Working part-time, throwing another ball in the air

Now that Freedom Education is off the ground (you can still join) I'm going to finish publishing my Path to Employment series. This is the fifth post and one more is coming.

In my last post of this series I told you about working for the B-RAD podcast, which is my brother's project.

I love working for my brother, it's a great gig. But the transition to working part-time, consistently and on a schedule has not been without loss or bumps in our home life.

It wasn't like there was this chunk of time that opened in my life, kids leaving home, or finishing homeschool. I think I had imagined, when envisioning working after raising the kids, that there'd be an opening, and expansiveness of time that I would fill with work. And maybe if the kids were done homeschool and completely independent it would be like this, but it's not, because the kids are still finishing homeschooled high school and these years are way more homeschool intense than I had anticipated. (Which I may have already mentioned once or twice.)

My kids are independent learners (as in, I don't tell them what to do and when to do it) but so much effort is still needed in their education: chauffeuring them places, figuring out the high school/transcript/get into post-secondary route best for each child (this one is a huge effort mentally and emotionally for me), tutoring and teaching as needed, and building and supporting the homeschool community we belong to. It's just more work than I thought it would be.

But isn't that mothering in general?

I never aspired to have a "busy" life and I resist the busyness of our culture. Collectively, it's like we're on a train and we can't get off.

My self-preservation tendencies make me cautious about having too much on my plate. Maybe because when I commit to something I give myself fully to it; it occupies my head, heart, and hands. And there's only so much those spaces can hold, and hold well, at one time. And so I'm vigilant about my boundaries and always monitoring to make sure I don't overcommit.

I fear failure from over committing. I fear losing myself and the ability to craft my own life. I fear disappointing or hurting others, or letting them down in some way.

It feels like if you've got too many balls in the air, something's going to drop, eventually.

I don't want things to drop in my life. So I like to limit the balls.

Working part-time has been like throwing another ball in the air and adjusting everything else to accommodate it. And it makes me feel vulnerable because now there's another person in my life who I might disappoint. Tasks I might not be able to accomplish. Maybe I'll fail.

Another personal growth pain for me with working is that the gnawing sense of not being "enough" for what everyone wants and needs from me has increased. I'm not enough for my homeschool community, my friends, my parents, my kids, my husband, and now my employer/boss.

I struggle with this regularly, the sense that people want and occasionally need more from me than what I can give. I feel selfish sometimes the way I guard and protect my boundaries but if I don't I'll lose things I deeply value in my life - weekends outdoors, morning writing time, evening downtime with my family. My margins.

It's a busy season and sometimes I feel overwhelmed but there's also something about the intensity of it all that just makes me buckle down and get shit done, if you know what I mean.

And perhaps the intensity, with boundaries, is good for my mental health.

Last year was my best mental health year in many years. For several reasons but certainly in part because I felt empowered by my work.

I love that I have some power through my actions to change our financial situation, instead of just hand wringing, nagging Damien, and tightening the budget.

I'm doing something about a problem in our lives and it feels good, even though it's hard.

And that's been great, obviously. But I've lost some things along the way.

I don't exercise every day, something I used to do rather consistently. There is just no room in my weekdays for this. Or rather, I'm not willing to exchange (or shortchange) the other things I cherish in my days, like time to write each morning, for exercise. I need those other things more. Thankfully, almost every weekend I'm out of the city in the mountains, hiking or skiing (yay!!), so I've started to become one of those "weekend warrior" types.

I don't make or tinker with herbal remedies right now (except for my most basic recipes, like Elderberry Syrup). I've stopped making soap, lotions, and lip balms etc. Basically all that DIY stuff that drew a lot of readers to my blog at one time.

I don't do any extras, currently, in the way of homemaking. We have our systems and routines, which include kids' cooking supper three nights a week and a having freezer stocked with store-bought frozen foods for easy weekends. Costco is my favorite store on the planet right now, and my bi-weekly shopping trips are the backbone of stocking our larder.

the bi-weekly Costco haul

I am not the homemaker I once was and I feel some shame around that, but mostly just acceptance of where I'm at and the current priorities in my life.

Neither am I the photographer I once was. Partly due to hardware failures and frustrations but also because the time I once spent on that creative pursuit I now spend connecting with my kids (or helping them with school) after our mutually busy days.

And I don't have time right now to be in Spiritual Direction, which is sad. Spiritual Direction was a light out of difficult time and would still be helpful for me in learning discernment and forming the prayer and meditative practices I want to build in my life. But there is just no time.

Thankfully, spiritual practices, in themselves, are not separate from lived life. They are not "out there", in ashrams, temples, on yoga mats, small groups, morning devotions, or church gatherings. They are available to us, at all times, and in all situations, literally as close and immediate as our breath. And so spiritual practices continue in my life just not with the same "set-asideness" I would like to give them.

Things change and evolve. That's a good thing. Stagnant pools are not refreshing to drink from.

Next post: Looking towards the future

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  • Lisa Zahn

    Lisa Zahn on Feb. 8, 2019, 4:28 p.m.

    Thank you for this series, Renee. I relate to all of the posts, and particularly this one. In fact I want my husband to read it so he "gets me" a little bit. :)

    I noticed your bit about "self preservation tendencies" because I learned recently (from Typology) that my Enneagram subtype is definitely self-preservation. I'm a 9, and I know you're a 6, but that subtype/instinct thing is strong in me. It explains so much of who I am! I need to learn more about it. Do you feel that's your subtype as well?

    Anyway, thanks for writing on this stage of life and some of the many complexities of it for women. I'm glad Costco is your favorite store right now, because I love it too and sometimes feel guilty because it's not local, etc. Ugh!


    • Renee

      Renee on Feb. 8, 2019, 5:17 p.m.

      Lisa. Thanks so much for saying "me too". I feel out-of-sync with the crunchy homemaker types (that I once was). And I'm not a full-fledged "career" woman either. I'm kind of in-between (and experiencing a lot of compromises) and it's just nice to know I'm not alone.

      Tell me about Costco guilt! I feel a lot of guilt about the packaging and waste we generate from the prepared foods I buy. But it's a compromise I have to make right now. And of course it's not local like a small market, etc. But Costco meets my family's needs where we're at and is great quality (and even lots of Quebec brands in our Costco - local-ish), it's efficient etc. And for me all the benefits outweigh the psychological and (hate to say it) environmental costs.

      Re: sub-types I'm pretty sure I'm a self-preservation sub-type (or perhaps social, haven't figured out the nuance there yet). I'm a 6 w 5. And I move to 9 in integration.


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Feb. 8, 2019, 8:08 p.m.

    I'm just amazed at how much we go through similar things... I'm buying bread, soap, face creams, sauerkraut and feel very thankful I know how to make them, but I'm at this place in my live where I'm happy to pay for them because I choose to have more time in my days for other things. And I shop at Costco and even Walmart sometimes since I live on the road. And it's OK. Most days I'm at peace with that. It's all about conscious decisions. Just like it is to not answer to everybody's request to meet and to have my opinion on an itinerary or on a curriculum.


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