When our first child was four months old, I went back to work full-time. When she was 15 months old, our son was born. At that point, my husband Curtis and I looked at our finances and realized that we couldn’t afford to send them both to daycare. We needed to come up with another solution, and because my salary was lower than my husband’s, we decided that I would be the one to stay home. It made the most sense financially and emotionally because I had always wanted to be home with them. Even though life as a stay-at-home parent could be isolating and some days felt like I was trying to wade through a pool of sand, I didn’t regret where I was in life or what I was doing. This was where I had always wanted to be and I was so grateful to be home with them, experiencing every second of their childhood.
About five years and one baby later, my husband lost his job. We were not prepared and it was a very uncertain time. We weren’t sure where we were going to land but, through the grace of God and a wonderful, giving community, we made it through. I prayed every single day for a job to materialize in front of me and, thankfully, it did. A great job fell into my lap that offered us the financial stability that we desperately needed. After much discussion, we decided to switch things up again. This time, Curtis would be home with our children and I would go to work full time. Although we were anxious about the shift, we were both looking forward to a change of pace.
The first week was so hard for me! I drove away from my children at 8:30 a.m. and didn’t see them again until 6 p.m. I was so happy to be providing for my family but heartbroken to be missing out on the time with my kids. I felt like I was losing touch with my family and felt out of place when I was home. What was once my own space to organize and clean the way that suited me was now my husband’s. Curtis, on the other hand, took the first week to enjoy and connect with the kids. The relaxed schedule was new to him and deeply needed after so many years of strict routine.
As the weeks went on, and the novelty of our new roles began to fade, we discovered pros and cons that had not been immediately apparent. Curtis found it difficult to create regularity in his schedule. Up until then, there had been a set beginning and end to his work day. He was accustomed to having clear lines separating family life from work life. Now that he was at home with the kids, it wasn’t really clear when he was “on” or “off.”
I found that I really enjoyed the structured regularity that the workday brought. The first week seemed impossible but, as time passed, I found it less painful to be at work, away from the family. It was still hard to leave and I still loved coming home, but I didn’t feel like I was abandoning my children to provide for my family.
Going back to work was a difficult transition. In the years leading up to it, I had always dreaded the possibility of having to go back to work. It wasn’t that I was unwilling to work, it was that I couldn’t imagine being apart from my children all day. My husband had done it for years and I had no idea how he did it. I respected him so much for giving up that time with the family to support us financially.
Walking in each other’s shoes shed light on the sacrifices each of us had made on a daily basis for the love of our family as a whole, and for each other. I had no idea what it was like to work all day and then come home and have the emotion and energy of my family thrown at me the second I walked in the door. Curtis had no idea what it was like to feel every day blend together. We have become so much more patient with each other because we understand much more what the other is going through. Even though it was hard to make the change, even though I still miss the days with my children fiercely, I’m grateful to have gone down this path. It is what was best for my family and proved to be a gift to my marriage.
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