Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Workin' It Out

I have been hesitant to discuss my work situation too much on this blog given its public nature. But I have made some big decisions regarding my work recently and want to share.

I have decided not to return to my full time job. My maternity leave is technically up this Thursday. When I look at Samara and see how tiny she is, I am sick at the thought of leaving her. It was an easy decision until last Fri. I finally was able to get through to my boss and have the discussion. Suddenly I was gripped with fear and was unable to quit. Luckily she wanted me to "think about it for a few days." I have. And I still see no other way. If they had offered me part-time as I had asked, I may have reconsidered. But they did not. And I am not able to leave my tiny baby 40 hours a week.

Honestly, given the cost of Boston daycare, it does not even make financial sense for me to continue working and that is before you factor in the fact that I probably would have left my job last year had I not been pregnant. It served its purpose, but I have been bored there for a while now. Still, I am scared. I never thought I was a woman whose identity was tied to my work, but I could not believe the amount of fear I felt when faced with actually leaving it.

As a writer, I am lucky. I can freelance and I am really looking forward to being my own boss and working on a variety of projects I choose myself. Of course, freelancing is volatile by nature, one month there is tons of work and the next you are dry. Luckily I have found a couple steady things to keep me busy that I know I can count on. So why am I so scared? When I was talking to my boss she asked me if "all I wanted to be was a stay at home mom." She alluded to not having a choice herself. I felt the jist of her argument was suck it up. I know I am lucky to even have a choice. But it many ways, I don't feel I do.

To ask me to leave my tiny infant 40 hours a week seems unconscionable. Until there is more flexibility in the workplace, many women who do have choices actually don't. They either have to leave their child and feel guilty or they have to quit and stay home. It comes down to choosing between my child and my work. Even if I loved my work with all my heart and was passionate about what I was doing, I would still choose my child. Otherwise, why even be a parent? So I have drawn my line in the sand and aligned myself with one side of the Mommy Wars. But the whole idea seems sick to me. Why are there no Daddy Wars?

I know R would love to stay home with Samara, but that is not an option for us. I also know that we have an incredibly strong marriage built on love, committment and amazing communication (we tell eachother EVERYTHING). But people fall out of love all the time. I would be stupid if I did not at least consider the possibility of that happening to us. In doing my research, I discovered that 54% of women with master's degrees or higher (like me) are currently staying home with their children. And if those couples divorce, the father's standard of living typically increases by 10% while the mother's decreases by 27%. I know the anti-feminist arguments about men's rights talk about the way men get screwed in divorce (and I know I have been known to rant in a similar fashion). But the stats don't lie, my friend. Freelancing will certainly keep my resume fresh, but will it also grow my earning potential should I choose to return to an office setting in the future? I hope so. But I am really not sure.

Further, when R returns from work I find myself talking to him about Samara's poop, naps and playtime activities. He is interested, obviously. But I used to be someone who talked about work and the news. Mostly I spent my days fired up about something. Anyone who knows me well (and most of those who don't) would describe me as an opinionated live wire. Those who like me say I am "passionate." Those who don't might use a term like "bitch." It's ok. I can take it. Nevertheless, I am not me these days. My head is fuzzy and I have gone soft. Even my love of all things violent and bloody in cinema has taken a nosedive. I find horror movies harder to take now that every female character could be Samara. Clearly, I need something to occupy my brain besides Good Night Moon and Skip to My Lou.

I never thought of myself as someone whose identity was tied to work. But I am starting to realize it is not the job itself but the distraction that keeps us fresh. I am someone who loves my child and family more than anything else. They are number one and I would choose them over anything. But I am also someone who needs something besides them to make me the best possible mother (and person) I can be. So, I will freelance and hopefully cobble together a career out of lower paying things I am passionate about and higher paying things I am qualified to do. But I can already see this is a fluid decison, one I will have to keep reevaluating over time.


Kristi said...

Congratualtions. I think you made the absolute best choice for you and your family. And while it must seem terrifying right now, I know you will find a way to make it work.

And I think we were separated at birth, seriously. While I still consider myself passionate about the issues that are important to me, like you, I am "fuzzy" now. It's amazing what being a mother does to you, isn't it?

Stephanie said...

Kudos on making such a tough decision! And don't let anyone bully you with that post-feminist movement bull crap about being "just" a stay at home mom. Besides, you are young - you have plenty of time to pick up where you left off in the working world should you decide to do so at a later point. I'm so proud of you (not to mention jealous)!