Three years ago, when my baby was three, I was working full time as an associate minister at a church and spending much too much time away from my family. But I was doing what I was called to do, and what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I struggled, however, with the lack of balance in my life and I felt sure that God did not intend for me to neglect my children so that I could tend the church business. And I was beginning to wonder if my children would end up leaving or hating the church as adults because it robbed them of their parents when they most wanted and needed them.
I’m not a morning person, so it should come as no surprise that I prefer to work when I’m actually awake and coherent and even cheerful. I found the parishioners liked me better when I was awake and cheerful, too. That said, I wasn’t ever the first person in the office, even on a super good day. I considered I was doing well to be in before 10 am and doing really well if I made it by 9:30. After all, pre-school started at 9 am. I usually stayed at the office until the very last minute before I had to get the kids, often calling my husband (who is also clergy) to see if he could get the boys while I finished writing a newsletter article, preparing my part of the Sunday worship service or notes for a meeting.
One morning, in my usual rush I said to my little boy darling, “We’ve got to hurry up sweetie, Mommy’s got to get to work.” Darling boy said, “But Mommy, you don’t go to work. Daddy goes to work, you go to meetings.” Screeching halt, brick wall to the face! What?! But he was right in a way. While I did go to work during the day while he was in full time childcare, the case was true more often than not, that after we got home and I hastily prepared chicken nuggets for the third time that week, I would then head for the door to go back to work for a meeting. That’s what mommy did. Sometimes it was two times in a week, sometimes three, sometimes four and even sometimes five. My children knew one thing for sure, Mom goes to meetings and she doesn’t get back until after children go to bed.
It was a great challenge, made more challenging still by the darling boy of three who would not, could not go to sleep until Mom was home and had come in to see him and kiss him goodnight. Often times it was 10 or later before I came home to my little blonde night owl companion. No wonder we couldn’t get up and going in the mornings!
Life happens as it does and sometimes a divine intervention breaks the pattern, and sometimes our bodies have something to say about it. Well a combination of factors I’d rather not get into crashed into a heap of mess and there was no more being the associate minister, but there was a whole lot of concern for the unwanted mass inside my skull base. And there were hours for Mom and little darling to be together as the almost 5 year old downgraded his full time childcare status to just pre-school three mornings a week.
The first day of the new schedule was so exciting. When I picked him up from pre-school he eagerly climbed into the mommyvan and asked, “Where are we going today?” Well, my plan had been to go home, but he must have thought I went all kinds of places he’d like to go, so I asked him, “I don’t know. Where should we go?” And Lord have mercy, the child said, “Let’s go to the yarn store”! You don’t have to ask me twice! And off we went.
My darling boy had me all to himself during the days and hours outside of preschool, and while not every day was an exciting adventure involving yarn or buttons, we had some delicious time together while I rested up from being over stressed and prepared for my time away from the family.
Last fall my little blonde boy joined his big brother at the elementary school, but I stayed home. Home, where I could continue to recover from treatment and I could pretend to be Suzie Homemaker and develop my lackluster domestic skills. My husband is much more the morning type so he takes the boys to school while I have a leisurely rise and then I try to make sure I’m appropriately attired to pick up the boys at the right time. We come home for snacks and homework (or fighting about homework) and I try to pretend I’ve got it all together in the kitchen, but we still eat later than most folk. I guess that’s what happens when you take a city girl out into the country.
Lately my darling boy has started asking me when I’m going to get a job. I’m sure it’s not because he wants me to start being gone in the evenings again. But I don’t know what is behind all that. What I do know, is that he misses me when I’m gone for doctors’ appointments, still wants me to read to him every night, and loves to curl up on my lap when we’re watching tv in the family room. He wants me when he falls off his bike and scrapes his knee. He wants me to make the chocolate milk and prepare him a cold lunch to take to school. It’s my side of the bed he slips in to when he gets lonely in the middle of the night and when we’re on vacation it’s my bed he wants to share, nobody else.
There’s no doubt I will eventually go back to work, and it will likely be later this year after my doctor releases me and the kids go back to school. But for now, even in my wanton leisure, it’s a sacred gift that illness and job loss have given me time with my family when my boys are still small. I’m praying though, that whatever I do, I’ll still be able to pick up my kids from school and tuck them in at night. I hope also that my boys will be able to say what my work is and that it won’t be, “she doesn’t work, she goes to meetings.”