I preach simplicity. I preach cutting back, owning less and experiencing more. This week I got the opportunity to take my own advice and, I have to say, it was not without some fear and insecurity. This week I cut back my hours at work and let my bosses know my intention to cut them back even more beginning next August.
My daughter started kindergarten this year and I’ve been struggling with the transition. She has to be at school by 7:15. (Seriously, Cobb County? 7:15???) I drop her off, have an awkward 45 minutes before I drop my son off at the babysitter and then head to work. On my lunch break I sit in a car line for 30 minutes to pick up my daughter and then drive her to the babysitter before heading back to work for the afternoon hours. I don’t get home from work til 6:45, at which point I scramble to put something healthy on the table for dinner, play outside, bathe the kids, read stories and do Elle’s homework. Yes, homework in kindergarten. What happened to coloring and petting rabbits? That’s what I did in kindergarten and I still ended up with a degree from a fancy pants university.
It’s insanity, people. Pure insanity. The pace of my day is ridiculous. I spend too much time driving and sitting in car lines. My kids spend too much time at a babysitter so that I can work. Even though we could 100% live off of my husband’s income, he is not yet committed to simplicity in the same way as I am, meaning he is not committed at all. He likes having two incomes so that he can buy expensive things. He has a high stress corporate job and he rewards himself for this stress by buying cool stuff, like flat screen TV’s and season tickets to the Falcons. If I didn’t work, those luxuries would have to go.
My husband does at least agree that our kids would benefit from more time at home with me versus the babysitter. So he is okay with me cutting back my hours. I’ll be taking Tuesday afternoons off, and my office is closed on Thursdays, so that will be two days a week that I can pick Elle up from school and have the rest of the day to spend with the kids. Next year I plan to only work mornings. My son will start preschool and I’ll work while my kids are in school and be with them when they’re not.
I will be making less money with this new schedule. Not a whole lot less, but still it’s something to get used to. This new change has shown me that I have some issues with money. I’ve been proud to be able to pay my own bills and never ask my husband for money. I like feeling independent, like I can do it on my own. But a real partnership in marriage means sharing the burden, financial or otherwise. My paycheck reduction means we had to agree as a couple that we prioritize time with our children over a fat paycheck. It was good for us to make a statement of our values and then back it up with a real life action.
Money has a lot to do with identity. I’ve always been proud to work, proud to pull my own weight in the relationship. But if I truly value my role as a mother, it won’t matter that I’m not earning a wage. I’m doing some of the most eternally valuable work, the fleeting kind that I’ll never again have the chance to do. Why would I trade that for a few more bucks?
I do want to make it clear that I recognize the luxury of choice in this matter. I have the luxury of choosing to work less. Single moms don’t have this choice. The working poor don’t have this choice. I’m choosing to cut back my consumption to have more time with my kids.
I’m choosing a different life. I’m voluntarily giving up some of my purchasing power to gain something of greater and eternal value. Since Jesus wasn’t a suburban housewife I’m not sure what he would have done, or what any of you should do. All I know is that Jesus was concerned with weighty things, things of eternal significance. My influence on my children is perhaps the most significant thing of all.