It isn’t the work itself that’s hard. I like my job; the people are wonderful, the small office sunny and bright, the values of the school in line with my own. I like being there, and I think I am good at what I do. It’s the act of getting to work that’s hard. The showering and the makeup and the clothes that are not yoga pants and the food preparation: packing 3 lunches, packing breakfast for Julia (age 7), and making breakfast for Margaret (age 4) and me to eat at home before we leave. It’s the waking Julia (if only Margaret slept late enough to need waking) and explaining, yet again, that we don’t have playtime before she goes to Before Care and then school. It’s the rushing, the snapping at the girls, the realizing at the last minute that somehow, there are no kids’ socks that match, and that Julia refuses to wear socks that don’t match, and that when I finally unearth a mate to a sock, they’re the wrong color. It’s the ultimatums, the fighting about who gets into which side of the car, which is inexplicably one of my girls’ biggest fights. It’s the fact that by the time we leave the driveway, so much has already happened, and it’s only 7:40 am.
It isn’t the work itself that’s hard. It’s the logistics of having two working parents now, even though I’m only 15 hours per week, since Scott’s schedule has not changed. There are now fifteen fewer hours in the week (more, when I factor in driving time, and getting ready, and unpacking everything when I get home) to accomplish exactly the same things. And Scott does what he can during his limited hours at home; there simply aren’t enough hours to accomplish what needs to be done. It’s the way that working brings up my sadness about living so far from family. I know that if I lived closer to some of the people I love, it wouldn’t feel quite so much like I’m managing it all on my own.
It isn’t the work itself that’s hard. It’s the thoughts about what I would be doing if I hadn’t taken this part-time job at Margaret’s preschool. It’s the fact that I had planned for 10 hours per week this year, after 7 years as a stay-at-home mom, when I would finally have regular, kid-free time. Instead, I now have less (well, no) time when I am home without my children. In my mind, if I weren’t working, my house would be clean. My laundry would be done (see: socks). I would plan meals, perhaps even prep something in advance, so that when dinner time rolls around, I’d simply pull out the ingredients to dump onto a sheet pan, bake it, and we would sit down peacefully for dinner. At a minimum, I would know before 5pm what we are eating for dinner that night. In my mind, I would be writing more, too, and would be on the way to having a full-length piece in draft form. I would be exercising more than a ten minute online barre3 workout in the morning while I'm trying not to burn my English muffin, and I wouldn't be thinking each month about whether it’s worth it to keep my gym membership when I only go on the weekends.
It isn’t the work itself that’s hard. It’s my unease about the irony of working at a play-based preschool with a focus on social-emotional skills, and yet feeling like, all too often, I snap at my own children. It’s missing them, even though my work actually takes very little time I would be spending with them, and feeling like if I weren’t working, I’d be able to focus on them, to connect better, to have more conversations that don’t involve my barking orders. It’s the fact that by the time my seven year-old wants to have long bedtime talks about friendship and Harry Potter, I’m counting the seconds until I can go to bed myself. It’s the fact that my four year old spends an extra hour per day in my office when her class ends, and that I don’t actually get much done during that time, but rather listen to her critique the lunch I packed her, each ingredient something she chose herself a mere five hours earlier.
It isn’t the work itself that’s hard. It’s everything the work affects, everything I'm not doing when I'm working, everything I'm juggling in my mind.