For most of my marriage, I’ve been a stay-at-home mama and homeschool teacher. My spouse has been the sole bread-winner.
When we purchased a restaurant in December of 2015, I assumed that the effect of our decision would be confined to my husband’s employment only.
I never dreamed that our choice to buy an eatery would have such radical repercussions on our whole family life, including our homeschooling.
On November 30th, my beloved and I penned our names on a stack of legal documents, and the following day, we reopened the doors to Rosalini’s under Brelinsky ownership. Our older children were eager to help as cashiers, dish washers, cleaning crew and cooks (alas, I wish they were equally eager at home).
My husband worked as the chef, and our eldest son joined in as manager. It was all hands on deck from day one.
I Didn’t Bank on the Trickle-Down Effect
I knew a period of adjustment would be required, but what I hadn’t banked on was the trickle-down effect which quickly pervaded our whole routine. Teens working in our restaurant meant chores left unmanned at home and an increased need for chauffeuring services.
The flexible schedule we’d enjoyed in our schooling had to be refined to meet the demands of work shifts. There was no longer time for the Friday afternoon co-op, and the older kids needed greater oversight to insure they weren’t shirking studies in their pursuit of income.
Because my husband cooked nearly every dinner for the 23 years of our marriage, I’d never needed to expand my culinary skills beyond brownies and toast; but suddenly, I had to figure out how and when to prepare the evening meal.
Also, I’d promised to help promote our new venture, though I had zero experience. I was an old dog forced to learn new tricks overnight while still maintaining the duties of our homeschool of 5 students and a toddler.
I was overwhelmed.
Juggling the household and homeschooling had already been a full-time endeavor for me (when I had help), but now I was the only adult in charge from 8:30am until well past bedtime (which never seemed to come some nights) 6 days a week.
I’d always relished Daddy’s homecoming from work, not only because he cooked the evening meal, but because it allowed me a little downtime once there was another wise person who could answer burning questions and referee debates.
Someone Was Watching Me Intently
Nose-deep in my internal struggle, battling (and losing) temptations toward resentment, I realized that my eldest son was watching me intently. While my husband and I had discerned a calling to take this giant leap of faith, our young adult son had had his reservations about God’s role in running a business.
Faced with his suspicions, I came to recognize that I had an example to set. All those religion lessons I’d taught throughout my homeschool career would be for naught if I failed to exemplify our faith through my words and actions at this critical moment. I had to cast off my anxieties and embrace this challenge.
Since our long-adhered-to ways of doing things had been turned upside-down, I needed to find fresh strategies for keeping family life and homeschooling in order.
Here are a few of the changes we’ve implemented:
1. Daddy starts the day off right
I asked my husband to assume the task of waking our homeschoolers at 7am every weekday. He is in charge of barking out the orders to insure they brush teeth, change clothes, consume breakfast and retrieve schoolbooks before I sit down to start the rosary with them at 8am.
I use my hour alone (relatively speaking) to put myself together. It’s only an hour, but it has done wonders for setting our school days off on the right trajectory. Additionally, it keeps me accountable by removing the temptation to sleep-in.
2. Plan meals
On Sundays, I write out the lunch and dinner menu for the whole week. Having a visible menu cuts down on the mid-day and evening debates over who wants what to eat. It also helps me to get rid of leftovers because everyone has to abide by the posted menu, and at least once a week, that menu lists leftovers as the only lunch special. Thinking ahead, I can also factor in scheduling challenges.
Preparing healthy meals with fresh ingredients is a priority, but cooking a labor-intensive meal after a full school day when you have to drive a child to an activity at 5:30pm is a recipe for stress.
Planning ahead allows me the ability to tailor the week’s menu to match our commitments. An added bonus is that I can insure the pantry is stocked with all necessary ingredients well before I set to the task of assembling the evening meal.
3. Train more helpers
One son was in charge of washing dishes and making salad. A daughter was the primary laundress and iced tea brewer (every house must have a person capable of making fresh brewed, sweet iced tea if you want to live in NC).
Once these children began taking turns working in the restaurant after school, I was left trying to fill their shoes (or at least the sink and the tea pitcher). Now I’m cross-training the younger children. Everyone still has assigned chores, but now the younger children understand the need to fill-in when the regular chore-doer is absent.
4. Get Out of the House
Though my husband’s role in getting our school days started has allowed me some valuable alone time, I still long for a few hours away (being someone other than just Mama).
Admittedly, when I was younger and homeschooling a bunch of little ones only, I scoffed at women who complained about spending their every waking moment caring for their children.
But with age comes wisdom. I now understand that having time out of the house, or simply outside the demands of my kiddos, renews my perspective and recharges my energy, making me a happier, more patient mother/teacher.
Moms Night Out, meetings with my blog group, working in the restaurant, date nights or just a trip to the store are all ways I’ve found to step outside my daily workplace (a.k.a. home).
As homeschoolers, we were already engaged in a full-time juggling act. Such a significant life change as our purchasing a restaurant added a few more balls into that cascade. The first three weeks in I wanted to quit the show, but in truth that was because my focus was unclear. I was entertaining doubts and trying to apply the old rules to the new game.
Identifying priorities and implementing new strategies solved the most pressing problems for me and gave me the confidence to keep moving forward with many balls in the air.
As for my children, they too learned the value of adapting to new roles and schedules and of trusting in God.
Two lessons, I now understand, that are best taught by example.