Happily Even After
Working 9 to 5
by Stacey Noem
I announced my office hours to the students I serve a week or so ago. We were meeting and someone in the group off-handedly asked what my hours would be. I answered off the top of my head “8:30-4:30” — pretty standard University hours, and what I had been keeping up to that point anyway. There was a moment after I said it that others tuned in closely and repeated back, “8:30-4:30. Everyday?” To which I replied, “Every weekday, yeah.”
It has taken a couple weeks, but the reality of having a “regular day job” is sinking in.
Quick note: I have NEVER had a 40-hour per week, 9-to-5 gig. EVER in my whole life. I won’t bore you with a complete rundown.
It is really different working a 9-to-5 schedule for SO many reasons.
First, it is just so…regular. Structurally, I do exactly the same thing each weekday. Get up, walk to work, work, walk home from work, eat dinner with family, spend an hour with family, do bath, consider spending time with Joshua, collapse into bed. Then I wake up and do it again.
Next, it is really different working a 9-to-5 job because of the role inversion it embodies. Both of my parents are professionals. They both had 9-to-5 jobs my whole life. So on some level, I grew up with a paradigm of women – mothers – working outside of the house that was good and that balanced family life nicely. But it is also a paradigm I have never embodied. Until now.
Finally, family time is significantly different for me now. Which basically means this type of “mothering” is different for me. Joshua pretty much gets the same exposure to children he would have had on any of his “at home days” in Portland. I, on the other hand, spend the week only seeing the children for 45 minutes in the morning and about 2 ½ hours in the evening. THAT IS CRAZY for me on so many levels:
I have NEVER been to drop them off or pick them up at their schools. Which means their teachers don’t know what I look like.
I had no idea Joshua frequently takes the children grocery shopping after school until we pulled into the store this weekend and there was a collective groan from the backseat because “We’re here AGAIN?!” I had only been to the store once before and was excited for the novelty. Which leads to…
I haven’t been grocery shopping here. I have no idea what brands of bread or cheese or butter are available here. Apparently most of them are significantly different, because what Joshua buys isn’t the same stuff we got in Portland.
I don’t make dinner during the week. Which means I don’t have late afternoons where I play with children until they are occupied enough on their own that I can slip into the kitchen to get the evening meal started…only to have one of them want to help…resulting in really special shared kitchen moments with one of them on the counter or on a stool telling me all about the most important or interesting parts of their lives.
It is hard not to be with my children. Much harder than I would have anticipated. Being absent from the mundane tasks that provide the framework of their days feels like…well, like I am absent.
It calls for a different family skill set from me. One in which, I must admit, I don’t feel particularly strong. I am an awesome multi-tasker on the home front, I must say. It was good times to get so much done at the house while children were at school and then have a plan for picking them up and having fun together. I rocked at that stuff.
But that isn’t what is being called for from me right now. And that means I get an opportunity for growth.
I get to grow in my ability to be present to my children.
In the morning when they are grouchy I get to grow in my ability to be extra loving and gentle (gentle happens to be something at which I do not naturally excel).
In the evening, I get to grow in my ability to engage even when my fatigue from the day makes me want to do anything but.
Being a 9-to-5 working mother is not the kind of mother I knew how to be up to now. Do I have any doubt I am in the right place for our family? No way (did I mention I LOVE my job). Do I think it will get easier as the weeks and months unfold? Maybe, maybe not. Am I up to the task of figuring it out? I’d better be.
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