If you have known me more than a couple years, you have observed that I piece together my work life in a new way almost every year. I think that since the kids were born there may have been a couple stretches of two years when I did things exactly the same way but otherwise there’s always some sort of rearrangement, and when I say that we’ve tried every type of child care out there, I am not kidding.
This is something I value highly about my career and one of the reasons I chose to run my own practice: I get to decide the days and hours I work, rearranging things to suit the changing needs of my family over time. I have never worked more than 3 days outside the home since Baxter was born 9 years ago, but running a business is a full-time job so I am accustomed to squeezing in the paperwork, billing, and report-writing at other times. It is much, much easier now that I have two school-aged children in the same school, believe me, but still not exactly a piece of cake.
I hired a full-time speech-language pathologist to work for me nearly two years ago, so for a while now she’s been seeing the vast majority of our clients. For the first school year after hiring her, I co-directed a wonderful preschool program, and this past year I’ve continued with a couple long-standing clients and have been running the business the rest of the time. This has taken a great deal of my time now that I am a Blue Cross Blue Shield provider. This business model has worked out very well for the past year, insofar as I was able to spend four afternoons a week at home with the kids and volunteered in Lyle’s kindergarten class a lot. I was also one of the Room Parents for his class. I’ve had time to cook more, do errands during the work week, and meet friends and colleagues for lunch. I’ve also done some great consulting jobs with school districts and families, made possible by my flexible schedule, and that’s been really fun for me. I’ve had time to start the Communication Therapy blog, jump start the music class I’d always wanted to create, and visited quite a few schools and other programs in the Chicago area to better understand what’s out here. I’ve also had a chance to put new systems into place that have made the business run more smoothly. Having more time at home allowed me to spearhead getting a dog and to be here getting him acclimated to our home. It has worked brilliantly for my family, despite not being as lucrative as hoped for due to the economic downturn. It’s challenging to support myself and a salaried employee when neither of us is ever quite busy enough on paper. But, again, it was perfect for Lyle’s first year in full-day school and the practice did just fine during a very tough economic period in Chicago; I would do it all over again.
But June approaches, and big changes are afoot. My amazing employee is moving out of state and I am on my own again. It doesn’t make sense financially to replace her, even if I could find another such magical employee. And so we’re back to simpler times in my practice, with just me providing the therapy (with Northwestern grad students, I hope) and a new business manager coming on board to take over the bookkeeping and billing. I will go back to being a therapist, which is why I started a practice in the first place. I’ll be working three long days in my new clinic, starting the first week of the boys’ summer vacation next month. I’ve chosen Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday to accommodate the million days off in public school (which usually fall on Mondays and Fridays) and also to give me opportunities for long weekends year round.
I have no doubt that this change is a good move for my professional life. I’m looking forward to getting back into the flow of treatment and being involved with a variety of kids and their families again. I sense my old energy for it coming back and that’s a terrific feeling. At the same time, I feel mild trepidation about the impact of this change on my family. They’re used to me being around and available more, and so am I. My kids will probably go to some type of after school care a few days a week next year; now that they are older there’s no need to invest in a babysitter at home, which has really never been in our budget to begin with. I envision later dinners and some homework being done in the evenings on my work days; these things are hard to imagine for my early-to-bed boys. The evenings and weekends will be busier for Matt and me as we try to make up for the daytime hours I will no longer be around the house.
I know I will find my balance again. The past nine years have taught me how to do this as the intensity of my work waxes and wanes. In preparation for increased work outside our house I have begun to pull back on my responsibilities; I won’t be a room parent next year, for example, but hope to go in on my days off occasionally to help out. Perhaps we’ll feel we can afford help with housecleaning again, which would lighten our load on weekends. I’m grateful that I have this summer to get back into the groove of my new schedule before we add the kids’ busy schedule and all the insanity that the school year brings back into the mix.
My life is like a puzzle that gets taken apart once a year and put back together in a completely different way, but it’s a really good puzzle that holds all the things that make me happy: family, home, friends, work. And as long as it does, I know I can make it all fit.