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Ours was a stay-at-home mom from before I was born (Ma Bell didn’t allow pregnant telephone operators to continue working…I guess the callers might “hear” her pregnancy over the phone) in an era when that was the norm. She was always available to help with Blue Birds and Camp Fire Girls, go to PTA meetings, and work on school carnivals. (One banner year she created and painted all the signs for the Orchard Avenue School Carnival by herself, but that is a story in itself.) She cherished her time at home and the creative freedom it allowed.

Because she was not the breadwinner (Daddy made the money, Mom made it stretch), she often bartered her services with the local antique dealers, repairing and redesigning jewelry in exchange for dolls or other antiques she wanted. Some of my fondest memories are of her, sitting cross-legged on her freshly made bed surrounded by her tools and current projects. These days often became visits from “that woman” who made creative chaos throughout our home.

Long after I had moved away from home, Mom began an adventure with a shared space in an antique shop, a co-op of sorts. In exchange for putting merchandise in the shop for sale she needed to work one Thursday morning each month. It seemed to me to be an ideal situation. At the end of the first month I received a phone call from Mom. When I asked how things were going, she wailed, “Knowing I have to go to work the third Thursday of the month is ruining my whole month!” I tried not to laugh — really I did — but couldn’t help it. At that time I had a full-time job outside the home, was running an after-hours typing service (pre-computers), raising my daughter, we had a kenpo karate school at home, and I was involved with several organizations and church. So the idea of one half-day monthly throwing off her schedule just cracked me up! (And I’m afraid I wasn’t very sympathetic.)

But I’m beginning to understand where she was coming from. It has been two full years since I retired from my teaching job, and although I have been quite busy between two doll clubs, church, and activities with my granddaughters, my schedule has been my own to manipulate as I wished. That is no longer the case.

In the past three weeks since I began my part-time job, I have found myself answering many questions with, “I’m not sure — I’ll have to see whether I’m scheduled to work,” or “I don’t know…I won’t have my work schedule until the week before [whatever event I’ve been invited to attend]” I’m not complaining; I think I will like my job when I’m a bit more sure of myself, and I will certainly like the budgetary wiggle room it will provide. It is just such a change to my reality. One of the keys to successfully juggling a very busy schedule has been knowing said schedule well in advance. No longer will I be locking events into place two and three months out (unless they are BIG DEAL DAYS). I will know my work schedule the Friday before the week beginning on Monday, and will adjust accordingly.

I’m sorry I laughed at you, Mom. I’m beginning to understand how you felt.