My husband is working long hours these days. Last night he worked from 8 in the morning till 11:30 at night.
As a small business owner, his job is feast or famine. This is a feast. Everyone wants their plane worked on at once, everyone has a deadline. We’re grateful for the business, but also exhausted.
Sometimes I think that it would be easier if I worked too. Maybe it would take some of the pressure off him. I worry about the future, and the desire to have extra to “store up in barns” for our old age. I worry that by the time both girls have graduated from high school and gone to college, I will be 56. That’s not a very promising age to be competitive in the professional arena, especially after 20 years of being on the sidelines.
Sometimes, I do feel the pressure of the world’s judgment (or at least, my perception of the world’s judgment) on our decision to home educate, and to live on one income. And sometimes, I feel the restlessness of these years. It’s important work. But it’s often not terribly stimulating. Another load of laundry. Third grade math. Puzzling over this or that squabble, and what to do about it.
But in my saner moments, I can’t imagine how I could work. He would still have these stressful times when customers have deadlines. What would become of the kids if we were both working? How do families where both parents work full-time do it? Those I know who do it have parents who help with the kids, or, if they home school, they have spouses who help with the teaching and childcare. These things are not options for us. And right now, in the midst of this crazy season, I am very grateful that I can be here, “holding down the fort,” making Christmas preparations, schooling the girls, preserving stability so that the absence of Dad and husband can be experienced for the temporary phenomenon that it is.
I know I would enjoy working outside the home if it was just the two of us. It’s not that I am primarily a home-body by nature. I like my home, but I like the rhythm and challenge of meaningful work too. And I would like feeling that I was contributing to our household economy, rather than forever spending — groceries, clothing, gas, school supplies.
All of this is real.
But so is our shared desire to see this through. So is my admiration for the people my children are becoming in this slower-paced, more thoughtful environment. And so is the strange check I can only think of as “calling” that tugs at me whenever I try to consider (as I have often done these days) how we could make it happen if I were to go to work.
My daughters rang bells for the Salvation Army over the weekend as a part of 4H community service, and I was able to talk with the mother of one of the other girls (also home schooled). It was encouraging to me; she spoke of the challenges she’d had with an older child now about to graduate, but also of how glad she was that she had stuck it out.
For the rest of the day after that, there was a layer of quiet peace spread over everything. I still don’t have answers to all of my questions and stresses. I guess I was given for those hours an assurance — that rare, precious, elusive thing — that I’m where I am supposed to be. There isn’t a viable alternative. But also, I’m not ready to give up yet.
Like most such experiences, words fail to capture the sense of comfort and stillness that carved out a space at the heart of my gnawing anxieties and familiar cycles. It was like a Rembrandt painting where a very gentle light illuminates the key players in dark surroundings. It isn’t dramatic, or strong; it doesn’t look like enough light to take the chill away. But it shows the important part, the part you should pay attention to.