Thursday, May 6, 2010

A little bit of pride isn't a bad thing, is it?

My children make me proud every day; my husband, nearly as often. But it isn't often that I sit back and think proud thoughts about myself.

This week is different. On Monday, I sat down with my boss and negotiated reduced hours for myself for the coming year (starting in July). Along with those reduced hours, I also insisted upon a reduced salary. "WHAT!?!", you say (or at least my husband did). But here's my reasoning. I want/need reduced hours because of my children. Both will be in public school next year, where there is no after-school care. We live in a pretty remote location that makes it difficult to find a babysitter. My husband and I currently pick Jason (2nd grade) up from school every day and bring him back to work with us where he does his homework while we finish the work day. However, Donald will be starting kindergarten next year which is over at 2:45 PM, not daycare which is open until 5:30 PM, so we will have 2 kids with no place to go at the end of the day. This year's solution with Jason won't work next year; there is no way that Donald (AKA the Tazmanian Devil) can come spend the end of the day with me at my workplace without me getting fired.

I've been experiencing guilt ever since my children were born for having my children spend so much time with people other than me. Therefore, I see this dilemma as an opportunity - an opportunity to step in and spend more time with my kids. By cutting one and a half hours off the end of my work day, and reducing my lunch break to 30 minutes, I can be the one to put my kids on the bus in the morning, but also be there to greet them when they get off the bus in the afternoon. In my mind, I see us having snack and doing homework and then actually having a little bit of unhurried time prior to the dinner/bath/bed routine, something we don't currently enjoy.

Anyway, back to the reduced salary. That is something that I insisted upon because I know myself. If all we did was restructure my hours, I would feel compelled to squeeze in some work at home to make sure that I was still doing all the work of a full-time employee, even if all those hours weren't at the office, to justify still getting paid as one. But I don't just want to be with my children, I want to be present. I don't want to have to say, "I'm working; pretend Mommy isn't here right now." Instead, I want to say, with an indulgent sigh, "Sure, I'll play UNO with you one last time." or "Grab the frisbee and meet me outside!" (Yeah, I know I'm being idealistic, but I could say those things.) Taking a pay cut empowers me to draw boundaries, and say "no" when I am asked to or feel compelled to work beyond the hours for which I am being paid.

So anyway, I'm proud of myself. In my mind, and with close friends and family, I've been declaring for years how important my family is to me, how I want to be there more for my kids. Now, I feel like I have publicly taken a stance - my family is more important than my paycheck. And it feels GOOD! (And yes, I know that I am fortunate to be in a position to make this change and still have enough to afford a roof over our heads and food on the table - I know this isn't an option for every family, and even that not every family would want to make this choice.)

You know what? I'm proud of something else I did, too. At some point in the past few months, I accidentally left my nunchuks at the karate dojo. We haven't been using them lately, so I didn't realize it, but on Monday, they were given back to me. I've never left anything there before, and with good reason. If you leave any of your gear, you have to do 50 push-ups! So, on Monday, after a 45-minute karate class, I had about 5 minutes before I had to leave to pick up Donald from daycare, and I did 50 push-ups. I've never done that many before. In fact, I'm not sure I've done more than 10 or 15 at a time before. Jason cheered me on and did them along with me. The instructor stood by me and helped me count. And I DID it!! (Of course, everyone I passed for the next two days thought I was a snob because they'd wave and and all I could do was nod my head in return because my arms were too sore to raise them more than a few inches. I had to bend over in the shower to wash my hair because I couldn't reach my head otherwise.)

Luckily, you don't need to raise your arms to quilt. I've been working pretty steadily on hand quilting my Bright Future quilt. Thank goodness I have lots of hand quilting projects in the wings because I am still without a machine, and not being able to piece whenever the whim hits me is torture. Perhaps I could use the time I'm not spending piecing doing some housework.

Or not.