This week I am working as a co-teacher for Kids on the Creek at the award winning Cowan Creek Mountain Music School. John is working it as well as the faculty coordinator.  Last year, he worked as a banjo instructor.  The school’s mission is to pass the traditional mountain music on to our young people, and also to bring awareness of traditional music and eastern Kentucky styles to those adult musicians with an interest no matter their location of residence.  It is a great gathering of traditional old-time musicians of all levels and ages.   Kids on the Creek are for the children who aren’t ready to learn an instrument or haven’t developed an interest in playing music.  We teach traditional mountain culture and folkways.  It is right up my alley and so much fun.

I have developed a new understanding of what it means to be a mother working outside of the home.  Fortunately, my baby sister and my mother have volunteered their time and homes to watching my children.  My sister took them to work with her.  She is a massage therapist.  My mother is taking off of work to watch them.  I am very very blessed to have them.  So, I don’t have the expense of childcare.  But, I’m having the experience of being the homemaker and a bread winner at the same time.  I’m rising earlier than usual to tend the chickens and get breakfast.  My girls have to be awakened from sleep, urged to eat quickly, and rushed to dress.  I try to go about this all as calmly as I can, but it is hard while trying to hurry.

We get to my family’s house with no time left.  The girls are left with quick kisses and speedy instructions given to their caregiver.  I pick them up again eight hours later.  My breasts are full and heavy from not nursing.  I am tired from a day of working.  We make our way home.  The girls are cranky from being tired, and out of their usual environment.

I get us home and scrounge for supper.  I am wore plumb out, and I do the best with what I can muster up quickly without dirtying too many dishes.  I wash the dishes only if I can manage while the girls are trying to get my attention.  Then, it is bathtime, bedtime story, and night-night.  No time for much playing or enjoying outside together.  I can tell the girls are missing me this week.  My house is a wreck, and the weekend will be filled with catching us up.

I have great empathy for those mothers who have to work outside of the home for financial means, and those who choose to for reasons of fulfillment or life goals.  I am finding myself stretched thin only three days into this working routine.  I am missing the time with the girls.  After the girls go to bed, I am finding myself torn between things like whether to sleep or try some restorative yoga.  Should I write a blog or wash clothes?  It seems like there is work and the little bit of life’s chores to prepare for the next day of work.

I’m sure mothers who do this all the time have a better way to go about it than I am, but I know it has to be hard.  They have to find things at least sort of hectic.  I am reminded of why I chose to stop teaching and be an at home mom.  We live extremely within a no frills lifestyle because of it and do without what many people in our culture consider necessities, but for us it is worth it.  I don’t think it would have been good for me or my girls otherwise because I don’t have that kind of wherewithal.  I am enjoying the time working as a change of pace, but I am glad it isn’t all the time.  I am also realizing that bringing pressure onto myself to earn money means giving up a little of what I enjoy being an at-home mom.  I know what my girls eat in the day and how it was made.  I know if they are having a good day or if they need to be held or hugged.  I am the one teaching them, so I know what they are learning.  Plus, I get to enjoy witnessing most if not all of their milestones.  My girls are only children once, and me being at home works for us.

I know that having both parents working outside of the home is changing the structures of our families, but I also know how important it is for women to have that choice.  I commend those dads who choose to stay home with the babes without embarrassment too, realizing how important their new job is.  I take my hat off to women who can make outside work work for them.  I have to mention my sister and very best friend once again, because she amazes me.  She goes to nursing school in a fast track program, works at a daycare, comes home and cooks supper and prepares the kids for the next school day with homework and baths.  She juggles it all in a way that is touching to me.  She has tried not working outside of the home, and could not stand herself.  She had to go back to work.  However, her children are so well rounded and close to her.  I’m sure it takes a special sort, but as my people have always said – “You do what you have to do.”

I have been thinking so much on the condition of “family” and the roles that parents play in that dynamic so much lately.  I will be doing some more writing on this topic as it applies to me and mine.