well to having a baby during those first few months, even though I functioned well outwardly; my anxiety skyrocketed and I began to slip back in to the darkness that I had previously experienced; the adjustment to having a new baby felt amplified by mental illness
    • Returned to teaching full-time while grandparents helped with childcare
    • Resigned from classroom teaching and began teaching middle school writing online 
  • 2012 - Began consulting on the research, development, and implementation of a teacher professional development program 15-24 hours per week
working mom holding a baby balancing on a tightrope

  • 2013 
    • Baby #2 born at 34 weeks weighing 4 lb. 13 oz.; eight days spent in the NICU
    • Less than two weeks after he was born, I could feel myself sliding back into the mental illness, and we increased my medication; after that, I did pretty well for a long time; I had bad days every now and then, of course, but overall, I stayed afloat
    • I went back to consulting, increased my hours to 30 each week, and squeezed in work whenever I could while the kids were sleeping or being nannied by my sister; my husband took care of most home responsibilities (even though he was working full-time) - laundry, paying bills, shopping, the yard; I was responsible for the kids and getting my work done, and no one was in charge of keeping the house clean, doing dishes, or planning meals, but we squeaked by; eventually my hours were decreased to 20 per week
  • 2015 
    • Baby #3 born full-term with no health issues!
    • Went back to consulting 20 hours per week mostly from home with the understanding that the position was changing; I was offered the new position (less pay, more time on site, increased hours) which I turned down; I was guaranteed up to 20 hours per week through December 31 with consulting on a limited basis in the new year
    • Lots of change; I was still adjusting to having a third baby, up at night taking care of her, looking and interviewing for new jobs that I could mostly do from home...
    • October 26, I crashed; OCD and anxiety had been nibbling at the edges for weeks, but it all came crashing down on that Monday morning when I slid quickly into one of the worst lapses of OCD/anxiety/depression that I've ever had
    • I worked on being healthy by going to counseling, increasing my medication, decreasing my work hours to 15 per week, and holding on to the truth that God is bigger than this mental illness; my therapist encouraged me to consider that not working might be healthy
  • 2016 
    • started teaching adjunct classes at a local college
    • hired to do educational consulting 10-15 hours per month 
Cutting my income by over 90%
My husband is a hard and faithful worker who brings home a steady income.  We've never lived on just his paycheck plus a little from me, and honestly, it has not been easy.  And even though money is tight, we've started tithing again.  We pay our bills (mostly) on time, and we track what we spend our money on using Every Dollar, Dave Ramsey's budgeting website.  We plan ahead for what we need to spend my husband's paycheck on.  We're coming up with solutions for the times we're short.  We shop for groceries at Aldi or a discount surplus store where we can get food for very cheap.  We may be eligible for government assistance (haven't checked in to that one yet).  

The Result
The mental illness is gone!  Yeah, right - I wish!  No, it's still present, but with much less intensity.

Work in addition to taking care of my kids was honestly just too much for me.  The amount of stress involved, the increased brain felt divided and like I was hanging on by a thread.  The pressure that comes from trying to meet others' expectations (realistic or not) was a really bad combination with my mental illness.

Taking work mostly out of the equation has allowed me to focus on the things that really matter - my relationships with my kids and husband and the home environment I can provide for them.  I can focus on taking care of my family instead of just getting by.  With a calmer and less-stressed brain, I can be in charge of the laundry, meal planning, shopping, and cooking - and now my husband's main responsibilities are to work and be with the kids.  I'm able to take adequate time to prepare our homeschool year in a healthy way instead of just throwing things together haphazardly.  I'm more present with my children because my mind is not preoccupied with work.  I can volunteer and be more involved at church.

When I asked my therapist if it would be healthier for me not to work, and he said yes, by 1000%.  And that's something I've come to agree with 100%!

How did you decide your role in your family?  Is it healthier for you to work or to stay home?