A New Balancing Act

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"A New Balancing Act" by Christine Johnson (CatholicMom.com)

By Nadia Lala via Flickr (2013), all rights reserved.

When our family moved from Florida to Virginia 13 years ago, I stopped working outside the home and settled into life as a happy homemaker. I loved having the freedom to homeschool my two girls and go places with them whenever we needed (or wanted) to go somewhere. I could pick up and drive to Florida for a few days to attend a funeral or go bowling with the homeschool co-op or take a day and spend it at the park feeding ducks and reading The Trumpet of the Swans to the girls.

There was a period of about a year-and-a-half where I needed to work to help our debt pay-off, and I worked from home while trying to balance homeschooling two elementary-aged children. It was difficult, and I felt like I never did anything quite well enough, but we made it through and paid off what we wanted shortly after I stopped working again.

That was seven years ago, and the time came recently for another bout of Temporary Budget Enhancement. We were told we might need to replace our entire roof, and I went out that afternoon and applied for several waitressing jobs.

We try very hard to live within our budget, but when Big Stuff Happens, it’s become difficult to rebuild our safety net. With our older daughter’s graduation, there were some additional expenses that were tough to cover, and it’s left things tighter than I want them to be. We’re frugal, but we need an extra shot of income for a little while.

Part of the difficulty of even getting to the point of applying for these jobs was a matter of swallowing my pride – not just because of the monetary aspects, but because I haven’t waited tables since college. I’ve got a good education, I’ve worked as an interpreter for the Deaf, a teacher, and a small-businesswoman, but here I am waiting tables again. I don’t think I’m better than the job, but let’s just say it’s not my favorite thing that I’ve ever done. But my skill set for interpreting is lacking these days, as well as a state certification, and I don’t want a full-time job that would make it impossible to continue homeschooling my younger daughter.

So waitressing it is. 

My manager knows it’s not going to be forever (I said it would probably be about a year), and he’s fine with that. Servers tend to be a little transitory, so when it’s time for me to go, I’m not going to feel guilty about leaving. But it’s a difficult job, physically and mentally (I’m rather introverted and Hobbity). I thank God I took up running, or I’m not sure how I’d make it through this period.

But what’s changing the most is how much I’m struggling to find a balance again. I’d figured out a pretty good system in my home, and things were clicking along and working well. I could plan a menu for the month and stick to it (mostly), keep up with laundry for the whole family, and also have a generally tidy (though certainly not immaculate) home where I wasn’t embarrassed to invite people over at the last minute.

When I threw in a part-time job for me, though, things had to shift. The first thing I did was to make a schedule for the laundry: I can no longer do my girls’ laundry and I can’t wait for them to do it without a schedule. So each daughter has two days for laundry, and so do I. I wrote hints about how to be ready to start immediately on laundry morning and how to keep things going. It’s not perfect (because not everyone takes advantage of her day), but at least there’s a system.

Menu planning is something I’m still working on. I usually don’t have my schedule until the day before the new one begins, so I find myself making large portions on my days off and evenings off, then leaving leftovers in the fridge for the rest of the family to eat if I’m working a dinner shift. I still am not sure how to plan for it exactly, but I’m working on it.

Chores are having to be done with more delegation. I’ve tried leaving my Bullet Journal out with a chores list for the week down the side so that each of us can do what needs to be done when we find the time for it. This needs work, though, and I’m trying to figure that out.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been a working mother, and I haven’t worked full-time since my girls were very small and I lived near my parents. In those days, Mom would watch my girls all day while I was working. These days, my 18 year-old takes herself back and forth to work and my 16 year-old works on her to-do list while I’m at the restaurant. I still haven’t got it figured out.

"A New Balancing Act" by Christine Johnson (CatholicMom.com)

By Jerzy Strzelecki (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re a working mother, how do you pull off the balancing act? Do you have suggestions so that our family can get through this season without me feeling like I’m going to drop every plate I’ve been spinning? Please (!) go ahead and leave a comment with your suggestions.


Copyright 2017 Christine Johnson

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About Author

Christine Johnson has been married to Nathan since 1993 and has two daughters whom she homeschools. They live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, where she tries to fit in as a transplanted Yank. She blogs at Domestic Vocation about her life as a wife, mother, homeschooler, and Lay Dominican.

6 Comments

  1. I applaud all your effort! Your family is very blessed to have you, I wish I could give you some wonderful advice, but instead here is a quote from St. Josemaria Escriva:
    * Persevere along your way no matter what happens; persevere, cheerfully and optimistically, because the Lord is bent on sweeping aside all obstacles. Hear me well: I am quite certain that if you struggle, you will be a saint!
    Have a blessed day! 🙏🏼

  2. Carole King, OFS on

    Here’s some advice from Saint Francis De Sales, prefaced by me: Take things simply as they come – don’t beat yourself up if things are not perfect. Remember that even those lives that look perfect have struggles the same as you and me. Finally, time passes so quickly! This will all soon be part of a collage of memories.

    Now Saint Francis:
    HOLY PATIENCE
    St. Francis de Sales

    To have to see to a great variety of things is really a continual martyrdom; for in the same way as those who make a journey in the summer find the flies more troublesome and irritating than the journey itself, so the fact that one has to attend to a great many different sorts of things is in itself more troublesome than the actual load of business.
    You need patience, and God will give it to you, I hope, if you make a special point of asking him, and if you make yourself practice it faithfully, preparing yourself for this every morning by particularly applying some point of your meditation to it and making up your mind firmly to keep patient all day every time you feel yourself slipping.
    Do not lose any opportunity, however small, of showing sweetness of temper toward everyone. Do not trust in your industry to carry you successfully through all your affairs but only in God’s help; and then rest securely in his care of you, believing that he will do what is best for you, providing that you for your part work diligently and yet without straining. Without straining and gently, I say, for violent effort spoils both your heart and the business at hand, and is not really diligence but rather over-eagerness and agitation.
    How soon we shall be in the realm of eternity! And then we shall see how little all the affairs of this world amount to and how little it mattered whether they did or did not succeed; but all the same, now we pursue them as though they were great things. One day we shall in heaven see that what we clung to in this world was nothing more than a child’s fancy…
    Be patient with everyone but especially with yourself; I mean that you should not be troubled about your imperfections and that you should always have courage to pick yourself up afterwards. There is no better way of getting there in the end in the spiritual life than always starting all over again and never thinking that you have done enough.

  3. I worked outside the home full time almost the entire time I had children. The girls taking over the laundry is great, mine started in middle school. As far as chores, I had a chore chart on the refrigerator, and each week assigned tasks to each family member, parents included. Trading was allowed but chores were done before fun. I rotated tasks, in our family, no one likes to dust or unload the dishwasher! I took into account sports and work as they got older, which you are doing with your girls as well. I had them grocery shop, take the car to get the oil changed, and put gas in the car. In the end, they learned to be responsible and I sent them out into the world as capable adults. Which is our goal as parents, right? Good luck! I’ve read a few times this week,”perfection is the enemy of good enough” so there’s that to hold onto as well!

  4. When my kids were younger and I was working full time, I discovered when I had a weekly menu posted on the fridge and I was late in getting home. Odds were good that hubby or a kid would get dinner started. Maybe delegate dinner so you don;t have to spend days off cooking. Breakfast for dinner is usually easy to make. I also found that (as annoying as it is) I had to list out chores. Making a list and leaving it out for all to see did not accomplish anything. I needed to say something like “please make sure XY&Z is done by this day and time” or “please choose a chore form this list and complete it before bedtime”. You are no longer home full time, so the rest of the family needs to step up and assist with some of your traditional chores. You cannot do it all.

  5. My situation is a little different because I’m parenting a threenager rather than actual teenagers ;). For me, the biggest thing was my perspective–something that I recognize you may already have being a more experienced parent, so ignore this if it’s old news!
    I think we get a lot of pressure to stay on top of things and to be super organized and, if we’re not, we need the Kon Mari system or some other popular system that will radically change our lives to make us the perfectly organized people that we should be. We are told that a mess *must* make us unhappy. But for me, it was much more productive to learn how to accept a mess here and there. Yes, the essentials have to be taken care of, for sure, but I had to learn to ignore the Pinterest and magazine suggestions that a mess is always a terrible thing; a mess may just be a sign that you and your family have things to do, toys to play with, clothes to wear, food to eat, etc., when many people don’t have those essentials. I guess what I’m saying is I had to actively seek gratefulness for the areas where I felt most disorganized and most helpless, and reject the message that a little chaos *must* make me unhappy.

    Prayers for a happy return to work!

  6. It sounds as though you are off to a great start! I echo the sentiment above about not expecting things (or yourself) to be perfect. I love that you have given your girls responsibility for their laundry; maybe they can each pick up a night for dinner, too – or, perhaps work together to create a family meal. Even if it’s simple and not what you might choose, it’s a night off from making dinner and it teaches them some basic cooking skills that will come in handy.

    Mostly, be patient with yourself and recognize that this is a process. It took you years to hone your routine and a new one won’t materialize in a matter of days. I also have to wonder if God is drawing you out of your “hobbity” self with this job. You have a lot to offer – maybe he wants you to share it 🙂

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