Hope and a future

Yesterday, after MANY hours of obsessive researching, we finally booked our family vacation. There are plenty of other things we could have spent that money on, but we had been saving for a trip anyway (albeit a different one that just wasn’t to be quite yet), and we’ve really been feeling like our little family could use some time away from Cincinnati for a while to enjoy each other. No Children’s Hospital, no chores and housework, no stress (ok, maybe some stress flying with 2 little ones…). The responsible part of me cringed at booking that trip, hence the obsessive researching (more on that in another post), but my sentimental side felt like we need to get away. We’ll be celebrating Eli’s recovery after his third (and probably final–fingers crossed) surgery, as well as getting through these last several months. And, for me, the part that gets my heart most excited is that we’ll be fulfilling this dream I had not long after Eli was born–my kids playing together on the beach and that blissful, peaceful feeling that life is good.

But for all of that, booking that trip has been bittersweet. Yes, it signifies the end of the dreaded colostomy bag, the end of surgeries, and our moving on with both of our healthy kids. But it also signifies the end of my time at home, and I am having a hard time with that. I can’t emphasize enough how fortunate I feel to have a job that has allowed me to take so many months off work (paid, even) because the business I’m in is so family-centric. And I have prayed over and over again thanking God for this time with my children. This time hasn’t necessarily been easy–I haven’t been at home having picnics and tea parties while I’ve been off. I’ve been managing leaking colostomy bags and a poop-covered baby and shuttling my child to countless appointments at Children’s Hospital. Eli has seen more specialists than most adults will see in their lifetime, the likes of which include an endocrinologist, neonatologist, pulmonologist, otolaryngologist, ophthalmologist, radiologist, speech and language pathologist, physical therapist, nutritionist, cardiologist, audiologist, surgeon, and primary care physician. Almost every single one of these doctors and therapists will continue to provide care for my son on an on-going basis, with the exception of the cardiologist, whom we haven’t seen since the NICU and the neonatologist, who will be dismissing Eli soon after surgery. Evie has come along to many appointments, or we’ve shelled out money at the rate of $10/hour to have our babysitter (we love her) hang out with her. With all the appointments–often several in a week–one can see how quickly that cost can climb. And speaking of Evie, while she has adjusted so well not only to having a new little brother but also to having a total change in routine, she has also been prone to toddler tantrums. So in the midst of all the poop-splosions (as we call them around here) and appointments, I’ve managed meltdowns and timeouts. It has been a grueling 6 months. Emotional. Exhausting at times (as parenting any child often is). But is has also been the happiest time of my life. That’s right. The happiest. The happiest.

For all of the miles put on my car traveling to appointments and hours (days…weeks…hell, months) spent at the hospital; for all of the baths and colostomy bag changes; for all of the throw-herself-on-the-floor-fits and trying to hear the doctor over the demands of a toddler; for all of the pumping and finally nursing (after 4 months of working on it, yeah!!) and administering of countless medications–I have loved every single minute of being home with my children. I haven’t once felt like I can’t wait to go back to work.

And that speaks volumes. Because I love my job. I don’t love the paperwork and the politics, but I love teaching. I love working with young adults with disabilities. I love it. I am passionate about it. It makes my heart beat fast and I will go toe-to-toe with ANYONE to advocate for my students. But my children make my heart beat faster. My passion for my children is greater than the passion I have for my work. And I never NEVER thought I would admit to this, but I would love to be a stay-at-home mom. After six years of school and six years in public schools, after working into the wee hours of the night for my job at the expense of my family, I would walk away from it, at least for a little while. After my parents paid thousands of dollars for me to attend a private college and I paid thousands of dollars to get my master’s degree, I would put my career on hold to be with my children.

And I never thought that was who I am. I never thought that after investing all this time and money in my education and career that I would want to stay home. Because I’m a big believer that a hard-working woman–that a woman who invests in herself–sets a good example for her children, especially for her daughters. But I also believe that I would rather bring up my children in these early years rather than pawning them off on a child care center. Don’t get me wrong–Evie went to a center we loved and I worked for a center that I would send my kids to in a heartbeat I still lived in Columbus. But I want to be home with them. I don’t want to miss another moment.

But that isn’t my reality. My reality is that our family is dependent on my income. My husband and I have had some very long discussions about this. Sometimes, when we look at it from the perspective of how much we would do without on a monthly basis, and how much he would have to make up for it in overtime (especially considering the cost of day care at about $1400/month for both kids) it almost seems possible. And it almost makes sense. But when we frame it in terms of what that looks like annually–that we would be giving up 40% of our annual household income, we are jarred back to reality. And make no mistake–it’s not that we just love money. We have bills to pay. A lot of them. And a savings to grow. In a big way. Because we have other dreams and goals for our family too. Like building our forever house in the next few years, which is going to take some aggressive saving and strategic budgeting for our family. Something that likely will be pretty much impossible without 40% of our household income. Of course, my husband could pick up extra shifts between the 2 firehouses he works for part-time (in addition to his full-time job) to try to make up for it, but he already works a lot (A LOT) for our family. I don’t think it would be in our family’s best interest for him to put in 80-100 hours/week. It certainly wouldn’t be in his best interest. And this isn’t just about what I want. This is about finding a balance that works for all of us.

For all these discussions we’ve had, I’ve considered some other options. I’ve thought about working part-time somewhere. But where? I’ve looked, that’s for sure. Or what if I provide child care in my home for a kid or 2? But whose kids? I don’t exactly know anyone looking for a full-time sitter. Or maybe I could try my hand at selling something–I know several people that have seen success with Scentsy, Jamberry, and Mary Kay. But those are risky prospects if I’m not taking them on in conjunction with a full-time guaranteed income. Because if I’m not a stellar salesperson, then what? Crawl back to HR and beg for my job back?

So I’m left in another place–being thankful for the time off I’ve had and making peace with the fact that I will still be providing for my family (in a big way) and setting a good example for my children by going back to work. I’m trying to focus on being grateful for a job that affords me a pretty decent schedule and has allowed me to spend these last months caring for my son (having my daughter at home too has been an added bonus). I pray about this frequently, and there are things in the works that I can’t really discuss yet. If there is one thing I’ve learned through all of this with Eli, it is trusting that I am exactly where I’m meant to be–it’s having faith that even if I’m anxious or worried, even if I’m trying so hard to make things happen, there is a bigger plan for our family. And though it might take what feels like an eternity to unfold, it will be revealed just as it should be.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

What a wonderful, blessed adventure I’ve had over these last 6 months. I am trusting that the next 6 will be at least at blessed. And I am so thankful.

Some of my favorite moments from the last 6 months. Thank you, Shelly, for the one where I’m lifting Eli.

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