Saturday, August 11, 2012

Overflowing Plates

Note: This post is just me musing about my own personal experience as a working mom.  It is not meant in any way as a judgment of anyone else or their situation.

I’m actually sitting at work (on Friday night) while I type this.  Don’t worry; I’m not wasting company time.  We sometimes have “down time” while waiting for work to come in and tonight is a slow night.  We get to relax and entertain ourselves during this time. 

I work in the lab registration for a local hospital.  Basically, my job is data entry and insurance verification.  It is a pretty easy job and I don’t have to take any stress or worry home with me.  I am extremely blessed to have this job.  It works for my schedule, it is flexible, and I never have to think about work when I’m not there.

I actually work for the same hospital, and in the same building, as my mom.  Since she is the one who watches my kids, this is extremely convenient!  As I come into work at 3:00pm, my mom is often just leaving.  So, I just hand off my kids to her on my way in.  Then, when my husband gets off work he picks them up from my parents’ house.  They are already in bed when I get home (normally around midnight). 

The late nights aren’t a dream come true.  But, it is better than my last job where I only worked four and a half hours a night and had to work four weeknights a week and every Saturday.  This way, I only have to work two or three nights a week.  This gives me a lot more time with my family.

My job is also flexible.  I am what they call an “optional” employee.  This means that I have the option of which shifts I sign up for.  Every few months, a list comes out of days that my co-workers with regular shifts have requested off.  I can then pick up whichever shifts I want from that list.  I’m generally able to pick up two to three shifts per week during the evening hours.  My goal is to work two shifts per week plus one extra shift each month.  I am also the person that my co-workers call to cover shifts if they need to miss work for some reason.  But, I don’t have to pick up those shifts if I already have plans or just don’t want to work. 

All of these things add up to a great opportunity for this time in my life.  It helps out when money is tight and allows us to work harder at getting out of debt.  God has truly blessed me with this job!

At the same time, I am really looking forward to the day when I won’t have to go to work.  I loved the time when I got to be a stay-at-home mom and I long to return to that lifestyle. 

I heard an analogy once about every woman having a plate.  Not everyone’s plate is the same size.  And, our plates are often different sizes at different times in our life.  We can only fit so much on our plate.  For some women, that may be more.  For others that will be less.  God created us to have different temperaments and to be able to handle different things.  Too often we look at an other woman’s plate and think to ourselves, “Well, she’s able to handle that much, I should be able to, too!”  So, we pile more on top of our already crowded plate.  We become overwhelmed and the important things sometimes get dropped or squished down. 

So often I feel like my plate is actually a tea saucer.  And one that is filled to overflowing.  Yet, at the same time, I can’t really see what could be removed to make more room. 

My job is one of those things that, while necessary at this time in my life (until we are debt-free, we need the money to cover our bills), it never seems as important for the long-run.  I am missing out on time with my family, time to teach my kids, and time to take care of my home.  During weeks like this past one, when I work three evenings a week, have church on Wednesday evening, and have other activities and obligations that I can’t miss, I often feel like my plate is about to break from all that I have to do.  Right now my home is a disaster because it has had to be taken off the plate to make room for extra hours at work.  It will go right back on the top of my plate on Saturday because I am home until this evening.  But, the damage has been done.

I’m very guilty of looking to other woman and how much they seem to be able to handle and thinking that I’m a failure because I feel so overwhelmed.  I’m trying to accept that we are not all created the same and that I really can’t compare myself to others.  It is so hard sometimes, though!

Some women can work, take care of kids and husband, have a spotless house, and remain cheerful and stress-free.  My mom is such a woman.  When I was growing up, she not only worked part-time, but she volunteered at my school and was on every committee.  She was our church’s Sunday school superintendent and served the Lord in several different ministries.  She was the co-leader of my Girl Scout troop and happily took me from piano lessons, to dance class, to whichever sport I might be trying at the time.  Our house was always spotless; our clothes always clean, folded, and ironed.  Even today, she manages to work part-time, babysit my kids, and take them to activities, all while having an immaculate home.

For so many years I have tried, and failed, to emulate her.  It has taken me a long time to become comfortable with the fact that I will never be like this.  Our plates just aren’t the same size!

At the same time, I know that there are a lot of things that I excel at.  Things my mom would never even try!  I’m working to remind myself of those things when I start to feel like I’m not good enough or I’m not doing enough.

My husband has been a huge blessing in this area.  He isn’t afraid to point out when I’ve take on too much and to tell me that something has to give.  There have been things that were hard for me to give up, but he was right.  

For now, I am working to keep balance in my life the best I can.  But, hopefully, with the Lord's help, I will one day have much less to balance when I become a stay-at-home mom once again.

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