I overheard two women talking this morning at my daughter's dance class.
"You're back at work full time?" One asked. "How do you like it?"
"I'm getting used to it," the other one said, struggling to keep her toddler from falling off a ledge. "I liked being at home with the kids, but I didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything there."
"I know what you mean," the first one said. "I've worked since I was fourteen. How could I sit at home all the time?"
I bit my tongue, but what I wanted to say was: "Sometimes the most important thing in the world you can accomplish is just being there when your family needs you."
That message was brought home to me with a vengeance this week. I used to think that once my kids were all out of diapers, they wouldn't really need me anymore. Older, wiser women told me over the years that my teenagers would need me more than my toddlers did. It turns out they were right.
When I was a teen it never occurred to me to discuss anything important with my mother. She seemed so out of it; incapable of understanding anything I was going through. I went through some pretty heavy stuff during those years and told her nothing about it.
So I was honored yesterday when two of my older children invited me out to the woods with them, where they showed me every patch of ground they cover in their games, and the significance of each tree, path, mound and gully. The landscape has taken on epic proportions to them and they didn't hesitate to share all of it with me. It seems like a simple thing, but I understand the significance; they're acting out their dreams here, and they want to share that with me.
It took longer for another of my children to come to me this week and tell me about something that's been troubling him, but in the end he did and I'm forever grateful. There's nothing we can't get through as a family as long as we can talk about it. It's silence that destroys people. It nearly destroyed me as a teen.
I started this journey of simplification out of some pretty selfish desires - essentially wanting more money for fun - but with each passing week it's morphing into something new; something more important than I might have guessed. The paring down of possessions, costs and activities - or at least the preparation I've done so far - is allowing me to step back into a more prominant, more involved role with my older children, just when they need me most.
Could I have done what my children needed me to do this week if I worked full time? Possibly. I sure would have tried. But I'm more grateful than I can say that when one of my kids needed me, I didn't have to call in to my boss, wrangle time off, and try to somehow meet all my obligations simultaneously. Today my heart and my energy is where it needs to be: here at home.