So here is the whole "back to work" story. Now that I actually am, I look back on the process and am so grateful that I stuck it out. I began the process last winter, and then bagged it as I became too intimidated. I rehashed and rehashed all my possibilities. What did I want to do with the rest of my life? Should I go back to school and pursue something? I could fill this whole post with the list of questions I had been asking myself. I don't doubt my capabilities. I know I'm a competent person and see many jobs that I could be really great at. Unfortunately, I don't have much on paper that would let other people see that, too. And I'm not willing to work during summer and other school breaks unless I need to. Just my own choice...just the way we have chosen to set up our family. And I really didn't know how long we would make this choice. I knew for sure I would be home full time during the preschool years. And then I would decide once they were all in school. Well, then we decided to home school a couple years. And the years have rolled into one another and now here I am. And what I'm finding is that my kids need me as much now as they did in the preschool years. Differently, of course, but just as much. And I don't want to miss these years; they are going by too quickly as it is.
(This is NOT any kind of discussion about stay-at-home versus working moms! Many of my friends work to some degree and are doing a smashing job at both! This way has just been what Brad and I have chosen. To each her own...I wish we as women could take that approach more and stop all the judgment and comparisons. Do what you need to do, do it well, and just be thankful there are all kinds. It would be a painfully robotic world if we were all the same.)
Anyway, as I went around and around with my choices, I felt like there were very few options that would allow me to work and be home when my kids were home. The one I pursued was working at the schools. SO! After an application process that at times left me feeling very pathetic in what I could offer, and at times feeling very humbled by the encouragement I received, I am now substituting as a para-educator in a few of the local schools.
Two days after my application was finalized, the cooperative closed to all sub applications due to an exceptionally large sub pool. The great news of that is that I got my foot in the door, the bad news is the pool is so large. So I may get fewer calls than I would like. But that's okay. It's a start! I've worked now in 3 different schools, and have made some fabulous new friends.
One day was spent in a special-ed preschool. I wasn't sure how I would enjoy that, but I loved every minute of that day. Well, maybe not the minute I had to walk a little guy over to the sink to get rid of the prize he'd just pulled from his nose. But all the other minutes I loved.
My new friends included a little Down's Syndrome guy that stole my heart with his beautiful little grins. Completely non-verbal, but said so much. Such simple happiness in "playing" tetherball in the sunshine. It warmed my heart.
And then there was the autistic girl who by the middle of the day had climbed onto my lap, wrapped her arm around my neck and snapped at me like a turtle (her unique expression of affection).
That was a very fulfilling day. And it reminded me of what a "good" day really is. I had so many thoughts during that day. Thoughts about how those little people were just as "fearfully and wonderfully made" as my own. Thoughts about how Joy is really so simple. Yet we can make it so complicated. And thoughts about how thankful I was for the relative simplicity of parenting my kids. The challenges are so minor in comparison to the road some walk. Not insignificant, but certainly more minor when you use that big picture scale.
There is another special-needs girl that I probably will be working with one-on-one at some point in this school year. I am so drawn to her, and I can't even explain why. But I do know that we had a glimpse of the possibility of raising a special-needs child after Beth's accident. I would have done it with great joy if that's the road our life took. There are certain children I see, especially when they are near Beth's age, and the thought rolls through: "That could be my child." Maybe that's why I have a special tenderness for them. Maybe it's just always been there. I don't know. But I am so blessed to have these little run-ins with these sweet little friends.
On another day, while working in a kindergarten class with a very spunky little girl that would have preferred to be doing anything but working on story problems, I knelt down by that tiny table to help her draw her story problem pictures. She was rather annoyed at having the accountability to actually do her work rather than "paint" her fingernails with her magic marker. (Purple, for the record.) She rolled her eyes in a very unlovable way, but then she whipped her head around with wide eyes: "You smell just like my mommy!! I like you!!" So I guess I can add her to my list of new friends, too. Pretty stinkin' sweet, that little stinker.
So there is a very lengthy update of my new friends. I look forward to making lots more!!