I have always thrived on a lot of activity. As my stepdad says, "I like to really pack it in there." I've had at least one job since the time I was fourteen. Frequently, in college, I had three jobs in addition to five courses in a semester, as well as involvement in a sorority, singing group, etc. I'm also the primary breadwinner in our family, so there was no real plan for me to stay home for an extended period after the baby was born. I would take eight weeks off, then be back and ready to go! Things would work themselves out, right?
Ummm, well, this motherhood thing is BY FAR the most time-consuming, energy-eating, long-day-making, confidence-off-kiltering job I have ever undertaken. Don't mistake me as saying that it's not worth it. The smiles, hugs, growth and development of a tiny human who kind of looks like me (!) also offer rewards that are unparalleled by any other job I've had. But I do feel like I've finally reached my limit. I could not possibly add one more regular commitment into what I'm currently juggling and maintain my sanity.
So, how does it work? Good question. Some days it doesn't! Most days it does. Three days a week, the baby stays with a sitter for eight hours. We absolutely love our sitter, and I have no qualms about the amount of time the baby spends there. I also like the fact that she gets some exposure to other children (the sitter has three of her own, and watches one older baby). The time in a mixed-age setting is beneficial. One day a week, Jeff has the baby at home. One day a week is my day "off," which means that I'm with the baby all day. Saturdays I'm with her, Sunday mornings Jeff keeps her at home or I bring her to childcare at church for the morning, and Sunday afternoons I'm with her. Two or three nights a week (on average - sometimes it's more!) I have meetings at church in the evening. The baby either comes with me if Jeff is working, or she stays home with her dad.
Recently, in an uncharacteristic move, I admitted that I couldn't do everything, and hired some housekeeping help to come twice a month and do the floors. I am famously cheap, so this was something I had to think about for a long time. But it has been amazing so far. I just couldn't look at another clump of dog hair in the corner, staring at me and taunting me about my inability to keep my house together. I could - just barely - get everything else done (kitchen, bathroom, laundry, dishes, etc). But the floors . . . no way. It just took too much time. And time is something that is so very scarce right now.
Pastoring is a notoriously demanding profession. People always need you, and there is no limit to that need. There is only a limit to your time. Parenting is remarkably similar. The baby always needs me, and the only limit to that need is her sleeping time. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by feeling so needed all the time. I am a person who, in the past, has liked to spend significant amounts of time alone, sorting out my thoughts and feelings and rebalancing myself. This is a sector of my life that has been totally decimated. I don't think I've been by myself for more than five minutes (in the car) since April 2. The lack of alone time has taken its toll on me, as I feel a little off-balance most of the time, and my actions and words are sometimes more impulsive or less well-thought-out than they have been in the past. My husband, who bears the brunt of this, is beyond understanding.
Some days, all that keeps me together is the thought that I will long for these days with a tiny baby to come back. Other days, I feel like I am capable of anything, and that this working-mom thing is a piece of cake. All I know is, when I spent those eight weeks at home with the baby, it was the hardest work I have EVER done. And that's saying something.