VOICES OF DAVIDSON
The Duck Suit and Other Adventures in the Working World
“Bless homemakers, mothers, servants who minister in the home and who maintain sacred sanctuaries to which tired persons return at the end of the day.” -Part of a prayer by Norman Shawchuck
I started working when I was 15 years old, illegally. Technically, in 1989, you had to be 15 and a half with a work permit and I had neither, but back then, Chick-fil-a didn’t seem to care. So, I got my red and navy striped uniform and off I went to batter and fry chicken. $3.35 an hour. Yeah, baby. The world was my oyster. After I gained some confidence flipping chicken and also a couple hundred dollars in my bank account, I decided I had plenty of time for a second job, especially since I was only allowed so many shifts due to my age. So, I took another job at Claire’s Boutique piercing ears. NEVER let a 16 year old pierce your ears. I won’t go into detail but there’s more than a few stories there about lopsided piercings and several funky infections.
But, I digress.
Soon, it was apparent I had the work ethic to take on a third job so I began cleaning my piano teacher’s house every Saturday morning for $10.00, which seemed like a doggone fortune and always gave me enough cash for a Saturday evening of hanging out at Taco Bell for bean burritos and smack talking.
Now, after being fired from Chick-fil-a for giving away free food to friends (my work ethic was great, but so was my talent for chicken thievery), I took on a string of jobs, such as waiting tables at several different restaurants, delivering room service at 5:30 in the morning (my least favorite job), being a copy girl at a Science Lab, setting up chairs at a conference theatre, cleaning more houses, raking yards, and a host of other oddities that I can’t remember. Finally, I graduated college with a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in Theatre and started my exciting career as a professional actress, which lasted about eight crazy years. My first pro acting gig was being a big stuffed duck at a theme park and my last was a lead role in a state of the art theatre that sat nearly 3000 people. Whew! It was a long, hard eight years. But, then I was getting married and the fickle world of theatre had worn hard on me, so off I went to learn a new trade, which happened to be personal fitness training. After four years of training everyone from stroke rehab victims to jocks looking to bulk up, I finally decided to hang up my ‘workers hat’ and settle down to raise a couple babies. Ah, to say the least, this gal was ready for a break.
Wait, did I say ‘a break’? Raising babies is EXHAUSTING. I thought I could take on anything with ease (I once played a big duck for a summer, remember? I got tackled and punched more than once by gangs of kids running at me full steam ahead. One can only run away so fast strapped with 50 pounds of fluff and webbed feet). But motherhood kicked my arse. I was exhausted all the time. I remember sitting on the porch with a kid thrown over my shoulder and another chewing on my calf, watching Kevin drive away for work and thinking, ‘GOD, I wish that were me!!’
Well, it wasn’t me. I was ‘taking a break’ from working, right? Um, wrong.
Don’t let me paint a picture of being home with your kids as the worst thing in the world. It certainly was not, but what it WAS was a serious adjustment that I never quite got the hang of after years of overlapping jobs. During naptimes, I found ways to insert myself back into the workforce. I co-started a little craft business and also started selling overstock Abercrombie and Fitch on eBay (which all turned out to be counterfeit. Oops. That’s a whole other story we won’t get into). I just couldn’t let myself NOT work. I don’t know if it was habit or ADHD or what. But I just couldn’t quite let go. So, when Lilly was 5 and Molly was 3, I opened an art gallery (oh, forgot to mention that I also painted and sold my crafts at fairs, online, and to giftshops. I literally dabbled in just about everything). But, it paid off and there I was, working again. Back in the swing of things. Back to crazy work weeks and chaos at every turn. Because work and chaos are two things I did best.
Fast forward nearly eight years. I was tired. Mentally, physically, emotionally. Now in my 40’s, I wasn’t managing working all hours, being a full time mom, and having a traveling husband very well. My ability to bounce back was bouncing back and hitting me in the face, knocking me down at every turn. And I mean knocking me down flat. I started to feel that old feeling again. Time to back off and get back to my babies, who weren’t babies any longer but two young ladies. They needed me very, very much, although they would never say it. I absolutely felt the nudge of God to give it all up again and ‘work’ from home. So that’s what I did.
Once again, I’m bowled over by the amount of work it is to be at home. My kids are 14 and 16, and their needs are more intense now than when they were toddlers. It’s all totally, completely normal, but it still shocked me at how physically, mentally, and (mostly) emotionally exhausted I am at the end of the day, taking care of my family and home. It was then I finally realized how bad I was at trying to keep up my gallery and be a decent mom and wife at the same time.on’t get me wrong. I’m certainly NOT saying if you work full time you are not a good mom. Many people balance all that beautifully, But I did not. My non-organized self could not make it work. So, for me, giving it up to stay home was the right choice.
And, though I still get that ‘I really should be working’ feeling, because, remember, I’m a worker. I work. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always done. That’s when I remind myself that my girls ARE the work right now. My home IS the work right now. Making sure I’m creating a place of love for my family to come home to and recharge and feel safe and accepted is the work right now. Cooking them feel-good meals they will remember and not being so exhausted that I can’t stand listening to one more story about their day or why they are sad or happy or excited or who they have a crush on, that’s the work right now. Teaching them to do their laundry and treat people with respect and to love each other even when they ‘hate’ each other, that’s the work right now. Volunteering at school when they want me to and making myself available for them (not in a needy way but a necessary way), that’s the work right now. And, I’m just not the kind of person who could work full time and create the home atmosphere my kiddos needed (also remember, my husband travels all week and can’t help.)
And, although there’s lots of times I hear the scream within me saying, ‘What about me? Who is taking care of ME right now?’ A 20-minute power nap before I pick the gals up, a cup of coffee with a friend after drop off, a couple mornings working out with my favorite gals, an evening out with my crazy lady friends, that’s all part of the work, too – the work of keeping me sane while I continue the work of loving my family and making sure they are taken care of. Ahh. Coffee and wine are my friends. Besties, really.
Years ago, when I was having trouble making the switch to staying home with the littles, Kevin brought me home a ‘gift’ to help me feel better. It was a book entitled, ‘Happy Housewives’. I took it from his hands, and I believe the thought that ran through my head was, ‘Do you want me to kill you now or later, Pig?’ But, I put down my mental machete long enough for him to explain how he heard about the book on the radio to rave reviews and thought I might find some camaraderie in it. And, honestly, he was right. Those reviews were right. I loved the book. It was not crazy conservative (although I am fairly conservative). She was just like me and right up my alley and I learned so much from the book. I actually still have it. I would even recommend it.
So, don’t mean to offend anyone with the lingo, but I really am a ‘Happy Housewife (and mom)’ these days. I’m doing what I’m meant to do right now, doing what’s needed. Some days are harder than others. But, all is well and I’m right where I should be. My girls will be gone in four years, and I’m sure I’ll be ready to jump feet first back into work when the time comes. And, I’m sure I’ll be more than ready.
But, I will NOT be donning that duck outfit again. Ever.
Kristen Feighery is a self-taught folk artist, originally from southeastern Kentucky. She spends her days painting anything not nailed down (and some things that are), chauffeuring one daughter to sporting events, having tea parties with the other, and writing a blog. She's also married to a rather large Irishman and has a pub in her house. Really.