Monday, March 17, 2008

Still Life with a SAHM - or - A Really Long Post

I've read about the issue a lot on some of my favorite blogs.

Suburban Turmoil wrote about it and a ruckus ensued.

I recently watched Miss Zoot struggle with learning how to go from Working Mom to Working-From-Home Mom, then back to Working Mom.

I've read the gorgeous posts of Motherhood Is Not for Wimps that detailed her exciting pre-Mom life as a political Congressional aide to some of the most powerful people in the country:
"Every day that I walked into the office under the light of the Capitol Dome, I felt a thrill. I loved my suits, my zippy little convertible, my weekly salon appointments. I got giddy turning on CNN to hear them report my work day. I loved answering my cell phone and knowing that what I said in the next five minutes would go out on a wire service."

A friend and co-worker of mine and I were talking about it. Someone had asked her how she managed not to go crazy managing such an active family. "I keep my sanity over on Monroe Street," was her reply, referring to our place of employment.

Recently I've struggled with the decision to stay at home or keep my job. Technically I work part-time, but the job has taken more and more of my energy and off days - as part-time jobs are prone to do - and eventually it got so bad that I was sitting on over 100 hours of comp time, could never touch my vacation, and hadn't taken a sick day in almost a year. Because of the inconsistent schedule my job needed, we had the boys in full-time daycare even though they only went three days a week. I had been making it work for a while, but with full-time expenses on a part-time salary the math was not working. At the end of the day I was almost working to send my kids to daycare. Not my idea of a trade-off.

Silly me thought it was a good time to ask for an increase in my hours. This, for a wide variety of reasons that had nothing to do with my job performance, was met with a resounding "no way, no how" from the Powers That Be. Curious reaction because they had seen a 52% increase in funds since I took the job in 2005.

To make matters worse, my innocent request had shone a blaring spotlight on my responsibilites, leaving an open door for the board to make suggestions on my time management ("Why all the comp time?"), my leadership style ("Can't you get a volunteer to do that?"), my communication skills ("How much time to you actually spend on data entry?"), and my fashion sense (apparently a fitted denim blazer, dress slacks, and fabulous heels just don't cut it on my OFF DAY, but Clinton and Stacy would be proud).

Stacy & Clinton

To sum it up, for the first time in my professional life I didn't know what to do. I've always known what I wanted and always went after it aggresively. This approach had paid off for me until now.

I was convinced it was time to hang up my Development Hat and channel all that energy and time into my home life. I could get the boys into a Mom's Morning Out program twice a week, and the rest of our time would go SUPER fast after I had signed up for the volunteer activities I had always wanted to do, gone to storytime at the library, played on the playground, gone to the gym, frolicked in the park, fed and napped the boys, cooked dinner, cleaned the house, tended the garden, and blogged my little heart out.

I would be fulfilled, right? That would be fine. Yeah, it would aaaalllllllll work out. Just. Fine. Total satisfaction. Right?? RIGHT?

It took me about two weeks of thinking about it to determine how I would react after the newness of the situation wore off.

In the end, I couldn't go through with it.

I have so much of my adult identity wrapped up in my career. I thought about how it would be the first time in over 16 years I wouldn't have a paying job, or a boss, or professional responsibilities. I thought about what a thankless job being a SAHM is and how, even with the most supportive spouse in the universe (which I am fortunate enough to have) I would still project that boss/emplyoyee relationship onto him because it is so engrained in me. And that just won't do.

I thought about how much I love to wear heels.

I thought about all the hard work I had put into the job and the truly amazing people involved and who needed me now.

Mostly, I thought of my boys, and how I really wanted them to see both their mom and their dad sharing all kinds of responsibilities and both of them bringing home bacon. I thought of how much they would both miss their school and their friends, and worried about if I could teach them all the basics of childhood unassisted. There were ABC's to learn, and songs to sing, and interpersonal playground politics to experience.

Selfishly, I wanted to keep my toes dipped into the adult pool. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too. And if I played my cards right I could keep that luxury that tons of parents would kill for.

So, either out of fear or bravery - I haven't decided yet - I took back my declaration to stay at home for now. Since I had nothing to lose, I was able to grow a pair and reprioritize my responsibilities to better manage my time in the office. Our daycare director, who is an Angel From Jersey, is making it all possible by cutting our tuition (again) in order to keep our boys at their school. God bless Ms. Margie.

And now you know what a big coward I am.

I think being a parent who stays at home for their family is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Their accomplishments are often overlooked, and therefore most times immeasurable. They are their own task masters, whether it is to their benefit or detriment. They rarely have a co-worker they can bitch to when they are having a crappy day. They are paid in kisses, promoted with bear hugs.

Why isn't that enough for me?


Sarah Lena said...

I think that our generation of women have a very difficult road to hoe. On one hand, we still have the maternal side of us who wants to stay home and enjoy that life. But we also have that Rosie the Riveter side of us who wants to be working adults and be successful at it. The two rarely balance together.. because something has to give.

I don't have any answers, but know that you're not alone. Working moms question being such every. single. day we go in to work. I imagine SAHM question not bringing in a second income when times are hard. It's just an age old query.

Kerry Schoch said...

Many new mothers begin motherhood with the highest of expectations. "We are going to do mothering better than it has ever been done before." Then we find it is one of the hardest jobs there is, with little reward. We find ourselves...instead of feeling successful and competent, feeling inadequate and stressed-out. We often fill ourselves with unreachable expectations and try to fit ourselves into some ‘ideal’ mold. Then when we don't reach those 'ideal' goals it creates worry and guilt.

Does it seem worth it at the time? Not always. A few things that will help are; involve others in housework, reserve private time for your self and you and your husband

I remember when I was in grocery store; I had one child in the cart and one in the seat of the cart. An older woman came over to me and said "I know this is hard to believe but some day you will miss all this." And now that my children are grown and gone I find she is right.

Now when I see what my children have become and where they are going I take great delight in them. I relish the years I spent with them when they were small.

And next...grandchildren! I hear it’s the best reward. ;)

Artist Unplugged said...

Many stay-at-homers, as I am, wouldn't trade it for anything, and neither would I. My work is not yet done, with teenagers still in the nest. Once SAHM's kids hit school I think often time many working moms think they have all the time in the world. Therefore, we volunteer for parties, field trips, etc., etc. Very often, I found that I didn't have time to take care of the home, left feeling that I was not taking care of my job, nor bringing in any income. It's an insane high wire and now I am trying to bring in an income, finding that it's tough to take care of the home and find time to work at home. Conclusion? All routes are difficult and lead to indecision. It is wise of you to take your time in deciding and often changing that decision to do what you think is best for your family and yourself. Good not to burn bridges you still may want to walk across.

Rayven said...

Being a stay at home mom is not for everyone. And it is hard. I work from home, homeschool my 2 munchkins, just finished writing a book, and run 2 businesses. There is no such thing as free time.

It doesn't always work out. The house suffers. The kids have a blast. I dream about sleeping until 7 am one of these days.

But we're happy. Busy, but happy.

Its a lot of work, and sometimes I yearn for the promising career I left behind....for a few minutes. But then I look at my munchkins, who are presently carving princesses and castles out of clay, and I know, for our family at least, this is where I should be.

Best wishes to you!

Name: The Bryant Family said...

It's not enough for you b/c even though there all of the weird things you have to put up with at "you know where" it gives a lot of personal fulfillment. There aren't many places you can work that really make you feel good about what you are doing to benefit others. :-)

Amy said...

WIth the four girls, I really don't have a choice but to be a stay at home mom. But I wouldn't do it any other way! I hate the whole working moms vs SAHM thing. No matter what we do, we're all moms who love our children and do what's best for them.

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