I'm not exactly a retiring person. My mother used to say I had a “strong personality.” So, when it comes to life situations, I'm pretty up front. Still, I can't seem to get anyone to take my life seriously. Especially at church.
I suppose lots of stay-at-home moms have this problem. “Oh, she's home all day. She can do it.” And it's true. Being home does give us flexibility to serve when others often can't. But when one of us explains slowly and with the best enunciation that we have certain time constraints, why doesn't anyone get it?
My friends who work outside their homes get all kinds of deference. They are assigned to visit teach women who can meet with them on their off days, or in the evenings, or on Sundays, or between critical meetings with VIPs, or just after they are dropped off by their private jet. They make sure their visiting teachers are made aware of their work schedule, can accommodate it, and will provide appropriate support with regular doses of chocolate. When service is requested, non-home work-load is considered before determining who receives the delegation especially when the assignment is to create pioneer themed place settings or make carrot cake entirely from dehydrated food storage items. (Yes, it's true. No, don't try it at home.)
But I'm really getting tired of trying to convince people that my life isn't completely up for grabs, too. Yes. Really. Honest.
While my perfect life would be slightly less structured, I've found that homeschooling my six kids, taking care of my homemaking responsibilities, working (from home) in our company, running my own home business, doing public speaking, directing a choir, and serving in the church have required me to have a schedule. I've also discovered that if I don't have a schedule about the only things that occur are necessary, life-sustaining bodily functions and even those are usually multi-tasking events. Everything else goes into the black hole of good intentions.
Thus, our family has scheduled all the things we really need to do. For example, we've scheduled our homeschooling every weekday until early afternoon. This is to ensure that our children can actually read and, perhaps, learn to write their names before they are legal adults.
If I taught public school, no one would question me.
“I work from 8:00 ?4:00 at The Little Pooper's Preschool.”
“Oh, well then we'll go visiting teaching at 5:00!” or “Then perhaps we can catch you in the evening?” or “Could you tell me when parent/teacher conferences are, so we can schedule board meeting around it?”
But since I teach my kids and work from home, the situation is slightly different.
“I homeschool my children every weekday, so I am available every weekday afternoon only after 1:30. I can also go Saturday or Sunday.”
“OK, so I set appointments for Thursday at 10:00.”
I explain before being assigned a companion and teachees. I explain when I am assigned to visit women who can only accept callers in the morning. I explain before the appointments are made. I explain after they are made at a time I just said I couldn't go. I have rescheduled all the appointments myself at a time that was actually mutually agreeable. I have missed appointments that would have required me to leave my kids during our school time. I have even gone so far as to ask a repeat-offender-companion to reschedule all the appointments to any of the times I already carefully explained I was available.
The response to being insistent has ranged from anger (“I need a new companion, she can never go.”) to disbelief (“What do you do all day that keeps you so busy?”).
Yesterday I gave in and went visiting at 10:00. (The poor woman has only been cursed to be my companion for a few months, so we're still in training.) Two appointments. One hour and forty-five minutes. I could have taken the boys, but doing so would have removed the “visiting” from the teaching and left me doing prevent-the-toddler-from-doing-serious-damage-to-valuables-and-knick-knacks-whilst-intermittently-tossing-out-a-kind-word-as-you-rush-past-the-hostess teaching.
So, I accommodated. I assigned Monica to play with the boys on the swingset for the first half hour. This unscheduled requirement replaced her piano practice. Second shift, Alana read stories and played with puppets in exchange for two pages of math. Belinda was supposed to help the boys with some artwork and critical thinking, respectively (in lieu of some work on Latin roots). She missed the hand-off, leaving the boys to eat the remaining chocolate birthday cake they found while foraging, empty the last intact roll of toilet tissue in the house, and hide all the (73,218) Playmobil pieces in various crevices in the house.
Caleb also managed to replace his denim shorts and manly t-shirt with a boa and one high-heeled shoe. The collateral damage today was very high.
I'm sorry if you find it obnoxious or self-centered. But I'm just not going to take it anymore. If you push hard, I'll push back at you. I am strong and immovable. In a church where leaders sound the call for moms to stay home with their babies, you should have known I would. This home stuff is sacred. At least as sacred as selling real estate or processing insurance forms.