Sometimes it seems as though I am in a time warp. It’s as if toddlers have the power to bend, shape and shrink time until it nearly disappears. I wonder how I will ever manage to do all the things I need to do and at least a few of the things I’d like to do. I have lots of creative projects I’d like to start and others that I’d like to finish. A lovely wool romper sits patiently awaiting more rows of stitches. There is a basket of stained clothes ready to be dyed that I am eager to tend to.
If only I had as much time as I have great ideas and good intentions. I could take a stroll in the evening or go thrifting. Surely, I’d see more of my parents, siblings and friends. While others make resolutions in honor of the New Year, I can hardly believe another year has zipped past. Has it already been a year since little Mira hurried out of the womb, eager to greet the world? Weeks into the month of January, I still haven’t found the time to make resolutions or at least take some time for reflection.
I remember when Elliot was a baby, it seemed like my days were filled to the brim with work. I’d wake up before the sun, nurse and dress the baby, hastily dress myself and scramble out the door with the baby in my arms by seven o’clock. I must admit that there were many days that we’d arrive at LifeWays with Elliot in his pajamas and his breakfast in my bag. Eventually, I just started keeping his breakfast in LifeWays’ refrigerator and five years and a baby later, I still feed the children their breakfast at LifeWays. Over the years, I’ve learned many more tricks to ease the transition between home and our home away from home.
Our days at LifeWays are both bustling and flowing, held by our strong rhythm and dynamic, supportive relationships. It is a blessing to have such lovely colleagues to share ideas, advice, and work with. Just last week I was in the middle of baking a cake when two sisters needed help saying goodbye to their mother. Miss Jane was in the kitchen waiting for her dough to rise and she graciously stepped in and finished making the cake. We help each other care for the children and our living space just as I’d imagine women in a tiny community would have done long ago. In this way, work life sometimes seems easier than home life, especially considering that at LifeWays we have a wonderful cook who does most of the shopping, prepares delicious, organic meals from scratch and does the bulk of the kitchen clean-up while the caregivers put the children to sleep.
At the end of the work day, I head home with two rosy-cheeked, well-fed little ones in tow. I prepare dinner while Mira fusses and tugs at my leg until papa arrives, when she laughs and crawls over to greet him at the door. Sometimes the children reject their food as soon as it is served. Elliot pushes his plate away or storms out of the room. Mira is even less polite and she shouts and tosses her food on the floor and the walls. Other times, they thank me kindly and eat until they’ve had their fill and then we head straight to the bath.
Mira is at an age where she must be tended to in the bathtub, so the bulk of the dinner clean-up sometimes waits for me until the children are asleep. After bath, we head to Mira’s room for some family time before bed. By seven, the baby is in bed and it’s time to read the big boy some chapters from Noisy Village, our current favorite. Sometimes, I doze off while reading Elliot his story. But he doesn’t complain, he just snuggles up to me until he falls asleep. Then I wake up with a kink in my neck and tiptoe out to tend to the dishes or the laundry or to take a shower in quiet, peace and privacy. Or, I just go up to bed and leave the dishes and the laundry and the bills until tomorrow. As I drift off to sleep, I think about the tasks I need to do, the things I’d like to crochet or paint, my family and friends, the children at LifeWays, upcoming birthdays, festivals, newsletters, blogs, and philosophy. This is when I get my brilliant ideas, deep insights, and solutions that keep me up at night.
I used to be a list person when I worked at The Factory. It was the sort of work that afforded lots of time to ponder, daydream and think about all of the things that needed to be done (as well as all of the things I’d rather be doing). When a task or idea crossed my mind, I’d jot it down in my notebook between stuffing stacks of paper into the machines. It always pleased me to cross accomplished items off of the list, even though the list continued to grow and grow.
My current work is much more fluid and free. I am not tied to a machine, but am moving throughout the center and the woods all day. I am not staring at the clock as each moment creeps to the next thinking about what I else I should be doing. I am living each moment with the children, their parents and my peers. My to do list is all in my mind, which can be a burden at times. Perhaps I should resolve to giving my lists to paper once again. Thankfully, I am able to tend to my imaginary list while I work. I can crochet and sew and do bills while the children play around me. I may not have time to go the fitness center and work on the machines, but I can enjoy a nature walk with the children. We can hike up the steepest hill we can manage and slide down the slippery slopes again and again.
While working full-time with two little ones is laborious, I am doing what I love. Whenever I am up to my eyeballs with chores and I want to complain, a little voice in the back of my mind reminds me just how easy I have it. How silly to complain about staying up until midnight putting dirty things in machines that wash them for me! There are mothers in the world this very moment trying to care for their starving children while bombs fall nearby.
Honestly, I think my situation is ideal. After becoming a mother, I was able to return to my career with my babies on my hip. I have loved LifeWays since the moment I walked through the door and am so happy and grateful that my children can spend their childhood there. We have all grown in a loving and supportive environment where the line between teachers, parents, friends, classmates, coworkers, and family is beautifully blurred. Like most working moms, I’d like to smooth the transition between home and work. Fortunately for me, my work life is very much like home life, but with more friends, forest and food.
Jaimmie Stugard has been a caregiver at the Milwaukee LifeWays for nearly ten years. She is grateful that she is able to bring her own little ones with her to LifeWays each day. She is also the music teacher in the Wisconsin LifeWays Training.
We thank you for stopping by to enjoy this article. If you would like to share your experiences working with children in a LifeWays home or center, please feel free to contact Mara Spiropoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would be thrilled to work with you to share your wisdom and experiences on the LifeWays blog.