Lady of Leisure

As of this morning, I am officially unemployed.

For the past year and a half, I have been working. Working for people and places that I truly enjoyed. And, for a variety of reasons,

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I’ve made the decision to not do that anymore. Some of those reasons are exciting (I’m going to write more!), some of those reasons are mundane (someone should really dust this house more often), some of those reasons are more complex and intricate, which often happens when motherhood and employment intersect.

Cumulatively, all of those reasons kept bringing me back here; to it being the right time to be at home.

When I explained to a friend all of the complicated thinking that led up to me bowing out of the workforce for a bit, she helpfully pointed out, “Oh! So, it’s like you’re taking a gap year.”

“YES,” I exclaimed. “A gap year! Exactly!”

So, sort of like Cheryl Strayed in wild. If Cheryl Strayed regularly meal planned for her family of five while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

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When the kids found out that I would no longer be leaving the house for work each morning, the first thing they asked was if I could please, pretty please, drive them to and from school every day, a prospect that I find infinitely wearisome.

After I explained to everyone that they needed to suck it up and would continue taking the school bus like the rest of the kids whose mothers don’t love them enough to personally transport them to and from school each day, Millie looked at me and asked rather accusatorially, “So, like, what are you going to DO all day?”

Bob, understanding the deep value in our union, stepped in to wisely answer, “Whatever she wants.”

Which is absolutely accurate. With all of my kids in school full-time, this fall marks the first time since 2009 that I have not served as the primary caregiver for my three children. I have mothered them tenderly and lovingly for the past eight years, meeting their every need with infinite grace, wisdom, and patience. (That is all true. Just ask my kids.)

So, yes, Millie, I’m definitely going to do whatever I want. Which, if today is any indication, appears to be some rather sloth-like behavior.

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But, I mean, I do have goals and stuff for my gap year. Outside of the writing and the excellent parenting, there are certainly things I’d like to accomplish.

First and foremost, I’d like to really, finally, for once use my Crock-Pot. Every year, as soon as it gets cold outside, I think to myself, I should find some good recipes for the Crock-pot! Throw everything in in the morning, dinner is DONE. But, every year, my Crock-Pot just languishes, completely forgotten, in the cabinet. No more! I declare this coming winter, The Winter of the Crock-Pot. (As such, please forward applicable recipes. Must appeal to the pickiest husband and children on the planet. Also, cannot contain red meat, fish, or pork. In addition, cream-based sauces are out, as are red sauces, so is an abundance of cheese, or really any dairy at all. So, none of that. But, should taste good. Thanks in advance!)

Second, I am going to continue to read. I fulfilled my reading goal of three (3) books this past summer and, with a recent raid on the local used book store combined with the library’s sale, I have a stack about ten-high on my nightstand. I’ve really missed reading so I hope my friends are all prepared to enthusiastically discuss books with me at great length that they read five to ten years ago!

Also, I’m for sure going to clean my house with greater frequency. Well, try to. I’m definitely going to put forth effort. Sort of. Probably. I’m aiming for making my bed AT LEAST twice a week.

(As an aside, Bob and I are purchasing a new range for the kitchen and I want one that has the two ovens – the smaller convenience oven on top and the larger turkey-cooking oven on bottom. I think this would be SO HANDY when I’m trying to prepare both chicken nuggets AND tator tots for my kids at the same time. When Bob and I were looking at these types of models online, I said, “You know, that bottom oven looks really low to the ground. That’s probably going to be hard to clean.” Bob looked at me, squinting in a patronizing and patient way and said, “Is that really a concern?”)

Also, I’m going to organize the crap out of every corner of this house. When we moved in, three and a half years ago, I just… put things in closets. There it all has stayed, in disarray, chipping away at my psyche. No more! I’m going to KonMari my way through every closet and dresser and cabinet in this joint. It’s going to be amazing! No one is going to be able to find ANYTHING because it will be so ORGANIZED!

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I’m also going to paint the last three rooms in our house that need to be painted. Definitely, for sure going to get that done. I might even actually hang pictures on the walls. Finally! Maybe they’ll even be FAMILY pictures – of us! That I have printed out from the computer and everything! (This is getting awfully ambitious though.)

Okay. I’m off to throw out all of my kids’ favorite things in the name of organization! (Just kidding! I’m going to go binge-watch The Good Place. I really think pacing myself is the right approach here.)

Also, don’t forget about those Crock-Pot recipes!

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Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho

About a year ago, Bob and I were having dinner with another couple and the topic of work came up. When I mentioned looking for employment, mentioned being ready to go back to work now that the kids were getting older, my friend’s husband asked what my ideal job would be. I remember pausing to really think about his question and then I replied, “Events, I would love to do something with the execution of special events.”

In an uncharacteristic achievement of a stated goal, last week, I re-entered the workforce. Working in events.

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Image courtesy of the amazing Etsy shop: TheHeirloomTomatos

I left full-time employment in 2009, shortly after Charlie was born. Two babies meant we’d entered the Extreme Zone in monthly childcare expenses and at some point, Bob and I decided it would be best for me to hop off the hamster wheel that happened to be our daily schedule with two children and two full-time jobs.

I’ve never been particularly career-driven. For example, there was no real end-goal in mind when I started college besides simply finishing it and even that didn’t seem necessarily like a mandate. I wasn’t like some of my friends who knew they wanted to be pharmacists or attorneys or engineers. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated besides “get a job.” Therefore, I selected the most general liberal arts degree I could declare and muddled my way through. Once I graduated, I basically (to borrow a new favorite term I recently heard) Forrest Gump’ed my way into a couple of great jobs, eventually landing at the U.S. Department of State working in a field that had absolutely nothing to do with my degree.

All this to illustrate that leaving full-time employment was not a difficult decision to make. Not even in the slightest. I wasn’t abandoning a dream or a passion or anything. However, staying at home to solely care for kids was never a particular end-goal of mine, either. Bob and I agreed it simply made the most sense for our family at the time. So, when I left the State Department, I quickly found part-time work in both marketing and freelance writing. Two things that I could do mostly from the comfort of my home. It was a hectic pace but a good kind of hectic. A productive hectic. And, I really enjoyed the events side of my marketing job, planning the logistics of and working on-site at an industry conference a team I worked with had developed. It was really good for me to stay employed. To keep one small grasp on something that was unrelated to child rearing. I was able to be a totally professional adult doing professional adult-y things while still caring for my young children. I was making it all work!

Then, Millie arrived.

Three kids happened to be the tipping point for our family in a lot of ways. Suddenly, we had SO MANY kids and one of the things I had to give up with the addition of a third child was my employment. We were living in Richmond at the time, Bob was working in Washington during the week and I just couldn’t keep the pace required for a part-time job with full-time kids. It turns out, I could not, in fact, Have It All. So, I somewhat reluctantly let go of my outside work. It was just another thing that had to be done. It was something that was now removed from my very busy plate and I was resigned to its necessity, if not slightly dismayed at everything that I had had to sacrifice.

The years ticked by and my kids got older and more independent. Eventually, everybody could get themselves a snack on their own (for the most part), play unsupervised outside (for the most part) and use the potty all by themselves (for the most part). Then, last fall, they were all magically in school at the same time (for the most part). It was momentous. I enjoyed the silence for about fifteen minutes before thinking, I want to go back to work. It’s time. There’s once again room for me to be employed. So, I began sending out my resume in the hopes of finding a part-time position that would mesh well with my skill set and my availability. Bonus points if it was something I actually wanted to do.

After almost a year of looking for the right fit, I have finally found something that checks all of the boxes. I’ve been hired to assist with special events at a local winery. I help make sure weddings and corporate events run smoothly and seamlessly. If I could have hand-picked a job for me right now, it would probably have been this one. I’m ecstatic to be employed again. And, employed doing this line of work.

As a stay-at-home mom, the entire process of finding a new job, while not necessarily stressful, was just super intimidating. At first, I wasn’t sure how to explain the four year absence of employment on my resume and briefly considered adding a line that just read: “2012-2016 – KEPT FAMILY OF FIVE ALIVE THE WHOLE TIME.” (I ultimately decided to hi-light my freelance writing career in that space instead.) It had also been quite awhile since I’d interviewed in-person for a job (since 2002 actually, when I interviewed with BOB), a long time since I had answered questions about my strengths and weaknesses, a long time since I had considered wearing pants that actually buttoned. It was hard to shift from the part of my brain dedicated to kid minutiae to the part of my brain that needs to be all professional and stuff. At times during the search, it just felt so hard to break back in. But, break back in I did!

As I sat talking with Bob the other evening about my first week at work, I tried to explain to him how nice it was to have a thing again. To have a little space, a little corner in my life that is reserved for something I want to do, something I’d like to pursue. As moms who stay at home full time with little ones, it can be really hard to carve out some space that is just for us, to do something or follow something that interests us. I’m so thankful to have found the space to take on this new venture.

All Wrapped Up

Christmas is two weeks away. Are you ready? Are you excited? Are you stressed? Are your kids hyped up on a seemingly never-depleted supply of treats? Are you easily tearing up at every inspiring holiday-music-filled-flash-mob-WestJet-surprise-presents video your Facebook friends link to? No? Watch this and get back to me:

As the Chief Present Buyer in our household, I am pleased to report that we are ready for Christmas. We’ve been ready for awhile now. I am an early shopper when it comes to Christmas presents and for the past few years, I’ve tried to have everything procured and stashed by Thanksgiving at the very latest.

This habit began when we lived in the city where shopping even on a random Tuesday in June can be difficult, let alone any of the days between Thanksgiving and New Years. It was always better to just get it done than battle the crowds by waiting until the season set in. That early bird shopping tradition has continued here in Richmond even though navigating the “throngs” of people down this way is not nearly as bad.

And, because Henry starts discussing what he wants for Christmas around Labor Day, it hasn’t been too hard to pick things he will genuinely enjoy. He also hasn’t yet had a last minute change of heart about anything on his wish list. As long as all of his gifts are comprised of small, multi-colored, inter-locking, will-still-be-finding-them-in-our-heater-vents-in-twenty-years plastic bricks, we’re good to go.

Charlie doesn’t have much of an opinion yet about presents. He’s still of the age of unrealistic expectations so when he wakes up on Christmas day and doesn’t find the full-size John Deere lawn tractor he requested waiting for him in our family room, he will be easily placated with the awesome walkie-talkies he’ll unwrap instead.

Millie is easy to shop for. She just wants whatever it is the boys are playing with. While they’re playing with it. So, that’s fun.

With everyone’s Christmas lists checked off, the only task left is to wrap all of the presents. If I didn’t think Millie would undermine my efforts, everything would already be under the tree. Besides, it wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t wait until the last minute to wrap and then get annoyed that I had waited until the last minute to wrap. Plus, this year ups the irritation factor because there is a bike to put together so I’m really looking forward to the arguments Bob and I will have on Christmas Eve while completing that task!

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Just in case you haven’t crossed everyone off of your shopping list yet, here’s some helpful links to some of my friends and family that might have just what you’re looking for!

My amazing sister, Julie, makes lovely things. This past weekend, she texted me a picture of a pair of mittens she had knit just… for fun. Obviously, she is hoarding all of the genetic code for CRAFTER in our family. She has lots of beautiful scarves listed in her Etsy shop. And, because she is related to me, I will forgive the proliferation of Notre Dame-related items she offers.

My friend and fellow playgroup mom, Michelle, is a graphic designer with some serious talent. She makes whimsical and fun prints for kids on placemats and posters and plaques. You can find out more information on her Imagination by hand Facebook page.

If tasty treats are more your thing, my friend, Becky, makes some unbelievable cookies and cupcakes that are as delicious as they are delightfully decorated. I think she may just be for the locals in Richmond right now but you can contact her through her Facebook page for additional details.

If you prefer to bake your own goodies, my one-time neighbor, Estela, offers a wealth of recipes for holiday (and everyday) treats on her blog, Weekly Bite. All of her featured foods are delicious however, for the holidays, I’d probably start with this one. YUM!

My favorite thing about all of these lovely women is that they have busy lives as moms (and some as employees elsewhere, too) yet, they’ve all made time to work on things they are passionate about. I just love that!

Here’s hoping the next two weeks will be as stress-free as possible for you and yours. We’ve almost made it to the finish line!