Welcome to “The New Normal”

Welcome to “The New Normal”

Well, it’s 8:55 p.m. and my eyelids haven’t permanently attached themselves to my eyeballs yet, so that’s a good sign. Good thing, too, because I need my eyeballs for the new full-time job I started today.

Wow – it’s pretty crazy for me to even type that last sentence, let alone be living in the midst of this new reality. After working either part-time or on a per-project consulting basis for the past 8 years, I am a full-time employee outside the confines of my own home.

Despite our economic circumstances, I have been (nearly 100%) satisfied with being a volunteering, ministry-working, consulting-from-home Mom, working on projects for clients on a case-by-case basis, and supplementing our unemployment income while my husband seeks full-time employment and manages the ministry. With three small children, it didn’t seem like a good idea for me to seek employment outside the home, so I didn’t. God had other ideas. And He cannot be outdone in generosity. So, during this, the 9th month of my husband’s unemployment, when hubby’s job prospects still are in the dumps and the finances aren’t getting any better, God sent me a job that I hadn’t been looking for.

As of today, I work for the local community college as a Career Specialist. For the next three months (phew – it’s a short-term position), I will be helping people with significant barriers (think childcare issues, homelessness, drug/alcohol addiction, physical and mental instability, etc.) to find gainful employment. After today’s indoctrination, I know I’ll have my work cut out for me.

Please don’t get me wrong – I am thoroughly grateful for what I’m anticipating will be a sigh of relief come bill-paying time, when, for the first time in a long while, I won’t have to squeeze my eyes closed as I fervently pray that we’ll have enough to get by until the next month. We have been just barely scraping by, and not without the generous assistance of others. It has been very humbling to be receivers rather than givers.

But as we settled in for sleep the other night, after the job offer had been made, and we reasoned – it’s only for three months … we aren’t in a position to turn down employment – I started to panic. “What about the kids?” I said to my husband. “What if they need me? Or you need me? What if I miss something?” And, in fact, today, my husband told me that I missed our 20-month-old’s singing debut of “Holy, Holy, Holy” in the car. Anyway, my husband reassured me that he could bring the kids to meet me for lunch once a week, that he would keep looking for work, that he wished he was the one working full-time and not me, that he was proud of me. That was all good enough news that I was finally able to fall asleep.

Trying to help me look on the bright side, a girlfriend enthused, “Think of it as freedom. You’re building up your career! You’ll have a lunch break for the first time in who-knows-when!” But you know, after the novelty of such glamorous concepts as “lunch breaks” and the like wore off, I decided that I don’t want to be free from my kids or my husband. I belong with them, and they with me. They are my path to holiness. In this “new normal” of 8.5 to 9 hours per day away from my little family, how do I get to be the kind of wife and mother God has called me to be?

Don’t expect any answers from me on that last question just yet – I am still working it out with fear and trembling. And a rosary or nine. And some walks around the block. And maybe a Girl Scout cookie or two.

What I do know is this – while my husband does the “stay-at-home Dad” thing, St. Joseph, whose Feast is this Friday, will be getting some extra-special prayers from this newly-minted work-a-day gal: “Please, St. Joseph – ask Jesus and Mary to watch over my family while I’m gone. Let them know I love them and I miss them terribly and that I’ll be home – where I belong – in time for dinner.”

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