Thursday, September 12, 2013

Get Thee to Daycare

Chef Matt and I are a DILOK family. The slightly more crowded cousin of DINKs, DILOKs are Double Income, Lots of Kids, and that distinction comes with the challenges you might expect: the chaos, the four wildly different levels of ability and neediness, the lack of time to get anything done.

And then there's the challenge that I did not expect to be one. In our DILOK family, both of us love our jobs. Like really love our jobs. They are careers that we sought out and have cultivated for almost a decade, and aside from the normal off-day, we enjoy going to work every day.

The problem lies with the jobs we have chosen. My job, in the nonprofit world, is not likely to be very lucrative. Matt's job, in the restaurant world, is shackled with unusual hours. When a stagnant salary is mixed with night and weekend shifts, I can't help feeling that the ones who suffer from our job choices are our kids.

We had a lot of kids for a number of reasons: 1. we love having them, 2. we could, 3. a big family is important to us. As parents, it is our responsibility to bestow upon them all of the time, talent and treasure that we have to give, but in some ways, our jobs plus our large family limit the amount of time and treasure available. We don't have weekends together as a family, or most evenings, either. We won't be able to take a lot of vacations or pay for every lesson our kids want to take.

We could fix that if we wanted to make different choices. I could get a job in the corporate world, and Matt could find a job with banker's hours. And believe me, we've talked about it and the benefits for our family. Two whole days a week together! Piano lessons for everyone!

But I've started to wonder, as I wade through the mommy guilt, if loving our jobs isn't equally beneficial for our kids. Kids are smart. They can sense tension and stress and frustration in your voice, posture and emotions, just as much as they can sense contentment and passion. Since going back to work two weeks ago, I feel more centered and inspired, because every day I work at a job I believe in, with people who also believe. I adore my kids, but I'll admit that I am a mediocre stay-at-home mom. I am a much better mom when I am spending my days doing what I'm good at and what drives me.

Someday, when they start to take more notice of our conversations and the things in our house, they'll see the piles of cookbooks their daddy reads like comic books, and the stacks of books on historically famous and obscure topics, which their mommy is simply unable to part with. They'll hear Matt talk about his halibut dish that's going like gangbusters, and hear me talk about some old document like it's a Rembrandt, and what they'll really be hearing is pride. And enthusiasm. And motivation. I want them to know that aspiring to be successful can also mean that you have found a calling, and are making it happen.

Do I wish we had more time and money? Sure I do. And I know how we can get both of those things, but at the moment, we'll stay put. It seems a little selfish, like we're indulging in a great luxury at our kids' expense. But if we make the most of the time and treasure we have to give, our talent can be one of the best lessons we offer.