Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why was it even tempting in the first place?

As it turned out, it was an easy decision to turn down the job offer. I am so glad that the interview took place on a Friday, as I was able to spend lots of time thinking ...weighing the pros and cons, over the weekend. I sat down and did the childcare math and if I had taken the job, BOY & GIRL would be moving from doing 25 hours in preschool/childcare to 50 hours a week. That would be 10 hours a day. I found that number just mind blowing. Of course, if it had been a job that I felt really passionate about doing, somehow we would have made it work. Somehow. Isn't it a human implulse to justify our decisions? But, this seemed an extreme jump in hours away from me for both of them. Also, BOY is just beginning small steps on his way back to gaining an afternoon or two a week -staying a full day. He is in such a good place right now and it is wonderful to see his growth and his readiness to take this next step. His first full day experiment will be a week from this Friday. He is very excited.

It was immensely helpful to meet with a close friend, who also has a younger, sensitive boy and talk it through. She works full-time, her husband is in school, and something she said really struck a note with me. "JCK, I have a wonderful job, love the people whom I work with- they're flexible when childcare issues come up, I've established myself...yet it is still very hard for me." And because her husband has a more flexible schedule, he can drop off the kids a bit later in the morning and she picks them up at 4:30pm. Then he gets dinner started so that they can eat by 6pm. She also looked over the job description, which I had asked for during the interview, and told me that it sounded like a job that I would excel at, but one that would truly be exhausting. And she is right. I certainly was qualified for the job. I worked as an Executive Assistant/Administrative Assistant/Personal Assistant for 7 years. I've got the chops. But, do I want that frenzy in my life? And the answer is "no." Being a mom to a 3 and 4 year old is frenzy enough, thank you very much. I can do frenzy, but my natural rhythms are not fast paced like that. I'm a tea drinker, chocolate connoisseur and occasional whiskey sipper, after all.

However, what I have been grappling with since yesterday's conversation with my recruiter is this: Why was it even tempting in the first place? Other than a good salary, which is really only a surface consideration. Not that additional money wouldn't help us, but the answer requires digging deeper. What I came up with is this... I'm needing to be SEEN - for my work to be seen. An acknowledgement that the work that I do as a stay-at-home mom has value. A recognition of sorts. Other than the intellectualizing of "I'm staying home with the kids to give them ___ (fill in the blank with what you will.) My "fill in the blank" is: "to give them time with me," and perhaps ...honestly, "for me to have time with GIRL & BOY."

It felt really, really good to be wanted, to have an offer 20 minutes after I left the building, to have a concrete monetary value placed upon my potential work that I would do there. What we do as mothers is so invisible. All of the little things that make a household run smoothly...or not so smoothly, but it runs - are so intangible. Sure, there are the concrete things: I do the laundry, cook the meals, take them to play dates, schedule our lives,etc., etc. But, all of those little moments ...gone like gossamer wings, yet vital to mothering. What of those? So, the truth? The truth is that this job offer was tempting, because my ego was fed and it was HUNGRY for food. The food of being a "valuable" citizen. And the lure of a job that I could do and do well with a paycheck at the end of it.

I sometimes fantasize about being a full-time working mom. I imagine myself with chic shoes and tidy clothes, free of food stains left by grubby little hands. I have friends who do the juggle - both a career and a family. Some work because they have to work for the financial benefit, others because that is what keeps them sane and they have a passion for their careers. These passionate women who work outside the home, who thrive on their careers, didn't exist many years ago. Today we have choices. Perhaps too many, but I'll take choices over no choices any day of the week. The women who are working today are enjoying the life of the women who fought for us. I believe it was something called ..."the women's movement."

One of the saddest things I find is that we as women are our own harshest critics. How is it that the source of our sanity, our sisterhood - the ability to share experiences with other women can also be the source of jealousy and competition? It is the SAHM vs. the Working Mom. And it is rampant. A powder keg. A set-up of US against THEM. I don't want to join in that contest. I want to support other women as they make the right choices for their families. Some women truly need to be working. They would go insane being a mom who stays at home. God bless them. They're right. It can be insanity. However, some of us as moms at home, at least on certain days, feel that the decision is a great one. For us. It can work! It is a roller coaster, but the ride can be an adrenaline rush!

Some women are "better mothers" because they don't stay home with their children. They feel they are "better mothers" to their children, because if they stayed home they would find themselves frustrated and angry. And they don't want to raise children that way. That makes sense to me. Some women have to work, and that is a better decision for their families. And some women choose to be at home, and that is my current choice. At some point, a job opportunity will present itself -perhaps even part-time, and I will take it. But, for now, on most days I am more than content being a stay-at-home mom. I just wish that, even for one day, I could experience someone handing me a paycheck for the challenging career that I do - that of being a mom who stays at home and runs a household. I would be visible. And, they wouldn't even have to say I did a great job. I would know it...

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  1. Wonderfully written. Beautiful.

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  3. obviously you have made the right decision for yourself. fabulous. glad you feel good about it.

  4. After 6-1/2 years, I am ready to go back PART TIME, but for me, the career comes AFTER the family and kis. FOr me, I believe God created me as a female to take care of the home front. When they are both in school full time, I am ready to go back PART TIME, but I don't want IT ALL. I don't think I could handle IT ALL. You know??


  5. We should at least be earning Social Security benefits for these years at home, I think.

    It does sound like you made the right choice for you, for right now.

    In case you haven't noticed, though, you're doing something else that has value, and I read it every single day. You add so much to my day every time I read something you've written, and I know you have many fans.

    Now, where's the paycheck for this? :-)

  6. It sounds like you're happy and comfortable with your decision--that's how you know it's the right one for you.

  7. Amen sister! I totally agree with all you said; and yes, I too sometimes fantasize about going back to work (and then I remember most employers are worse than my four year old!)

  8. Thanks for your post- it was really great. I have to say- I think I fall into the "would go insane if home all the time" category and I think I'm a better mom since I do work part-time. I know I'm blessed to have a job and a husband that both encourage me in that. I feel for those who dont have the choice of a work/home balance that they want.

    And- one of the major benefits of working is what you described- the ego stroking. I think I enjoy the praise at work more than the paycheck, to tell you the truth.

  9. To tell you the truth, I did think you should turn it down, but I didn't want to influence your decision. I knew you would make the right one for you and your family. As for the ego stroking, no problem, we'll do it for you.
    You're fabulous! You're amazing! You are a strong, talented woman and you can do anything!
    (If you need more, you know where to find me)

  10. I think we all want a little validation, one way or another.

    It's tough - for my working friends and my SAHM friends - to feel good where they are, at any given moment.

    It sounds like you have it figured out. For today. ;)

    (I go back and forth, and mine are a little older...)

  11. You're definately visible to me! I find your writing so entertaining and meaningful. I understand what you mean, though, about the sense of achievement and recognition that a paycheck brings.

  12. Please submit this essay to a magazine...or several magazines. Your thoughts are important and sensitive and well thought out. And I agree with all of them.

    I'm happy for you reaching a decision that you are happy with. I also picked up on that one sentence where you wrote that you also want something that brings you recognition...have you thought of what that could be? And could it be accomplished within the context of also being at home? Could it be writing? You certainly have that talent?


  13. Having been out of town this weekend, I've missed the deliberation...but I'm glad you chose the way you did. The commenters who said "no" was indicated by the very fact that you were asking were right. And those who said you could always quit, while correct in theory, were (I think) wrong. Once you've taken the position -- especially if your motivation is to be seen and recognized -- pride is a formidable obstacle to quitting. And you know that quitting would make it harder to get an offer when you are ready.

    I wish I'd waited another 3 or 4 years to go back to work...but when "work" is collegiate teaching in a liberal arts discipline, opportunities are precious few -- and within a specified geographic limit, virtually miraculous. So I grabbed at the ring which would almost assuredly not come within my reach again.

    While I do love being back on campus, this year has been the hardest of my entire married life. Harder than three under three, or eight under nine. And I'm not talking just logistics, either.

    Hey, here's an idea -- how 'bout you come be MY personal executive assistant? The location, salary, benefits, la-de-da clientele might be lacking, but you can keep BOY and GIRL with you, and I promise a companionable Jack O'Clock :D

    (Btw, Charmaine Crouse Yoest's Mother in the Middle is a great little book that resonates with what you say here. You might check it out.)

  14. What a fabulous post.
    The hardest part of being a SAHM to me is the lack of ego stroking.
    I miss being noticed.

  15. so glad to hear that there's a resolution, and that you're comfortable with it.

    it doesn't seem that way on a daily basis, but if you cast a long-term gaze, you're doing the most important work of all, IMHO.

    you're right, though -- too bad we're not paid in anything other than sticky fingers, drooly kisses, and tantrums! ;)

    now where's that whisky...

  16. You're right, you're really lucky to have choices on so many levels. It's nice to hear you say that. I bet, now that you've voiced that desire to be seen that you will have another opportunity, one that's a better fit, come find you.

  17. The children are only little once.. you've made the right choice!

    Plenty of time later to have a fab job...and be able to enjoy it!


  18. I agree with Suzanne. Send the essay to Parents' Magazine, or Newsweeks' "My Turn" column. Somewhere.
    I have met a number of women who regretted working when their kids were little (and they had a choice about it), but I have NEVER met anyone who wished they had worked when their kids were little. I'm sure they're out there, but I don't know them.

  19. You know I think the mommy wars are leftover from the last generation. If you remember that line in "Baby Boom" where Diane Keaton is told she can make partner if she acknowledges she'll never have a family. And, she had to say she "didn't want it all." In the late 70s & 80s I think that is how it worked. You either stayed at home fully or worked fully with little room for anything else.

  20. You expressed this so beautifully. A career means outside validation, which is huge! I am glad that you were able to listen to your heart and choose what is right for you, right now. It is a wonderful thing to have that freedom.

  21. I totally understand the "acknowledgement" thing - the need to feel wanted and important and recognized! I have to say - it takes a while - staying home - to get over those issues (at least for me) - adjust to the realities and let go of the "identity" issues. I am finally comfortable (I was comfortable many years ago) with not having that outside appreciation. But, that is not the case for everyone - to some, staying home with their kids is not enough.

    Take care and I think you made a good decision "for you"!

    See you soon - Kellan

    PS: I still haven't bought my airline ticket for SF - have you?

  22. Amen to everything in your post. And the whole SAHM v. WOHM has always made me very sad. Luckily, I dont' feel it much on a personal level. I have stay at home mom friends ANd working mom friends. My girls are my girls, no matter what they do for a living. We should be supporting each other's choices and removing obstacles for each other, like you said.

    I've always told people that while raising children in is without question the most rewarding and important thing in totality what a lot of people don't tell you in advance that it can be thankless and maddening on a day to day basis.

    But I gotta say one thing about this "I imagine myself with chic shoes and tidy clothes, free of food stains left by grubby little hands"

    Hee hee! I can tell you from experience, that stains are a part of ALL mother's life, no matter if she works at home or in an office. And, the stains are a helluva lot more embarassing when they're incurred just before you leave for work and therefore prominently displayed to all of your coworkers for an entire day!!!

  23. This was FANTASTIC. You spoke for millions of us in this very post. What a difficult decision, but you know what it was right and you can always try again later, right? I often fantasize of working women and my working friends often have counter feelings. At the end of the day, it's all good.

    I say kudos to you my friend.

  24. Ooh, yeah - that's the problem - our jobs are only visible when we mess up - when appointments aren't made, the house isn't cleaned, the children are crying. And when we don't mess up, it all looks so easy!

    I think a lot of us would like to feel more visible. I still remember the first time I received 50 dollars for an article I had written. I hung on to that check for months - it was the first tangible reward for work I had done in 15 years!

  25. JCK, I stopped by tonight to say thank you for your kind comments on my blog. But also because your decision has been on my mind.

    I applaud your choice. I believe we undervalue the contribution that Moms make not only to their children but also to the family unit as a whole. I wish there was a way that our government could recognize the contribution of women who choose to stay home by crediting them with Soc. Security benefit contributions, etc. We seem to have created a society that makes a two income family mandatory rather than a choice.

    I want to qualify this by saying that my mother worked her whole life, but that was her choice, that was what she needed and wanted. What I respect about your post is that you address that as well. There should not be an either / or choice, there should be equal opportunities to decide what is best for the mom and her family.

    Again, I want to reiterate my earlier comment that you should submit this post as an article to a magazine. Your experience is important and balanced and speaks to the thoughts of many women.

    You are one of the most intelligent and thoughtful bloggers I have the pleasure of reading.


  26. I'm glad you feel good about your decision. It goes so fast. I didn't go back to work part-time until my daughter was 12 (and that was 10 hours a week). We all do what we think is best-unless we aren't lucky enough to have a choice.

  27. Good choice, my dear! I stayed home for nearly ten years and haven't regretted that decision one bit. It wasn't until the perfect 'mom' job came up that I returned - and there's no need for my kids to go to daycare. Ideal. We're lucky we have a choice!

  28. I don't know who set up this "us" against "them" (the media?) but we should be supporting each other.

    This is a great post, JCK!


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