The secretary handed me an envelope. “Congratulations, Jamie,” she said. “Your first paycheck.”
“Thanks,” I said. I did it! For seven years I’d been a stay-at-home mom, and these first couple weeks in the working world had been rough. Not because of my new job—being an assistant to the social worker at a retirement home was perfect for me since I love looking after people. But because juggling work and home meant I just couldn’t be there for my kids 24/7 the way I used to be.
Every day, it seemed, something happened that made me feel like I was shortchanging the four of them. Last week my two oldest, Trever and Makayla, both got sick at school. My mom picked them up and took care of them until I got off work. Still, I was guilt-stricken. I’d always been the one to read them stories and bring them 7-Up on a tray when they had the flu.
Then this morning my youngest, Calvin, wrapped himself around my legs and pleaded, “Let’s stay home together.” My husband, Kipp, had to peel him off me and hold him while I got in my van.
I slipped my paycheck into my pocket and went to my desk. Work took my mind off the nagging sense of guilt, but it came back full force when I picked up Toby, my kindergartner, at school later that day.
He came running to my van. “Look!” he said, waving a big canvas tote bag. “The class treat bag. It’s my turn! Can we make baseball cookies?” That’s what the kids call the melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies I make from scratch and decorate with white glaze and red “stitching” so they look like baseballs.
Toby climbed into his seat. “What happened to ‘Hi, Mom’?” I teased.
“Cookies, Mom,” he said. “Please?”
It about broke me in two to squelch the hope in his eyes. The cookies weren’t hard to make, but they took time—time to chill the dough, roll it out, cut it into circles, then decorate properly. Time I no longer had.
“Oh, Tobes,” I said, “the baseball cookies take hours. We just can’t make them this week. I wish we could. We’ll pick up something fun from the store.”
“But everyone loves baseball cookies. They remember ’em from preschool.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I really am.”
Toby’s shoulders sagged.
The rest of the way home I prayed silently. Lord, I need this job, but I feel like I’m constantly letting my kids down. How can I do it all?
Kipp had a good job at the chemical plant, but even with him taking all the overtime he could, more was going out than coming in. One night about a month ago, we’d sat at the kitchen table going through the bills.
“I’ve loved being home with the kids, but Calvin’s in preschool half-days now, and the others are in school all day,” I said. “It’s time for me to go to work.”
Kipp squeezed my hand. “I wish you could stay home,” he said, “but you’re right. We need the money.”
My sister offered to watch Calvin, and even in this economy, I found a job right away. Everything fell into place so neatly, I knew God had arranged it. So why was it so hard now? Wasn’t this what God wanted for me?
Kipp was working the late shift. I slept badly that night without him to console me. At work the next day I still felt troubled. On the way home I stopped at a bakery and bought cupcakes topped with bright orange frosting. Maybe Toby will like these, I thought as I carried them into the house.
The living room was empty. “Where is everyone?” I called, heading to the kitchen to begin making dinner.
I stopped in the doorway, stunned. There was my entire family, hard at work. Kipp was sliding a tray of cookies into the oven. Calvin and Toby sat at the table, cutting circles of dough with the mouth of an empty jar. Trever bent over the counter rolling out more dough while Makayla mixed ingredients for the glaze.
Toby looked up. “We’re doing it, Mom!” he said, grinning. “We’re making baseball cookies!”
Kipp shut the oven door. “Hi, hon. We could use some help with the frosting,” he said.
I said a quick prayer of thanks. Why did I think I had to do it all, Lord, when you’re always on the job, showing us new ways to take care of each other?
I went around the kitchen and planted a kiss on each of my kids’ heads. Kipp gave me a hug, oven mitts and all. Then together, all six of us, we finished making baseball cookies.
Try out Jamie’s baseball cookie recipe!
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