Oh this might be a long one….

Most of you know I was a full-time SAHM (Stay at home mom) for 5 years before I decided to do full-time daycare out of our home.  Sure, I was living the dream- sleeping in, hanging out with the kids, we did swimming lessons, gymnastics and dance, all kinds of sports.  In the summertime we’d hang out at the pool.  We had lunch dates at least once a week with friends.   Playdates.  Shopping.  The ability to take naps.  The freedom to go wherever, whenever!  It WAS fun.  I loved it!  I knew I was living the good life. 

But the strange thing was….every day when Jim came home from work, he’d ask me, “how was your day?”  My reply was, “OK.”  And that’s truly how I felt.  It wasn’t “Great!”…it was just “OK”.   Every day was the same.  I didn’t look forward to weekends, because they were no different than a weekday.  Sometimes they were more work because we usually had some sort of home project to do.  

When I first became a SAHM,  Jim and I lived very traditional roles:  he brought home the bacon, I cooked it!  I enjoyed the “housewife” role and all the responsibility of keeping a house and family.  I had dinner on the table every night when Jim came home from work.   And the best part was we had our weekends free to spend together as a family because I took care of everything during the week (laundry, cleaning bathrooms, grocery shopping, etc).  I was queen of the house. 

So….if our evenings and weekends were free, and I was the queen of the house….then why was every day just “OK”? 

Fast forward to today….

When Jim comes home and asks me how my day was, I usually say, “It was “Great!”  I love my weekends.  I love my evenings.  I look forward to them.  And I love my job, too!  I am so much happier now.  I didn’t even realize that I was unhappy back then until just recently.  

Sure, there are things I miss desperately.   Like the ability to go grocery shopping at 9am when the store is empty and the kids are in school.  The ability to go to Target or Fred Meyer in the morning to snatch up the sale items or newly clearanced items before everyone else gets there.  Or to go Costco at 10:00am on a Tuesday.  The ability to hang out with Jen at McDonald’s while the kids play.  The ability to sign up my kids for dance and gymnastics classes through THPRD.  The ability to go grab a Carls Jr Famous Star (no special sauce and no onion) whenever the craving hits.  Or take a nap when I’m plain ‘ol tired!  Or watch the ‘chick flicks’ that Jim doesn’t want to see, while he’s at work.  Or go berry picking at 6am.  Yeah, I miss those things.

But I’m happier!  I think the difference is that I’m WORKING.  I really think working is what IT is.  I am responsible for other people and other people are depending on me.  I suppose it’s kind of like having a boss, in a way?  Yet I am my own boss!  

I love my job because not only am I home when my kids are home, but it’s like we have a really big family.   I have six kids home with me every day, yet I didn’t have to go through six pregnancies!   Every child is special in their own way, down to their little quirks and personalities and I really enjoy every moment.  OK, well not EVERY moment because these guys are two and three years old, and everything isn’t perfect ALL the time.  Right? 

But what I love is that my day has a purpose and someone is depending on me, someone other than my kids and my husband.  The house is still clean (probably cleaner actually!) and dinner is still on the table as much as possible.  And things like grocery shopping and trips to Costco are now done after work as a family outing.  I can sometimes do a load of laundry during the day.  But there’s certainly no naps, Carl’s Jr runs, or being first in line at Fred Meyer to pick up a wii.  No morning ballet or gymnastics.  And if I want to go berry picking or meet a friend for a coffee, well that has to take place after work, which means time away from my family, so that’s no fun, but it’s not an impossibility.


The home life of a childcare provider…..

Doctor appointments, car maintenance, parent-teacher conferences….those are extra complicated now.  Don’t get me started- I need to schedule 2 weeks off for a surgery this year!!

I took a childcare provider overview class YEARS ago, about 10 years ago actually.  I remember the gal having us look around the room.  She said that if every one of us became a provider, over half of us would shut our doors within 2 years.  WHAT?  WHY?

It is extremely easy in this line of work to feel housebound…and not take time for yourself.

Think about it…those of you who drive to work, do you know how precious that ALONE time is?  It’s just you in your car, listening to what YOU want to listen to.  Nobody is talking to you.  It’s time that you can sit back and reflect in peace.  Golden.  Sometimes I wish I had a commute. 

Not to mention you COULD stop by the store on your way home, right?

And what about your lunch break?  Sure some of you work through lunch or eat it at your desk, but I bet most of you use your lunchbreak to run an errand, or go grab a bite to eat.  Socialize with other people.  Maybe even get the oil changed in your car, or get your teeth cleaned or get a hair cut.  You could even use your lunch break to go see your daughter’s talent show at school.

Yeah…..we daycare providers don’t get a lunch break.   We’re lucky if we can spend 30-seconds in the bathroom!   I would LOVE to have a real lunch break and I would love to be able to stop at the store on the way home!

I get razzed every now and then for having a childcare that closes at 5:00….earlier than most.  Actually, most of my families pick up between 3:30-4:15!!  Closing at 5:00 keeps me sane.  That’s already a 10-hour day.  As much as I love my kids and families, and my home, I would go bonkers if I was putting in 11 or 12 hour days without a break.  I cringe at the thought- yikes!

I’ve learned that in order for me to be happy with my job, I need to make time for ME.  I need to have contact with my friends.  I need adult conversation.  I need child-free moments.  I try to squeeze some of that in during “quiet-time” (daycare naps)…spend that time doing “stupid stuff”- it makes me feel better.  Not household responsibilities or ‘chores’, but just things for ME.  That might be Facebooking, editing digital photographs or scrapbooking, talking to a friend on the phone, sitting on the couch watching TV, surfing the web, reading a book or magazine, or baking cookies or muffins.  I need those few moments of peace and brainless activity.  

But the part I’ve struggled with the most is getting myself out of the house.  I am very family oriented.  When my family is home and together, I don’t want to leave them.  My husband has been working all day, he is tired, he wants to come home and relax.  My kids have been at school all day, they want to spend time with Mom and Dad.  I feel awful saying, “Mom’s leaving for a few hours!  See ya later!”.  So I don’t go. I  turn down invitations from friends to join them for a drink.  I turn down invitations to go to home parties or open-houses.  It’s not healthy (relationship-ally speaking).  I know I need to make the time for myself, but I just can’t for some reason.

So I found a solution.  I recently contracted with a fellow childcare provider who Subs for other providers in the area.  Every other Friday, she comes over for 2.5 hours…so I can leave my house.  ALL ALONE…TIME ALL TO MYSELF.  I can go get a coffee.  I can meet a friend at McDonald’s. I can go shopping.  I can get a hair cut!  I can volunteer in my daughter’s preschool class.  I can get a massage.  I can get my tires rotated.   I now have have 2.5 hours of ME time, kid-free, without taking time from my family, and without inconveniencing my daycare families by closing for a 1/2 day!  It’s a WIN-WIN (the kids all LOVE HER!) and something simple like this truly adds to my well being.

Balance.  That’s what life is all about.  That’s the big secret.  You can’t work too hard. You can’t play too hard.  You can’t be with your family 100% of the time.   And you can’t be away from them 100% of the time.  Find your happy medium and do your best.