This week, the library where I work was closed to the public. We were doing maintenance—painting, changing light bulbs and replacing ceiling tiles, dusting. I did quite a bit of shelf reading, and got caught up on some overdue projects, and weeded the book group collection.
It was a productive few days, but it taught me something. During my usual work week, I have one day shift that starts at 11:00, one evening shift that starts at three, and then I alternate Friday and Saturday. And while I was happy to work during the day instead of that evening shift, and have an extra weekend day this week, it was startling to me just how hard it was to be ready to go by 8:30, three days in a row.
Also, I got nothing accomplished after work. No exercise, no house cleaning or laundry, and one day I just bought dinner instead of trying to cook anything. Certainly no scrapbooking, writing, quilting, or other sorts of creating.
It took me quite awhile to be at peace with the fact that my life continued to bring me to the necessity of being a working mother. One reason I took my library job when I did was that I was able to return to working under my own terms; I chose instead of being forced. I think I finally figured out that despite how desperately I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, I’m actually happier having a part-time job.
I might’ve even patted myself on the back a little bit, thinking about how well I’ve managed it. Until this week, that is.
This week taught me that my schedule (not my amazing coping skills) is the thing that helps me manage work and motherhood. Sure, there’s sometimes quite a bit of shuffling, especially if there’s a sick kid, or a doctor’s appointment, or something unexpected. I rely on the flexibility of Kendell’s job to fill in what I can’t. But not having to be ready for work most days until 11:00 means I can pamper my kids a little bit—scrambled eggs sometimes instead of cereal. And I can pamper myself as well, with a little bit more time spent sleeping.
I’m a working mom, but I realized that I don’t have many of the stressors that most working moms have.
But the week wasn’t done teaching me things.
Thursday was a lay-off day at Novell, where my husband works. He managed to avoid the ax this time, thank goodness. But every time they lay people off—once every 18 months or so—I feel again that it isn’t really if he gets laid off, but when.
And when that happens? Everything will change I think. Because, here’s the deal: I love my part-time librarian job. I love it. It is perfect for me. I get to work with books: write about them, recommend them, talk about them. Touch them, even. Put them on shelves and displays, make sure they are in their correct spots. Sure, it’s not all nirvana. You should see how annoyed and irritated I am after a shift at the Internet desk. The “I want a book that doesn’t swear, has no sex or violence, nothing bad happens, but really makes me feel and learn and grow” question that I get nearly every shift makes me crazy. And the elevator nearly gives me hives it makes me so anxious.
Those are small things compared with my affection for my job, but the real issue is this: I don’t make enough money to support us. If Kendell (no...when Kendell) loses his job, if he doesn’t find a replacement quickly, we are in trouble. Even if I switched to full time, I still wouldn’t make even close enough to support us. We would, in fact, live below the poverty level.
And overlooking (with gritted teeth and a frustrated heart) the fact that it is ridiculous that I have two degrees and all the necessary skills and responsibility but yet I can’t support my family because society doesn’t really value my education or skills, the truth is, working at the library is a luxury. It gets me out of the house and it lessens my guilt (quiets that voice that says if you were really a good wife and mother you’d actually contribute something useful to this family) and helps me feel like I contribute, and sure: I do contribute. The income I bring in helps us, of course.
We just can’t survive on it.
And who knows when this place in my life will disappear? It is a goldilocks moment, really. Not glamorous or wealthy or fabulous. But not miserable, either. Gloriously flexible, in fact. A sweet spot.
So I am taking from this week this knowledge: my life right now is good. It is so good. I’m tossing it out into the universe, not in a bragging sense, but in a grateful one. My life could be so much harder. And I am going to savor it. I’m going to work harder at not wasting any second of this good time.