Things have gotten decidedly less unconventional around here with respect to the adults’ work schedules, but the changes appear to be working for our family and we’re going to stick with it for now. I’ve decided to give my header a new look to reaffirm the focus of this blog: living the unschooling life.
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that just over a year ago, my husband was laid off from his job as an engineer and spent a few months at home until new opportunities arose. These were as an independent contractor, working largely from home. We used this as a chance to rework our life such that both of us could share in the child-rearing, housekeeping, and paycheck-earning. It seemed ideal for us to share in these duties, and for a while I thought it was all going quite well. But with the end of camping season and a new learning year beginning (Son has started in our homeschooling program this year) , I have begun to feel dissatisfied with my daily life.
Working half-days (in the home office) and child-caring half days didn’t seem to allow me to get fully involved in planning the kids’ day. More often than not I found myself using the child-caring time to catch up on housework and other domestic duties that Husband, despite his efforts and good intentions, just didn’t seem to get done. Knowing the other parent was going to have the kids in a few short hours made it easier to rely on that parent to “do something” with the kids. The fact that they are highly self-directed and play independently made it easier to fall into this habit. I felt that I was missing out on connecting deeply with my kids during the day, and I felt some repercussions for that.
I also used the extra time I had to take on more volunteer work, which soon led to over-committing myself and feeling burned out. When I also agreed to add an extra day working outside the home it didn’t take long for me to feel that it was just too much time away from the children.
And so recently I came to the conclusion that job-sharing sounds great on the surface, but choosing the best person for the job may be a better way to go. Husband excels at being the “fun Dad”, who does special things with the kids that, while fun, may not be the sort of activity one would want to engage in as part of the regular weekly routine. He also does not have a sense of what needs to be done to keep a home at the level I am comfortable with (which may be that my standards are unreasonable, of course) meaning I was still doing the majority of that work but on far less time. He is, however, an excellent and highly skilled engineer. I began to suspect that if he could work outside the home more regularly it might be better for our marriage and my sanity (an orderly home brings me peace!).
While wondering how I was going to bridge this topic with Husband without insulting him, fortune smiled upon me and fixed the problem. Husband has been made partner of the contracting firm with whom he has been working this past year, giving him a steady salary, benefits, and a commitment to making more client visits (i.e. working outside the home) both for getting new contracts and managing current ones. He also got offered a permanent, but part time, project management position with another firm that requires regular site visits. Having taken on these jobs he is really not able to commit to even one full day of child care per week.
And so it was with relief that, last week, I re-assumed my duties as full-time mother, housewife, and unschooling parent to my kids. I was supremely fortunate that my one consulting client who requires on-site visits has arranged for me to do extra work from home, meaning I now must only go out to work 1 day per week, and not every week at that. On those days we do a combination of on-call Nanny and Grandma. Both engage the children well while keeping my house tidy!
Our first week of this new schedule was last week, and I loved it! I’d spent the weekend getting the house in order, and so each day there was just minimal upkeep work to be done. Our day flowed smoothly as I focused on keeping the house tidy, doing one or two small chores, and then taking time in-between for sit-down activities with each child. I also planned an outing every day. I’ve embarked on a quest to get the kids more physically active and we’ve discovered the fun of swimming at our local pool, started up ice skating again, and are continuing our regular Nature Walks. By late afternoon the kids are ready for some down time at home, watching movies or playing on the computer, which gives me time to make a healthy, home-cooked dinner.
I swear I notice a difference in the children. There is less time to devolve from play to conflict as we move from one activity to the next. I feel so much less stressed, putting work and other commitments out of my mind, and simply trying to be present. The kids are thrilled when I say “I’d like to do something with you, what would you like?”. I’m learning that having some flow to our day seems to bring more peace to everybody.
And I notice a difference in me. I’m feeling far less stressed, I’m getting more done with the kids, and still maintaining a tidy home. I’m feeling more present during the day, and more connected to the children. I’m also having fun! On the work-from-home front, I now have two evenings “off” during the weekdays where I can get some uninterrupted work time while Husband deals with bedtime. I’m also working 3 hours each weekend morning. We have lazy, relaxing weekends so it doesn’t cut into family time much at all. I don’t feel like I’m being taken away from the kids or the housework, and yet I’m working enough to generate a significant added income. This has become more important as we embark on a search for a Home to call our own, one that will likely require some major renovation work.
I feel these changes are good for our family and I’m feeling happy about our new schedule. But you know, if we decide it’s not working for us we can always change it (and we often do!).