Mommy can you stay home today?

     It's one of those weeks. The dishes piled up, the laundry is looking a little like a mini replica of Mt. Everest in my walk in closet, and the fridge is looking empty for lack of time to shop. It's  the week my adorable Star-Wars-tie-wearing husband returns back to school for teacher training week.  He being the ever present super hero of summer.  The kids miss that he is not at home hanging out with them.  They have not started school yet, so I have to scramble for childcare.
      No dad this week, and not much of mom either. It happens to be the week in youth ministry where our staff goes full speed ahead for our fall launch. It's time to put small groups together, do staff training, line up campus clubs, plan a fall outreach, put final touches on fall teaching schedules and make Sundays magical as students and families return from Summer and get back to church in droves. As I head for the door for ANOTHER youth ministry related night time meeting (being gone 5 out of 7 nights this week) my baby sees me leaving and starts crying her head off.
Little baby Julia was so happy to see me walk in the door, and not so happy to see me walking out the door 5 minutes later.

     The real low  is when my 7 year old asks, "Mommy can you please stay home tomorrow?" My heart sinks and I want to grab her and hide upstairs with her to watch Disney channel and eat messy popcorn together. These are the tough moments where I question, "why do I work outside the home?" So how do you deal when you start feeling that way? Here is how I make it work and keep connected with the kids I love the most (mine!). How do I stay in love with my husband when we basically have just enough time to high five each other out the door as he gets home and I head out? What to do when your conversations with your husband seem centered more on family scheduling and logistics than on fun, deep conversations together?
     As difficult as this week seems to be on the outside, it actually turned out pretty awesome. Here is why:
1) I am not a work-a-holic. Nope. If I have to be out super late doing youth ministry, you better believe that I come in late too. My kids are on their last week of summer break, and I am by all means going to enjoy it with them. My day off is on Friday (to mesh with my kid's school half day Friday schedules) and I protect it. I do whatever I can to take my day off.
2) I bring the kids to work with me. This doesn't always work. Especially now with 3 kids (one being a now mobile infant).  When my first two kids where little, it worked really well. I had worked at a church where the Sr. Pastor himself was known for having his pre-schooler nap in his spacious closet during office hours. Once my daughter threw up all over my office, and he cleaned it up so I could quickly take her home. The highest form of leadership is a Sr. Pastor willing to serve by cleaning up their staff kiddo's vomit. Seriously a rock star pastor. The associate pastor once cheerfully rescued my then pre-school age son when he put a Blues Clues potty training seat on his head and it got stuck there. Many of my favorite church staff memories involve kids in the office. Some churches are not that kid friendly. Some want to be, but can't.
     Now working at a large church, with a much larger staff, I am sensitive to the days and times when the office is mostly empty and the pastoral staff are out on their day off. If I am going to bring a kid to the office, I choose "off-peak" hours.  I don't want to disrupt their pastoral mojo, so I try hard not to bring kids into the office during our busiest work hours. Our youth offices are also on a different side of the street than the executive offices, so that helps too! So occasionally, when a babysitter mishap comes my way,  I run into the office with my kids to pick up my laptop, check in with interns, catch up with my assistant, and stay as long as I can while the kids play on their Nintendo DS or on my ipad. My cool boss never gives me a hard time either for kids in the office. Of course, I don't bring them that often either.
3) Work from home. With laptops, cell phones, cloud based docs, internet, and remote log-ins, I can do a lot, if not all of my work from home. Especially during the summer, I can invite students to my home or out to the beach with my family for those crucial relationship hours. Of course there are things like meetings, events, campus clubs,etc...that require your physical presence. But on weeks where your kids start forgetting what you look like, by all means work from home! Check with your HR department to make sure this is allowed. Sometimes you get promised the moon during the "wooing" stage of the hiring process. You don't want to later find out that all the "promises" of a flexible schedule or working from home, were never policy to begin with. Do your homework.
4) Bring the kids to youth events. My volunteers and students LOVE when I bring my kids to events. Especially the baby. We had a "Family DIVE in movie night" at the church pool this week, and I brought the family. My husband came to help me with the sound, projector, and computer set up. So he was there to help keep an eye on our little ones. Julie, one of our middle school moms (and also a rockin volunteer) held my baby as she slept through the movie. She is one of those volunteers who always asks if I brought the baby. I got to get in the pool with the middle schoolers and she got her baby fix. Bring the kids if you can. In this broken world with so much stinkin divorce, your youth group needs examples of what families are designed to be. I don't usually bring the kids, but if it's a family friendly event I do.
5) I love my husband. We are good at getting the kids to bed on time and spending the evening enjoying  TV or a Netflix movie together. We talk a lot with each other while making dinner or  in the car going places. On weeks where we don't see much of each other due to night time meetings, we catch up on weekends and try to schedule dates. We are horrible at date nights because we spend so much money on childcare already. It's tough getting babysitter $ in the budget. We are ok with "dating" at home with our favorite movies and night time fun. We have a good relationship and much of our working lives overlap. He has a lot of my youth group kids at his school and he volunteers in the youth ministry. So I see him a lot. Our common interests, common friends, and shared love of movies and all things Apple give us plenty to chat about.
6) We have fun. I opt for Disneyland days or walks down the street for burgers over laundry and clean floors. We geo-cache, we go to the Drive In. We watch America's Got Talent with our own buzzers. We have fun. We have family game nights after Saturday night church. Even on our busiest weeks, we squeeze in fun and connect as a family. We have so much fun, most of our students wish they were in our family.

My kids might beg me to stay home from work more often, but over all I can say, we have a good thing going!


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