From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

The Best of Both Worlds

I realized returning to the working world with four children, Bob, Demi, Kaila, and Drew, would be challenging. I had completed my teaching degree and felt prepared to start a new phase of my life. The house was organized, child care arranged, and meals premade in the freezer. I worked the week prior to the first day of school, and my children came with me to help me decorate my new classroom. What could possibly be difficult about being a working mom? If everything went according to plan, I could manage to have the best of both worlds. Life was good.

The first day of school arrived all too quickly. Everyone laid in restless anticipation the night before. Bob, in high school, wondered how tough his classes would be and if homework would once again cramp his social life. My fashion queens, Demi and Kaila, had fussed for many hours during the day over the dilemma of what to wear on the first day of school; now they laid awake wondering if they made the right choices. I lay worrying over all the minute details of teaching rambunctious middle school students, and more important, if my own children would be able to adjust to my working. After all, my children had been used to a stay-at-home mom for several years now; how would they manage? Drew, my preschooler, was the only heavy sleeper of the family. He snoozed, exhausted from a day of play—the bliss of being young and worry-free.

The alarm buzzed and the adventure began. Bob actually got out of bed on my second wake-up reminder. If my high schooler could move out of the comfort of his bed with plenty of time to catch the bus, it was a sign the day was going to go well. Backpacks and lunches for Demi and Kaila had been packed the night before. After only a few anxious moments about their fashion statements, they were ready for the before-school program. Drew enjoyed playing with friends at preschool, so he was always ready and set for another day of LEGOs, crayons, and playground fun.

My school day started earlier than the children’s, and with factoring in time for dropping Drew off at preschool, there would be about two hours the girls would be alone in the morning and then about a half hour in the afternoon. I had enrolled them in the before-school program, but had decided to let them gain some responsibility by staying home alone in the afternoon; Bob had an after-school job.

I experienced several moments of doubt as I said goodbye to each of my children, but it was too late to change the new voyage we were beginning. Demi and Kaila settled in with the other children, chatting and participating in activities. Demi is a “type-A worrier,” though, and was concerned about being late, so she watched the clock move toward the time the bell would ring signifying it was time to line up for the day. She went to use the restroom just prior to the bell. As she was finishing, the bell rang, so out of fear of being late, she moved rapidly from the stall, painfully slamming her finger against the door in the process. All day she suffered intense pain as her broken finger swelled. She was afraid to mention it to anyone because she knew I was not home and didn’t know what would happen to her.

Thankfully, my first day ended as quickly as it had begun. Teaching is a lot like motherhood—both are synonyms for multitasking. Drew greeted me with a big hug when I arrived at his school. I quickly drove home to check on Demi and Kaila. Kaila had a big smile and lots to share about her day; however, when I looked at Demi, she burst into tears. Through sobs she told me about her finger and showed me a swollen mass. A rapid drive to the doctor and radiologist resulted in confirmation that her finger was broken.

Okay, so the first day had a few “bumps,” but surely the second day would go smoother. The day started off similar to the first with the exception that Bob needed multiple reminders to get out of bed, and even then he barely made it to school on time. I reassured Demi that she was more important than my job and to share with her teacher if something comes up again. There were lots of good-bye hugs for all; then off we went.

I returned home with Drew after a full day of teaching challenges to find Demi and Kaila in the kitchen looking rather sheepish. Now what? They both started to talk at once. Kaila had wanted an after-school snack and had decided to heat some beans. She knew she was not allowed to use the stove, so she opened the can, put the beans in a metal pot and then into the microwave. Sparks started flying immediately. Demi stopped it, but even those few seconds was enough to damage the microwave. At that point there was nothing to do but laugh at how challenging our lives had become.

Any thought I previously had about it being easy to be a working mom was erased and replaced with the uncertainty of never knowing what was going to happen next. There are times when all a working mom can do is laugh, hug the kids, and then move on to the next moment of chaos, which is sure to occur.

Debi Callies

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