Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back to work?

School's back in session. Don't get me started on the whole August start date issue. Yes, I know kids are no longer needed in the fields for harvest season. And I know many schools have air conditioning. But I hate giving up those lazy summer evenings, when the kids can play until dark and the parents can hang out in our lawn chairs, gabbing and swatting mosquitoes. Now we're all hustling to finish homework and showers each evening. Summer is over.

This school year marks nine years that I have been a stay-at-home mom. While I've been lucky enough to supplement our income with freelance writing work, I'm not raking in the big bucks by any stretch of the imagination. No, I'm making just about what I'd make if I were working a part-time job at Kohl's or another retail outlet. So the question isn't whether I need to go back part-time or full-time; it's whether our family can handle the transition from Mom being at home to Mom doing the full-time working act again.

We've been incredibly lucky. The husband doesn't have to worry about sharing morning kid duties or juggling dinner menus. If a kid turns up sick, there's no argument over whose job is more important that day. The kids get to see me at school on my volunteer days. I'm there when they get home to go over homework and tell them to quit eating so many cookies.

But even I have to admit that I don't do a whole lot of anything at home. I'm not Mrs. Fix-It or even Mrs. Paint the Walls. (Our house's outdated wallpaper seems to be superglued to the walls, making me even more reluctant to fire up the steamer and Dif.) A healthy paycheck would be a nice addition to our bank account. But what about the things we have to give up? What about the afternoon piano lessons? What about (gasp) soccer practice? What about lazy summer days at the pool and late mornings for my sleep-loving 9-year-old? The husband's job doesn't have set hours, and he's never sure whether he's going to be home on time. How do I find something flexible?

I'm optimistically believing that the answer will be clear in due time. In the meantime, I'm printing out the substitute teacher packet for our school system and contemplating a retail stint during the holiday season. My hat's off to working families. I don't know how you do it, but I think I'll be finding out soon.