It is only in looking backwards, that we can truly see what we have learned as life propels us through our days.
When I first ran my daycare, life outside of this house was put on hold from 6:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. I remember three incidents when real-life overrode my rule. Other than that, doctor/dentist/eye and any other appointments were booked during my summer holidays and any follow-up had to fall within my allotted time off. No exceptions were made to that rule.
During my hiatus from running my daycare, I furthered my education. The school that I attended was a self-study environment and you had to log a minimum of twenty five hours per week. They were open until 8 p.m. on weekdays, as well as Saturday mornings. There was flexibility on how you accomplished your goal. Even though I was working at a bookkeeping job on the side and babysat before and after school, this was the first time in eleven years that I could carve out time for myself, errands and appointments during the day. It was heavenly!
I vowed that when I started working for myself after that point, that I wanted to emulate those hours and the flexibility that I had during that time. For the most part, I succeeded.
When I worked out of my home, I got the job done. But I worked around what was important to me. I worked evenings and weekends to make up for time I may have lost during the week. The fog began to clear and I realized that there are some moments in time that you will never get back. I capitalized on those moments when they happened and still did the job that I was expected to do.
When we were concerned about Mom's health, I quite literally dropped everything and left on a moment's notice. When I saw a need that I could fill for Mom during that time, I didn't ask for time off. I came back, did the work that needed to be done and told them that I was going back. And I did. Priorities were sharply in focus.
My last year in the work force was not an ideal year, but in looking back I can see the benefits that I reaped because my work week was not a guaranteed one. I was ready, willing and able to work each day ... but when I was not called in to work, I was readily available to do what felt important to me at the time. I had the ability to book off time if I needed to go to an appointment. I was available when a friend needed a friend. I even took the occasional dance lesson in the middle of the afternoon. I didn't realize the gift that year gave me. It was another year of living a life where priorities were sharply in focus.
I have been back in my daycare provider role for close to four months now. I am tied to my home between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. I have taken on further responsibilities that take Wednesday and Friday evenings out of play. Life has to be planned a little more carefully now that I have lost the flexibility that I had come to know. But it is a little bit different this time around ...
... I have not completely shut out the world and my need to follow my rigid daycare schedule. There have already been a few occasions where I had to go to an appointment. So I arranged for alternate care for my daycare families. I saw a window in time where I knew that I needed to be available to a friend. Life outside of my daycare doors had to take priority ... and I made it happen.
I couldn't and wouldn't have followed through on these needs ten years ago. My focus was rigid and clear. I would not let my daycare families down. They needed stable and reliable care. That is what I gave them. Friends and family made allowances for my lifestyle and I don't think anyone held it against me ... but I felt better about myself when I could be there for others if I was needed.
It wasn't until I noticed the way a friend was consumed with the worry and stress over her work-outside-of-her-home took priority over a moment that will never present itself again ... that I saw who-I-used-to-be. Only who-I-used-to-be was so much less than that.
Priorities shift and sway with life's ebbs and flows. We can give different parts of ourselves at different times, depending on what is happening within our own little world. But to shut out the world? And give nothing? That is what I did for eleven years of my life. I can see things clearer now. I may not be able to give 100% of myself 100% of the time. But I can do better than I did before...