When we got married, we decided that one of us being home with our kids was a priority. After Olivia was born, I quit my job and stayed home. Then Brandon quit his job and picked up a new, more flexible one. So the second year I worked part-time and Brandon watched Olivia while I was at work. Then the opportunity for a higher-paying job arose. Brandon quit his job and became a stay-at-home dad. For the past two years I’ve worked full time at a wonderful Catholic high school.
I have loved my job these last two years. If I was single and had found this job, I would have felt like I had finally arrived at what I would consider my work vocation.
The problem was, even though career-wise I was flourishing, things at home were a wreck. Brandon is a really great husband and father, but he would be the first to tell you that home organization and cooking are not his forte. Before his first day of being a stay-at-home dad, he had cooked a total of three times and had worked with kids under 3, oh, hmm, never. As Brandon struggled to overcome this steep learning curve, I poured so much of myself into my work that I really didn’t have much to give when I got home. I would only see my kids from 7:30-9:30 a.m. and 7-8 p.m. if I didn’t have to work late. And most of that time was spent herding them around to baths, brushing teeth, and reading bedtime stories.
At work I really felt like I was making a difference in people’s lives, but a voice inside kept telling me that I needed to make a difference in my own kids’ lives, too. I tried to put less of myself into work, draw some boundaries, and reserve some of me for home. But slowly I wanted to be with my kids less and less. It felt like a chore to spend time with them. And if I was being really honest with myself, I would have picked working longer hours over my kids.
Brandon was really supportive of me at work, but I could also see that he was different. He wasn’t very happy. Of course, having the opportunity to spend time with your kids is wonderful and such a luxury, but we both knew it wasn’t Brandon’s calling to be a stay-at-home dad. Though he never voiced it, he seemed pretty unfulfilled. The girls were starting to develop behavior issues, and the house was a mess no matter how hard we all tried to make it better. Our house just didn’t feel like a home. We weren’t a cohesive unit working together.
I knew I needed to quit. My family needed me. But working at such an exciting place gave me such a high. Then I would come home and there seemed to be a fog over everything and my energy was completely zapped. No — I thought — I’m going to keep working and Brandon will just have to figure it out. He just has to work harder.
But that persistent voice in my head kept telling me — you have to take care of your family. Brandon and I came to the decision together after a lot of discernment. I did feel resentful. I pretended I didn’t, but I did. Part of me just wanted to blame it completely on Brandon. If he would just get his act together, everything would be perfect. It’s his fault I have to leave this great job.
My last day of work was in June. Slowly, I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t all just Brandon’s fault. He wasn’t perfect in the situation, but neither was I. He learned enough to survive the basics of the job, and we both made ourselves content with that. We both let life float by without really putting much energy into creating a vibrant home life. We just rode the wave of surviving instead of thriving. And that’s fine. Sometimes families just need to survive for a bit, but after two years I was pretty tired of feeling like that. I had put all my energy into my job and Brandon into his freelance work after the girls went to sleep.
We needed a change. Neither of us was making our family a priority.
I am not saying that the universal answer to this problem is to immediately quit work and stay home. I know for many that isn’t an option financially. But for our family, this was exactly the right answer. Since I have been home, I have started loving all the things that I used to love but didn’t have the time or the energy for. I love cooking again. I’m writing again. I’m reading again. I’ve started exercising. The girls’ behavior, while we’re still in the terrible twos and threes phase, is better. But the biggest change I’ve seen is with Brandon. He is almost floating he is so happy. He just got a new job that is perfect for him. All in all, my heart feels light.
I don’t regret working. They were hard years, but I needed to know what it was like to be the working spouse and Brandon needed to learn what it’s like to be the stay-at-home spouse. We both understand all that it takes to do both jobs and have been much more helpful to each other since.
We may make a lot of big changes, but Brandon and I know that we’re pretty prone to doing just enough to get by. We have to snap ourselves out of this pretty regularly. But our family is worth the change.
Dear Busted Halo® Readers, I’m so happy to be back and writing for this wonderful community!