December 11, 2013 by Gina
I’ve had so many thoughts in my head lately and haven’t taken the time or made the effort to sit down and put my them into words. I’ll try to stay focused on one topic and that is my journey back to full-time work (outside the home) over the last few months. This week marks my 8 month anniversary back to work! Hard to believe! When I started back to full-time employment, our youngest son, Patrick, was almost 5 months old. He turned ONE on Thanksgiving day so now he’s moving out of the baby phase and into toddler-hood.
The last 8 months have been challenging and I’ve been through every emotion – fear, joy, pride, overwhelmed, stretched, excited, concern, doubt, freedom. Transitioning from being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) working part-time to working full-time and supporting our family has been a change for our whole family. My husband, Brian, is now a stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) after being on active duty with his reserve Army unit for the last six years. He still has his reserve duties, but it’s a few days a month with a new unit and a new role.
In many ways my husband seems better suited to be the parent at home with our three boys. He is often more patient with them, gets down on the floor to wrestle and play with them, and isn’t as concerned about a perfect dinner or perfectly clean house. I have learned to let go of some of these “household” tasks and Brian has dinner on the table every day, laundry done (I usually fold and put away) and kids generally happy and thriving. He’s taking the boys to playdates, arranging schedules, getting Finn on the bus for preschool and taking Getty to his ECFE (early child family education) class. When we recently travelled to my parents’ for Thanksgiving (they live 2 hours away), Brian had EVERYTHING packed and in the car the night before. Lists were on the counter for last minute items that we needed to throw in and we were out the door on time. This is something I have been trying for YEARS to get him to do (or at least participate in some of the prep for travel).
Which brings me to one of the many lessons we’ve learned through this transition – more respect for each other as partners and parents. I’ve learned how difficult it is to be away from the daily activities of our household and missing spending so much time with the kids. But it’s also sometimes easier to walk out that door in the morning during a meltdown or the chaos of the morning with three young boys. I’ve eaten out more in the last 8 months than the last 4 years combined and stayed in more hotels while traveling. I understand my husband’s previous responsibility of providing financially for our family, the pressure of performing and the stress of balancing work and life.
I won’t speak for my husband completely but we’ve talked about this. I think he has more respect and understanding for how long days can be staying home with small children all day and the need to speak with adults. He also has learned how rewarding it is and how special to see these boys change, grow and develop. Brian missed an entire year of our oldest son’s life during a deployment to Afghanistan so it’s a true gift for him (and them) to have so much time with them all now. He is seeing first steps, potty training, first words, new foods and new everything. He’s shaping, teaching and loving these boys like nobody else can and we’re learning the benefits of our kids seeing both of us in different roles. I love getting updates throughout the day by text message – new stories, photos and videos that make my day!
Other things I’ve learned in the last eight months:
- I can’t do it all and balancing work and family is really, really hard
- I’m gentler on my husband and kids because I appreciate my time even more with them now that I’m away more often
- It takes a village to raise a family – thankfully we have great friends, family and new co-workers who support us
- I can’t control everything or do it all
- It’s okay to lean on others and ask for help – at work and at home
- I miss my friends and feel like I don’t see them or make time for them like I would like to
- We have new traditions like asking “What was your favorite part of the day?” at dinner
- The boys don’t care who is home with them – they are just happy it’s mom or dad
- Time goes really, really fast – we now have a child in preschool, 2 out of 3 potty trained (even our 4 year old wasn’t potty trained fully when I went back to work) & our baby will be walking soon
- Change is sometimes hard, easy and exciting (all at the same time)
- I can have a really bad day or week and bounce back
- I miss working out on a regular basis – need to find time to fit that in!
I know that I already knew these lessons but these and others have been reinforced over the last few months. We’re doing our best as a family with these new roles. That’s all we can really do! This opportunity to flip responsibilities has been challenging but rewarding too. We continue to learn from each other every day and we’re laughing and crying together.
A recent family photo – thanks to Julie Nack at JNack Photography (www.jnackphotography.com) for such terrific picture