Three weeks into September, I think it’s safe to say that we’re back into a routine. After the long lazy days of summer, I was feeling all kinds of emotions about heading back to school, but now that we’ve been back a few weeks, I can honestly say I’ve been feeling nothing but happy lately.
Last December, I made a life decision that has done nothing but benefit my life. I made the choice to quit my part-time job that I had been working on the side since I became a teacher ten years ago. For much of my teaching career, I’ve only been able to secure short-term contracts so always needed some kind of additional work to help make ends meet. But finally, two years ago I secured a permanent position with my school board – and this year, that position finally became 100% full-time.
I’ve always had a job since I was 13 years old and have always believed myself to be a hard worker. Even when I was in my undergrad at university, I often worked two part-time jobs on the side so I could do the best to support myself and not have to depend on my parents or too many student loans. This continued well into my early 30s as I struggled to secure a career in a market that was over-run with qualified teachers, and build a family and a life with my husband and stepchildren.
But last December, the time to leave my second job behind finally came. This decision wasn’t easy to make. First of all, I felt like my family needed the extra money – no matter how much we make, there never seems to be enough. But secondly, I had finally landed a part-time job that I actually loved (working retail in a clothing store). The work was enjoyable but the staff of ladies I worked with were what made the job so wonderful – they were incredibly lovely and made such an amazing team. Plus, I got a great discount on clothes!
But the stress a second job added on my life was nearly unbearable. I taught all week, marked assignments, planned lessons, cooked dinners, tidied our house, did laundry, and took care of my family. When the much-anticipated weekend finally arrived, I had another schedule to meet – shifts at the mall- which sucked up the time I’d normally spend on the weekend cleaning my house, catching up on laundry, cooking for my family – not to mention, relaxing and taking some time for myself. There were days where I’d get home from school at 4:30, have to been at work again for 5 pm, and not get home until 10 pm or later (in my waitressing days).
The stress of that lifestyle was taking its toll. I had to start anxiety meds, I was always cranky and irritable with my family, and I was constantly worried about not having time to do the things I felt I needed to do to be a good wife, mother, teacher, and friend. I felt like my life was spiralling out of control. I cried a lot and I felt panicky and overwhelmed all the time.
Finally, last November I was at my breaking point. I couldn’t take the stress of two jobs anymore – I was seriously concerned about my own mental health, which was also affecting the well-being of my family. (Not to mention, I am pretty sure I already struggle with some level of Seasonal Affective Disorder – a kind of depression that creeps in when the season changes – usually around October/November for me). Finally, the day came where I had to make a decision. I seeked the advice from my doctor who advised me to leave my second job and assured me that I could maintain a satisfactory lifestyle without the added income. My husband was tried of having an over-worked, cranky wife (and of having to cheer me up all the time). With a heart that felt guilty for diminishing my family’s income and for leaving the wonderful women who I worked with, I gave my two-week’s notice (in the midst of the insane Christmas rush no less). My boss hugged me and was incredibly understanding which lifted the crushing guilt I had been feeling. (To this day, she is one of the sweetest, most genuine women I’ve ever met!) I worked my last shift on Boxing Day and bitter sweetly said goodbye to my amazing co-workers (and awesome discount).
As the summer neared and another school year came to an end, I started to think about all the free time I was going to have. For a brief few moments, I considered going back to my part-time job for the summer (which I would promptly leave in late August so I wouldn’t have to work two jobs again). But my husband put his foot down and said no. He knew that if I went back to work, I probably wouldn’t quit come August, and we’d be right back to where we’d been before. And I knew he was right (plus, who doesn’t want a work-free summer?!)
So I took the summer off (for the very first time since I had my first job when I was just thirteen years old), and it was marvellous. My days were wide open and I could fill them with whatever activities I wanted, without having to check any kind of schedule. If my parents planned a camping trip, I tagged along without having to book the weekend off work. If my cousins were visiting from out-of-town, I could go stay at mom and dad’s and visit family for a whole week. Or I could just stay at home, read a lot of books, go for walks with my dog, and get little projects around the house down. It felt amazing and so stress-free.
And now it’s September. We’re going into our third week of school which means I’m back to working full-time. I generally leave my house at 7:30 am and get home just before 5 pm. I usually stay late after school to get all my marking and lesson planning done so I don’t have to bring any work home. And now, when I get home I don’t have to rush out the door to my second job. I get to cook dinner for my family, take the dog for a walk, and then have an entire evening to relax. Life is so good.
Then there are the weekends. We’ve had three weekends since school went back in and each one has been perfect. I love the feeling of productivity and I’ve found the time to get projects done at home (washing bedding, cleaning, preparing freezer meals for busy week nights), but I’ve also found tons of time to relax and take time for myself. The weekends used to make me feel panicked. I’d wake up on Saturday morning and a long-list of to-dos would immediately take over my mind. I’d start trying to figure out how I was going to get everything done in between my shifts at the mall. I’d start to panick as I realized my weekend was going to slip away, drowned in more work, and I’d be left with no time to relax, before the vicious cycle started up again Monday morning.
But now that I’m not working two jobs, this season isn’t feeling so stressful. In fact, I feel so incredibly happy lately. My life feels so much more simple and fulfilling. I’m so happy with my new school, my wonderful new co-workers, and my amazing group of students who have impressed me so far. I love spending my time on the weekends hanging out with my family, cooking (something that only ever stressed me out before) and still having time to take a nap or watch mindless TV. And the thought of being able to slip away for a weekend to see family without having to book a weekend off is incredible. There are moments on the weekend now where I look at the clock and can’t believe I still have so much time left before Monday morning rolls around. It’s unbelievable and I feel so blessed. Because now I have more time to do what matters most in life – spend time with my family and spend time with myself. The benefits far outweigh any amount of added income.
Happy Sunday, guys!