Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Pithy Ramblings on Careers and The Future

Dual napping is a beautiful thing. Both babies in their cribs and [sort of] sleeping makes me feel like I have accomplished something, even though it has little to do with me. A success already and it is barely 8:30!

It’s funny how my definition of success has evolved since staying at home. It’s bizarre to think of this as my career. In the middle of the whole trying to have a baby ordeal, I truly thought it wouldn’t happen. I would never have a baby so this whole staying home thing would never happen. I felt like I was being punished for drinking too much in my 20s or ingesting way too much diet coke or ruining my body in other original and creative ways. Regardless, here I am, against the odds, with two babies, happy as a clam for the most part but filled with all sorts of curiosity but mostly dread and confusion about my career future.

I miss seeing my name on a masthead, my tangible proof that I made something of my life. I could point to it, literally. See? Right here? That’s me and I have a career. Here’s the proof. My name, written down, in order of importance. No more mastheads, and now I drift in a sea of what-will-I-do when the girls go to school? What will make me happy? What will make a difference?

Several times in the past few months I’ve been asked what I do. I stay home with two babies, I say. I spend 11, 12 hours a day dealing with their every need. I feed them and bathe them [on occasion] and change them and burp them and comfort them and love them and entertain them and lay with them. I keep the house somewhat neat and send out stacks and stacks of Christmas cards. I cook sometimes and order in too. I manage to do the laundry several times a week and iron on occasion. But what some others seem to hear is I do nothing.

All that discourse about “If you paid a stay-at-home parent they would earn 175K a year blah blah blah” is all well and good but that will never happen, obviously. And in this society, unfortunately, you are judged by the salary you make. Hypothetical salaries don’t count. So while your job of raising children and creating a home might be one of the most important in the world, it almost has a street value of zero. Social workers and teachers get next to nothing while people in corporate America make their salaries times five/ten/twenty in bonuses alone.

I realize that I am lucky because it is Nicole’s Superstar Career in the Corporate America that I have disdain for that allows me this very indulgent dilemma of wondering what I will do with my own career. Staying at home to raise these girls is such a luxury, and the concept of that doesn’t escape me. It’s almost as if I hear echoes of “This family dynamic is brought to you by Nicole” as she heads off to work each morning. I am proud of her and what she accomplishes. She is such a great role model for our girls, succeeding in a male dominate industry and dealing with corporate stress day in, day out without falling apart. Our girls will most certainly look up to her and be proud of her, especially if she buys them ponies. But will they look at me as a good role model too? I wonder. There’s the mom who is the Superstar who makes the Money and who has the impressive Career. And then there is me. I make chocolate chip cookies.

In the meantime, I still need to figure out what path I will take once the girls are in school. It’s disconcerting, to be in my mid thirties and still feel like I haven’t found the career path that gives me satisfaction.

Sometimes I just want to give up trying and give up caring and just float float float through life and careers. Give up on trying to find something that satisfies. Everything is easier when you blow up the bridge connecting your heart and your brain.

Oh well.

Pictured above are Maddie and Avery in their happy after-morning-nap moods. They are so excited to see me when I go in to get them. Makes you feel like a star. No one in any office or at any job has looked at me like that!



I think the division of labor is really hard stuff to deal with and on a relationship (okay, maybe mine). I hope Mike Huckabee doesn't know- but, sometimes I think it's more complicated in a same-sex relationship. Who gives birth? Who is the bread winner? Who cleans the house? Maybe the caveman days or the 50's were easier (i joke-sorta of).

I bet you are a great role model. People bring different things into a home. Money is important, but- at least in my view- certainly not everything. I've always tried to stay away from people that judge based on salary. Empty souls really.

Not that you are asking, but, NEVER under estimate the importance of making a good cookie.

Kimberley said...

Don't worry, I'm in my mid-thirties and I still don't know what will make me happy career-wise either, and I don't have the blessing of being able to stay home with the kids. I think if I did, at least then I'd feel like I had an excuse for my indecision!

I think people underestimate the difficulty of the transition from working career star to stay at home mom. I stayed home for 4 months after the kids were born and it's HARD. For those who don't know how hard it is, I try and tell them to imagine being at work in their office, working on a project, only to be interrupted every 30 seconds with something that will take you from your project for at least 15 minutes.

You're doing great....

calliope said...

how is it that our world's are SO effing different and yet you are repeatedly writing about my very own worries?

I have giant fears about what I will do once GM passes. I had such an identity in my last career, but the longer I am away from it the more likely it is that I will never work in that career.

I have no idea what I want to be or what I can be. It is crazy.

But I do know that your girls will so be looking up to you.

Shelli said...

When situations arise at work, with statements of: "You COULD be an Executive Director. If you wanted to be." And I say yeah. But I've already HAD a career, and this is my job.

My other full time job has a VERY demanding boss, and her name is Malka. I'm pretty happy with that.

And you know what?

I am.

K J and the kids said...

This is how I feel every day of my life. well for the 5 seconds that I have to think about it when I lock myself in a closet away from screaming kids all wanting something at the exact same fucking time.
aaaah. Thanks.
ok, back to you. I will email you this wonderful story. It's helped me through lots of days like this.

I think you do a great job. the most important job. the hardest job EVER !
go and write this on your bathroom mirror....or like me on the inside of the closet where I go to hide ! :)

e. said...

we are doing everything we can to make it so i can be a sahm. i NEVER thought that i would want to. i was going to be the one with the career in this family...i finished grad school at 24 and i've been the one to really support us. and my career so far has dictated where we live, and also has meant A takes on a lot more of the "home" duties because i work crazy hours and just don't have the time to do things...

but somehow, getting pregnant (and maybe it was the long journey to pregnancy) has changed all this for me. i want to stay home. i want a break from the work world. but i do worry what the ramifications will be...but this is where my path is taking me now, and many many women have traveled these paths before us and still gone back to have careers.

Motel Manager said...

Staying at home is SO HARD. I only did it for 15 weeks, but let me tell you: working outside the home is easier because at least you get some breaks built into your day. For most people, anyway - maybe that wouldn't be true if you were, like, an emergency room doctor or nurse in a really tumultuous area, but for most people it is true.

As for your career, I still have these issues. I feel like a dilettante sometimes, but other times I prefer to think of myself as an interesting generalist. :)

judy said...

It is smart to start thinking now about what you want to do when the girls are older. Researching things that you feel passionate about. Talk to people about their various careers. Pursue even your most unlikely interest.
I became a mom thirteen years ago after receiving my masters in social work. Four babies later, before my youngest started first grade, I realized that I was no longer suited to social work....I did find however that I love doing development for small non profit organizations.
You too will find your thing,

Louise in Canada said...

As I've said before, you are an amazing writer. So if you are looking for a career, I think that you should publish this blog. I would love to buy the book version of Arcane Matters. You have incredible insight into life and it is refreshingly honest and reassuring to hear your struggles and worries. Judging from the comments left here, I think that they resonate with a lot of people. You appear to be extremely talented and I have no doubt that when the time comes to rejoin Corporate America, the best job will be the one that finds you.

Making good cookies is extremely important...especially as an ice breaker when talking to your kids! Trust me, I'm a high school teacher and many of the most important conversations that I've had with my students started with cookies.

Blah, Blah, I make no sense but I think that you are doing an amazing job!