Friday, October 10, 2008

Wanting to Go Back to Work

I’ve been aching to occupy myself with something besides motherhood ever since River was six or eight weeks old. Luckily, Mark has been very supportive and despite the fact that I’m not bringing in any income, we’ve invested in the help of a babysitter so that I can write in the afternoons. It’s nice to have this time, but after months of no colleagues, no bosses, and no deadlines, I feel like I’m not accomplishing as much as I should in this period of time.

I did finish up one book and I’m getting close to finishing another, so I’m not a total sloth, but I feel like I could do more. I miss the community of colleagues, of discussions, of helping each other do better, of the pressure of having to show one’s work to others.

When I visited New York recently, I came out of the bus station and my first thought upon seeing the hustle and bustle is that I wanted to be part of the world’s operations, I wanted to be hooked into the activity.

I did have the chance to recently. I applied for a job I knew I was overqualified for. But it sounded interesting and was close to home. I’d also heard the employer was flexible, which would help with my concerns about balancing work, family and personal life. When the employer showed interest in me, I asked for part-time and a higher salary than they mentioned during the interview (but within the range for the position as advertised).

I probably would have gotten the job if I hadn’t requested less hours and a higher salary. It was a bummer to not get it, but I figured I’m not that desperate yet.

I know many women work full-time, including some of my friends. But it seems to me that between full-time work, commuting, taking care of baby/child and maintaining a marriage, what really falls through the cracks is the female’s personal time. I want to include personal time into my pie because I value having time to exercise, to cook healthy foods, to learn, to travel and to write.

I’m also looking at some employment or study options that are more intriguing and exciting, but less likely to be close to home or flexible. I’m grateful to have options, but I’m feeling stressed at trying to find the right balance between bringing in an income, finding professional fulfillment, having time for my family and having time for myself.

My new neighbor, a wonderful 40-year-old English woman and a mother to three school-aged children, told me to hang tight for the right job. She has been working 25 hours a week in England and thought that was a good balance.

Mark and I discussed it last night and I will hang tight, at least until January. In the meantime, I need to start making more of an effort at looking into options and figuring out what I’d really like to do. One positive note is that I sold an essay this week for $600 (yay)! That brings my earnings for the past 5.5 months to a grand total of $650, or $118 a month.

It’s at times like this that I really wish I lived in Canada or Europe, where women can stay home for a year or a few years and be guaranteed their job afterwards. Where they receive some financial benefit while they are not working so they aren’t so stressed about income. Where state-subsidized daycares exists for toddlers, reducing the horror of having to pay high rates for more than one child at a time (this seems to me, a good possibility why many women don’t work. I have a friend who, after staying home over three years, has recently put her two toddlers in daycare at a cost of $3,000 a month! And she’s now, unsurprisingly, pretty desperate to find a job. I have a happier Canadian friend who has been out of the Canadian foreign service for over five years – one year to pursue a Master’s degree and four years to raise her two young children. She can return next year, after six years out, and resume her career right where she left off.) That promotion of both the family and women’s professional achievement, is what I think a good society should aspire to.

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