For the past two-and-a-half weeks my husband was home every. single. day. This was, of course, due to the federal government shutdown. He was furloughed, along with many, many other people. Naturally, this was a source of stress and anxiety in the house in terms of finances, but it also had another, unexpected effect: it dramatically changed the rhythm and dynamic of the house.
In some ways this was immediately for the best. He did school drop off and pick up for the boys, he took care of errands that I would normally do, he took care of projects that have been on our “to-do” list for a long time, and he played with the boys during the dinner-time rush, which meant for two-and-a-half weeks I didn’t have to navigate kids underfoot or bickering as I cooked—which was really nice.
But there were also ways in which this change was challenging for us, especially at the beginning. I had grown used to working from home in an empty house—now there was someone else there all the time. At times, we both wanted or needed to use the computer. And probably the most unexpected, and slightly embarrassing to admit: I felt like my claim of “I’ve been doing the kids all day, now it is your turn” lost a lot of its legitimacy, which meant I felt less comfortable asking him to pick up the slack, especially on the weekends.
About a week in, though, we found a new rhythm and a new dynamic. We negotiated well. We were much more relaxed and comfortable, even as the financial worries lingered. And now that he’s back at work, I actually (kind of) miss the new dynamic and rhythm we had established.
Looking back it made me realize that making changes to your way of life is sort of like climbing, whether it be a rock, a tree, or a steep hill. There are times when you are excited, times when you are terrified, times where you aren’t sure where you are going to put your foot next, and often times when you are tired. But when you get to the top: the view is amazing and you look back at what you’ve done and where you’ve come from. And you are proud.
That is sort of how I feel now that this blip in our lives has passed. There were times that were really difficult, times that were stressful, but we did it together and we figured it out. And now, looking back at what we did and the fact that not only did we not kill each other, but we actually managed to recognize the high points and celebrate them—I am proud of us.
All of these changes and ups and downs have got me thinking a lot about the changes that the people I work with make in their lives. The changes can be big and they can be small, but many of them are profound and do change the rhythm and dynamics of their lives. I’d like to think, and they tell me, that these changes are for the better. But change of any sort can be daunting. We are used to our rhythms, to our dynamics, to our way of life as it is—even when it isn’t working for us—so recognizing that change is needed and actually taking the steps to make those changes, to start climbing that rock… that takes real courage.