Let's Talk About Careers, Mothering, & the Struggle for Balance

4 years ago

I am a stay-at-home mom who writes a little on the side. My younger son Sachin will be in kindergarten in the fall, and then my stay-at-home gig will be much less interesting (or much MORE interesting? Is this the time to get a cabana boy?).

Believe it or not, I didn't intend to be a stay-at-home mother. I worked while I was pregnant with my first son, Keshav. I finished grad school, in fact, while he was an infant. I worked two jobs when he was 10-months-old. I worked through my pregnancy with Sachin, took a year off, and went back part-time until the kids hit a crisis point. Keshav was an anxious mess every day, Sachin was a screaming mess every day, and I was a screaming, anxious mess every day. I only worked part-time, and had no health insurance. It wasn't a matter of "who needs to handle this." We needed Gregg's paycheck way more than we needed mine. So I quit, and I haven't worked outside of the home, save a few brief stints, since. That was three years ago.

And now I cannot find a library job. I'm not going to brag, but I was a decent librarian. I've won a few scholarships. My bosses have always liked me. I work hard. I try to get along with everyone. I know a lot about technical things that scare other people. I'm a good person to have around.

Credit: euiweb.

But I still can't find a library job, and I'm pretty sure it's because: A) It's been seven years since I graduated library school and those people I graduated with are in supervisory positions, and I, the part-timer, might as well be a new graduate; and B) I haven't worked in three, going on four, years. I still have kids. I can't work any time. Someone needs to take them to school and tuck them in and cook them dinner. Someone needs to do homework with them and take them to swimming and take them to soccer. That someone is me. It just is.

I want to go back to work, but I've been thinking about the sacrifices my kids would make if I worked full (or more than full) time. I don't know when we'd do homework. I don't know that we'd sit down and read whole series of books together. I think we'd have a lot of frozen and restaurant meals. I definitely would stop exercising. (I never managed when working just part-time.)

So, I want to go back to work, but there would definitely be a loss of many things. Would that loss be worth it?

I don't know.

When I was growing up, my mom worked full-time. Now, looking back, I'm glad she did. She has a PhD in chemistry. The world needs more smart people working for good things. But? I never got to do any after school activities. Not even in high school, because there was no bus and the school was too far away. I was home alone a lot (or left with my grandmother, who didn't speak much English and didn't drive, and I didn't speak much Hindi). I did my homework alone, and that wasn't always the best idea. I never played a sport or wrote for the newspaper or... well, anything. I missed out on a lot.

When I had kids, my feelings about my childhood really came into play, and I decided that my career was worth the sacrifice. It was very emotionally charged.

So, I had a working mom, and I idealized children with stay-at-home moms. In fact, there was a girl across the street whose mom stayed home. She had hot lunches! She had three siblings! She had a toy room and they went on field trips and played soccer and it was all so wonderful. I wanted THAT life for my kids.

But now? I don't know. I want that life for my kids, but I want a life too. I want to work close to home and have job flexibility so I can see school assemblies and still volunteer in the classroom. I want to take my kids to swimming and guitar and art lessons, and whatever else they want to do.

But I also want to feel like a financial partner with my husband. I want to use my brain, because sometimes the cleaning and the chauffeuring and the cooking aren't enough for me. But I don't know that I can HAVE all of this, especially when I can't even FIND a job that comes close to this description. There's always a trade-off -- those jobs with great schedules (like part-time) have little input for me on the organization as a whole, and I would miss a lot of meetings. Jobs where I could make more and be influential would come with a lot more hours.

What I'm saying is what every other career woman has worried about before: I don't know how to do this, and I don't even have a full-time job yet. And I wish this wasn't a struggle for women at all, and that through writing this whole post I never once thought about my father, and why he didn't stay home.


Reading (and chickens)
blog: http://readingandchickens.com
twitter: https://twitter.com/booksnchickens

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