On July 20, 1969, the first man walked on the moon, and I changed the course of my life as a mother. I’d spent five years cultivating a career in banking. Then our first son, Jayson, was born. I worked for four months. I learned to bear his crying when I left him with a sitter. The day he cried to stay with the sitter I quit my job.
We sat in front of the T.V. that hot July afternoon, sharing the moment Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. There have been many such moments and five more children. We’ve made sacrifices to keep me home but have found ways to transform those sacrifices into memorable experiences.
Time is the number one asset of a stay-at-home working mother. I find if I use the time I normally spent in the workplace to save money by careful planning–meals, budgeting, etc. I come out ahead monetarily. With any available time leftover, I work at creating a fun and rewarding life for my family.
I’ve learned our lifestyle doesn’t work if I try to do it all. We want our children to learn the work ethic and enjoy their labors whenever possible. I don’t know where the idea of a Job Box came from, but it helped us reach these goals.
I bought a basket used for knives, forks and spoons that was divided into three sections. I added three more sections for our six children, then divided these in half lengthwise. I cut strips of laminated colored paper to fit into each child’s section. Yellow for morning chores, orange for afternoon, and light blue for evening. I drew simple stick-figures for our children who couldn’t read. The papers gave instructions, such as: wash your face, clean your room, make your bed. The older children’s chores were more complicated: rake leaves, help with dinner, etc. Sometimes I added: “Help yourself to a cookie,” or, “Give Mom a kiss.” After completing each task, they slipped the paper into the back section. It proved game-like, and they enjoyed the process.
The Job Box made life simple. Instead of asking Micah if he’d brushed his teeth, fed the cat, and completed his homework, I merely asked if he’d finished his Job Box?
We’ve learned the merit of work before play. Now we can visit friends, swim at the pool, or just loaf–all without guilt.
After finishing our chores one day, we tramped along Anaheim Blvd. to watch local athletes pass the torch on its way to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. We stopped on the walk home for snow cones. A small thing, but it made us feel like part of the Olympics. Perhaps if we’d left the house cluttered and the breakfast dishes unwashed we would have dreaded our return home. As it was, we talked about the experience, and I had a few extra minutes to write the incident in my journal.
When Micah, our sixth child, was assigned to write a report on the California Indians, we made a day of traveling into Los Angeles and took the time to explore a Native American museum. We also ate at Philippe’s, a restaurant my family frequented when I was a child. During the drive home we discussed my childhood, the aboriginal inhabitants of our area, and the history of Native Americans settling Los Angeles. What an eye-opener to recall the scenes from the museum then watch the scores of cars zip by on the freeway.
We’d also learned that the Native Americans called the Los Angeles area, Valley of Smoke before it had ever been settled by the white man. We laughed. We’d always thought it was the Valley of Smog. It felt good to be an active participant in our children’s education.
The Job Box became so much a part of our children’s routine, they no longer needed it. They did their chores without reminder. I am thankful. Every time I pass it in our storage room, I smile. It represents the conduit that led us to fun while we worked together, played hard, learned, and bonded with each other.
Does Jayson remember the moonwalk? No. But like our other children, he remembers countless occasions we’ve shared. I’m grateful my husband and I, with the help of the job box, managed to keep me home and interactive with our kids.