My first job out of college was being a bilingual speech therapist assistant for a local school district. I would sit in on therapy sessions with adorable children who hadn’t quite learned English yet and translate for the speech therapists.
I was not good at it.
While I did minor in Spanish at A&M, collegiate Spanish is much different than pre-school Spanish and I often found myself grasping for vocabulary that I wasn’t familiar with. Once, a speech therapist was reading a book about animals on a farm and the book described a pig rolling in the mud.
I didn’t know ‘pig’, ‘rolling’, or ‘mud’ so I said something like “The bacon sleeps on the floor” and then when the speech therapist asked the kids questions about the book, they had a hard time answering…I wonder why.
I only lasted a semester in that position. It was very stressful to know that I wasn’t able to do the job to the best of my ability AND it only paid $17,000 ANNUALLY. (Ya’ll, love on those school aides. I cannot imagine having to survive on those piddly little salaries).
I’ve had several jobs since then- Girl Scout outreach leader, worked at a women’s shelter, taught ESL to adults, briefly worked for a real estate agent. They might have been strange jobs, but I’ve always worked and enjoyed what I was doing.
I’ve had my current gig for six years. It’s not perfect (by far) but I love working with adult refugee and immigrants. My work does free English classes, taught by hordes of mostly wonderful volunteers. Everyone is committed.
After the Kid came home, I took lots of time off that first summer and when I went back to work my regular schedule, I remember siting in my office and breathing a big sigh of relief. I am GOOD at my job; I enjoy it; it’s familiar. I really feel like my job saved me that first year and a half of being a parent. There was one place where, at least four days a week, I knew that I could go and feel competent. It gave me something, outside the house, that was mine.
When we whirlwind adopted The Baby, I told my boss before our week-long Christmas break, “Well, I might have a baby the next time you see me” and I’ll be damned if that wasn’t exactly what happened. I ended up taking several months off so we could get everyone settled and all the doctors appointments out of the way. I went back to my regular schedule June of 2016.
And, while I still enjoy the work, balancing home life with work life has gotten much harder.
Adding a second kid completely changes the dynamics of your family. As in, we now feel outnumbered (2 kids + dog + chickens + house vs. 2 parents). These two boys have also been tag teaming us since last September. If one isn’t having some crisis, the other is.
To illustrate this point, after our last hospital stay, the Baby came home on a high dose of steroids for two weeks. And by high dose, I mean our normally chill, happy, pleasant baby has been screaming his head off, sometimes for hours. It is complete ‘roid rage. The steroids are also affecting his sleep. So, right after the hospital, three nights in a row, he would be wide awake around 2:00am- hungry and pissed. Alex and I were exhausted.
We then remembered that the doctors had said we could give him Benadryl for his allergies and so the first night we did that, it seemed like we were finally going to be able to get a full nights sleep.
But wait! The Kid is generally an excellent sleeper. He nods off and stays awake the whole night through…most of the time. When he doesn’t, he usually turns all the lights on the house on and then slams through our bedroom door like a serial killer, so that as we levitate out of the bed, all we see is the silhouette of a 4’6″zombie before we pass out from the adrenaline rush.
On the recent night that we were hopeful about getting a good night’s sleep, The Kid crashed through our bedroom door, stumbled into our bathroom, urinated, mumbled something, and then shuffled back to his room. I followed him back to his room asking repeatedly, “Did you need something? EXCUSE ME. DID YOU NEED SOMETHING?” and then laid in bed awake for 2 hours.
That is just one minor example of how our life has felt since September. Everything feels urgent. We never have any down time. Our work weeks are go, go, go, lunch, breakfast, bottles, work,phone calls to doctors and teachers on the way to work, phone calls on the way home from work, homework, counselor visits, dinner, dishes, laundry, 10 seconds of spousal eye contact, and then we pass out and do it all over again.
It wasn’t until I had dumped Alex in a friend’s car to cart him off to the ER at 3:00am and I collapsed in my bed after Vomipocalypse 2017 that I thought, “Maybe we can’t keep this pace up. Maybe we need to slow down here.”
And so, I’m slowing down.
I’m not quitting completely- I am going to be doing some data stuff and event coordination from home. I’m having to give up the people part of my job (the part that I like the most) and I’ll just be the weird girl that sends work emails at 9:24pm on a Tuesday night. “DID YOU FIND THAT STUDENT’S TEST SCORE? WAKE UP, EMILY.”
I will confess that I am a little scared about doing the stay-at-home parent thing for the foreseeable future. Change is not usually something that I enjoy. I envision that there’s a big identity shift heading my way, which could be scary.
But there’s good things coming too.
I still have one week of work left but I already feel my stress levels dropping. I can live like a chicken with her head cut off for one more week. I’m looking forward to getting to take lunch to the Kid and go grab lunch with Alex at his new fancy work building. The Baby, when he isn’t miraculously running around the house punching knee-height holes in the wall because of his steroids, is coming to a fun developmental stage where he’s actually starting to respond to us so I’m excited about being home with him for that.
Hell, I might even get to exercise. Or read! Or bathe regularly!
I can actually have the energy to cook dinner instead of putting frozen chicken nuggets and a banana in front of The Kid three times a week while I eat shredded cheese out of the container over the sink at 8:30pm.
It’s scary, but it’s good. Scary, but good. KIND OF LIKE PARENTING…AND MARRIAGE…AND EVERYTHING.
So, here’s to change! (and naps!)