Job vs staying at home – what was right?

Ted and I went out today, and we had a chance to sit and talk about many things during lunch.  One of the topics we happened to discuss was the fact that before I worked, I did a lot of things that saved us a lot of money, and now that I work full time, I don’t do many of those things.

I still can food…….but not to the same extent; I used to put up at least 200 quarts of tomatoes, spaghetti and pizza sauces, salsa, jams, jellies, beans, apple sauce, apple butter, and apple pie filling every summer and fall. Now I put up about 40 quarts of green beans and about 26 pints of salsa, and that’s usually it unless I make half a dozen jars of jam if I’m feeling really frisky.  I don’t even freeze veggies anymore other than a freezer bag or two of jalapenos, and I used to freeze corn by the dozens on the ear, peppers and onions for my own stir fry mixes, and tons of fresh picked berries; now I grab the frozen corn and berries at Kroger and hope for the best.

I still coupon….but not to the same extent; I used to follow several websites and spend about six hours a week figuring out the best sales and then stockpiling items for pennies on the dollar each week.  Now I’m lucky if I remember to take the coupon file with me to the store half the time.

I still shop thrift stores….but not to the same extent; now I just wander in a few times a year and browse around (usually when I’m dropping off a load of stuff); before I worked I was in thrift stores a couple of times a month, and I always had a list in my purse of the upcoming items the kids or the house needed so I could watch for great deals on those. I saved a lot of money doing that years ago.

There are some things I never do anymore such as sew outfits for the kids.  I used to do this all the time, and I was really good at it; I even sold some of the clothes online once the kids outgrew them.  I remember specifically making matching Christmas outfits for my older two kids, and I was always making dresses for my oldest until she was around fifth or sixth grade age.  I embellished t-shirts and jeans to make the cutest matching boutique sets for my oldest three; I don’t think my youngest has had one homemade outfit from me, and that makes me sad.

Two other things I never do anymore are embroider and scrapbook, and those were my two favorite hobbies.  I used to do that stuff for hours in the evening or the wee hours of the morning while the kids were all asleep.

We ate every meal at home except one fast food lunch per week (something the older kids deemed “a treat”) when we would head to the library and out on our weekly errands.  And I homeschooled all of my kids………and I miss that so much!  I miss doing the homeschool co-op and having that core group of people we saw weekly, homeschool friends for the kids, the field trips (oh!!!  the field trips – we were always going on those!), the exchanging books and ideas and lesson plans way back twenty years ago before the internet was what it is today with all those things at the touch of a few keys.

I was so excited when I got my full-time teaching job in 2010, and I remember thinking, “Now I can finally contribute something worthwhile to the family!”  I wish I’d realized then that what I was doing was very worthwhile.  Instead I listened to others who made comments about being “lazy” or “sitting around doing nothing all day”, and I felt like I was those things; I didn’t feel that what I did had value, and so I began to seek out work.  It was part-time work at first, and then it turned into a short-term full time job, and at the end of what was that job, I received the call for the full-time job I have now.

I’m not complaining because I consider myself blessed to have a job when I know there are others out there who don’t.  I do wish though that I could go back in time and tell myself then how I feel now; it may very well have influenced my decision to work full-time.  I had no idea the number of changes it would entail over the past six years, and those changes have been MASSIVE when I think about what life was like back then and what it’s like now.  If I’d known then……..my decision would have been very different.

It’s the “Mommy Guilt” that gets to me the worst.  It’s the hardest thing in the world.  When I didn’t work, I felt like I couldn’t give my kids all the extra material things I wanted to give them, and now working, I feel like I can’t give my kids all the extra time I know they need.  Do men get this?  Do they have “Daddy Guilt” for going to work and leaving the kids?  In our instance, I have to say that I don’t think Ted does.  He’s wired in a way that he thinks he goes to work – period; he would never consider staying at home, but he did love having me at home (I think because, unfortunately, my working means a lot more of everything has to be split up to get done now, and when I was a stay at home mom, I did everything up to and including the yard work).

I am sure there are things that weren’t great about staying home, but right now, I can’t remember them.  I’m looking back with rose colored glasses on, of course, and I know that’s what this is because I’m having a particularly gut-wrenching bout of Mommy Guilt right now since starting back to work on August 1st.  It’s probably because Sahara starts college classes in a couple of weeks, and Jake announced on Friday that he wants to go to school full-time this year (that threw me for a loop).

Right now though I’m just wishing I hadn’t listened to those comments from certain people all those years ago and sought full-time employment.  Right now, I’m wishing that I could enjoy the last week my kids have off for summer break instead of spending all day every day this week on the phone and computer for work.  Right now, I’m wishing I was putting together unit plans for an awesome back to school week for my kids instead of finishing up lesson plans for a group project at work.

Most of all though, right now I’m wishing my oldest two kids weren’t already grown up and my youngest two weren’t growing up at the speed of light.  It’s wonderful to see them take flight………but it’s bittersweet as well, and it’s just so very hard to think of all the things I feel that I should have done and should be doing but can’t because of decisions that changed the entire way our family functions now.

Heavy thoughts………heavy thoughts……….

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