Friday, July 30, 2010

"Do You Work?"

I think I've mentioned here, once or twice LOL, that I didn't get married until I was almost 29. Which may not seem that old to some people, but in the religion that I was raised in, it was extremely unusual. Especially since I spent 7 years (from the time I was 18 until I was 25) in Utah where there were plenty of eligible bachelors. Apparently, however, none that were a good match for me. I moved to Illinois at 25 and dated some, but still, I knew that I wasn't dating anybody that was any sort of contender.

And then I talked to Mr. Simple for the first time on August 19, 1994 and married him exactly one year later.

But from the time that I was 25 until 28, I was fairly certain that I was not going to get married. And I wasn't going to have kids. So I decided what I was going to do was go to school, get my degree in English, and become a technical writer in a Big City, and I was going to be a woman with a Career.

So I went to school, got a degree in English and became a technical writer in a Big City for a couple years.

And then I decided to come back to school and get a masters degree in English and then work for 5-7 more years, and then go back to school and get a PhD and become an English professor. That would suit me more than 30 year career working in a Big City.

I thought since the undergraduate plan worked out so well, surely my next plan would work.

It didn't. I didn't enjoy the master's program in English and dropped out after a year. And I got married after a year of school too.

But I could still be a technical writer in a Big City. I could still have a Career.

And so I did. I went back to my previous job in the Big City. I worked for a couple more years. I should be happy.

But of course, I wasn't.

We decided to move back to a smaller city, but not too small. And I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I would like to have a baby. I could still work. I might not be able to have that Big City Career but I could have a Regular City Career, even with a baby.

I got pregnant with Flower in December 1998 and I was offered a job as a trainer at a University in another city in March 1999. I had never done training before, but I liked the idea of it. So we moved again. Flower was born in September 1999.

I took 14 weeks off after she was born, but I had to get back to work after that. I had to do some traveling when she was 4 months old. I still remember trying to find someplace to pump without having to tell the entire group what I was doing. But I enjoyed my job (well, not the searching for a place to pump in a Quad Cities hotel, but you know what I mean) and it didn't matter much anyway because we needed the money, so I kept working.

But now, I knew I also enjoyed being a mother, and I wanted to have another baby. After a number of months of trying, I got pregnant again with Jelly Bean. My pregnancy was tough with her. I spent 1/2 of her pregnancy on bedrest - either at home or at the hospital. I worked from home for most of that bedrest. It wasn't too bad. It gave me something to do besides stare at the walls. Jelly Bean was born in December 2001 and I spent another 14 weeks on maternity leave. When I went back, my excitement for working had gone down. A lot. So I started talking to Mr. Simple. We made a 5 year plan for me to stop working. (What??? What about my Career?) So we made the Plan. I'd stop working in 5 years, and I'd stay home until they went to junior high.

And then, just a few mere months after we made the Plan, I found myself in my boss' office saying "I need to go down to part time." I hadn't talked to Mr. Simple about this discussion. I hadn't even known I was going to do it until about 3 minutes before I walked in. My boss said "I will fix things for you. We would rather have you part time than not at all." And he fixed it. I was home in the mornings and worked in the afternoon. I could do this. It was wonderful, mostly. The downside was that I realized how much I really did enjoy being with my then 3 year old and 1 year old and it made me long for spending all my time with them, but the upside was that I was making very good money for part time work.

And then, very suddenly, it was over. In September 2003, I was one of hundreds of part-time university employees that were laid off due to "budget cuts."

So much for The Plan. Or was it? I'd take a couple months and then I'd go back to work. I'd probably have to go back to work full-time instead. So I started teaching preschool to keep myself busy and bring a little money in, and I started looking for a full-time job. I really looked that first year. Nothing. Preschool got bigger, so I took a couple years off. And I had another baby. Then I started looking again. I got some interviews, but no offers.

At the beginning, I was secretly thrilled - I wasn't thrilled about the loss of money, but I was a SAHM now, years ahead of The Plan. I would make the most of this. We would have great times together, and it would be happy all the time, and we would go to all sorts of fun things that only SAHMs got to take their kids too - playgroup, storytime, spray parks, etc.

We did do those things. It was great. At first. And then, my kids weren't as behaved as I thought they would be if I was home all the time. And Preschool, while I enjoyed it most of the time, was still something that took up quite a bit of my time, and it prevented me from doing some of the things that I wanted to do instead. And then, there was the Big Problem, of course. Money.

When I was working, we didn't have tons of extra, but we had extra. Ever since I was laid off, there has been no extra. Some months, especially the year before I started doing daycare, it wasn't like there wasn't any extra, there just wasn't enough. With the stress of teaching, my feeling of inadequacy as a mother, and the money, I figured that it would just be better to get a job.

Yet, every time that I've tried, everything that I've tried, has never worked, in terms of me getting a full-time job. I even got a masters degree in Training. Surely that would help me get a job. It didn't. And things kept happening in my life, mostly other trials, while I was trying to go back to work. So to distract myself, I started reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's cookbook and surprisingly found myself wanting to cook like that instead of opening a box of mac and cheese. I found myself getting excited about yarn and canning jars. And seeds. I hadn't been this excited about anything since I decided I was going to have The Career in the Big City. And I found myself trying to not have those perfect, happy, children, but to be a mother instead that made my children realize that I loved them. A mother that would just do simple, easy things. We would just be together. And when it was best for my children, a mother that would homeschool them. I would make the most of the time that I had with them, and I wouldn't look at my home as just a place where I ended up. I'd enjoy homemaking skills. I'd enjoy my home.

Now, don't get me wrong, all of my problems are not all solved. Money, while better, is still an issue. My children's behavior could still be better. I could be more self-sufficient. I could waste less time on non-important things.

I've been a work outside home woman (I worked full-time as a police dispatcher when I was in my early 20s too) and I've been a work outside home mom. At first I thought that it was great, and then I wanted to be home. And then I was home and at first, I thought it was great, and then I wanted to be back at work.

And other women? I've stopped wishing that I was on the other side of the fence. Either side. Because I've been on both sides. Neither is Great or Horrible.

I'm also trying to appreciate the good and bad of where I am today. Today I'm at home, but doing preschool/daycare. There's good and bad in my situation, and that's o.k. Tomorrow, I may be somewhere else. And there will be good and bad in that situation too, and that's o.k.

I'm learning, finally, that there usually is good and bad in all situations. And that it is o.k.

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