"A New Balancing Act" by Christine Johnson (CatholicMom.com) By Nadia Lala via Flickr (2013), all rights reserved.

When our family moved from Florida to Virginia 13 years ago, I stopped working outside the home and settled into life as a happy homemaker. I loved having the freedom to homeschool my two girls and go places with them whenever we needed (or wanted) to go somewhere. I could pick up and drive to Florida for a few days to attend a funeral or go bowling with the homeschool co-op or take a day and spend it at the park feeding ducks and reading The Trumpet of the Swans to the girls.

There was a period of about a year-and-a-half where I needed to work to help our debt pay-off, and I worked from home while trying to balance homeschooling two elementary-aged children. It was difficult, and I felt like I never did anything quite well enough, but we made it through and paid off what we wanted shortly after I stopped working again.

That was seven years ago, and the time came recently for another bout of Temporary Budget Enhancement. We were told we might need to replace our entire roof, and I went out that afternoon and applied for several waitressing jobs.

We try very hard to live within our budget, but when Big Stuff Happens, it's become difficult to rebuild our safety net. With our older daughter's graduation, there were some additional expenses that were tough to cover, and it's left things tighter than I want them to be. We're frugal, but we need an extra shot of income for a little while.

Part of the difficulty of even getting to the point of applying for these jobs was a matter of swallowing my pride – not just because of the monetary aspects, but because I haven't waited tables since college. I've got a good education, I've worked as an interpreter for the Deaf, a teacher, and a small-businesswoman, but here I am waiting tables again. I don't think I'm better than the job, but let's just say it's not my favorite thing that I've ever done. But my skill set for interpreting is lacking these days, as well as a state certification, and I don't want a full-time job that would make it impossible to continue homeschooling my younger daughter.

So waitressing it is. 

My manager knows it's not going to be forever (I said it would probably be about a year), and he's fine with that. Servers tend to be a little transitory, so when it's time for me to go, I'm not going to feel guilty about leaving. But it's a difficult job, physically and mentally (I'm rather introverted and Hobbity). I thank God I took up running, or I'm not sure how I'd make it through this period.

But what's changing the most is how much I'm struggling to find a balance again. I'd figured out a pretty good system in my home, and things were clicking along and working well. I could plan a menu for the month and stick to it (mostly), keep up with laundry for the whole family, and also have a generally tidy (though certainly not immaculate) home where I wasn't embarrassed to invite people over at the last minute.

When I threw in a part-time job for me, though, things had to shift. The first thing I did was to make a schedule for the laundry: I can no longer do my girls' laundry and I can't wait for them to do it without a schedule. So each daughter has two days for laundry, and so do I. I wrote hints about how to be ready to start immediately on laundry morning and how to keep things going. It's not perfect (because not everyone takes advantage of her day), but at least there's a system.

Menu planning is something I'm still working on. I usually don't have my schedule until the day before the new one begins, so I find myself making large portions on my days off and evenings off, then leaving leftovers in the fridge for the rest of the family to eat if I'm working a dinner shift. I still am not sure how to plan for it exactly, but I'm working on it.

Chores are having to be done with more delegation. I've tried leaving my Bullet Journal out with a chores list for the week down the side so that each of us can do what needs to be done when we find the time for it. This needs work, though, and I'm trying to figure that out.

It's been a long time since I've been a working mother, and I haven't worked full-time since my girls were very small and I lived near my parents. In those days, Mom would watch my girls all day while I was working. These days, my 18 year-old takes herself back and forth to work and my 16 year-old works on her to-do list while I'm at the restaurant. I still haven't got it figured out.

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If you're a working mother, how do you pull off the balancing act? Do you have suggestions so that our family can get through this season without me feeling like I'm going to drop every plate I've been spinning? Please (!) go ahead and leave a comment with your suggestions.

Copyright 2017 Christine Johnson