I am currently a stay-at-home, non-income-earning mom and I have been for nearly four years now. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it. There were lots of reasons why I quit my “part time” job to stay home with the kids, and there have been lots of reasons why I’ve played with the idea of going back to work several times since quitting. The biggest reason, in all areas, has been boredom. I was bored at my job. Financial aid at a cosmetology school was just something I never really wanted in life, so the stresses of it just stressed me out more than it should have. And, I’ve been incredibly bored at home; washing the same loads of laundry and wiping the same snotty noses day in and day out. My personal dreams have yet to materialize because life just keeps happening. Sometimes I get mad at myself over it. Sometimes I get depressed about it. I know I made a series of choices that have lead me to where I am now, and sometimes I am dissatisfied with that. I know I SHOULD have taken that internship when I was in college. I SHOULD have kept in contact with a whole bunch of folks that could have helped move me along. I SHOULD have sought jobs in the field I wanted instead of just taking the first paying gig that came along. I SHOULD have had more confidence in doing what I loved.
While all the shoulda-woulda-couldas get me down at times, I am well aware of the fact that I can still do all of those things. I simply have to take the imitative and put in the effort. Most days I am willing to do that. I know I am not so far gone that I can’t make my dreams come true…eventually. And I know I would not have the family I have now if I had done things differently.
Not working has been good for me for the most part. I do love being able to home-school my kids and maintain my household. I’m less frazzled and less depressed than I was back when I was trying to do it all. And, we’ve been lucky enough to be able to pull it off on one income…sort of. While Hubs does make a pretty decent living, we have been battling back our debt from our younger (and stupider) days, relaying on our credit cards a little more than we’d like, and having to suck it up and pay for two vehicles at the same time (not fun). Things aren’t dire just yet, but a second income would certainly help. I decided rather half-heartedly to put some feelers out to see what was available for work and signed back into CareerBuilder with a revised resume.
Of course there were a lot of spammy Emails that flooded my Inbox with positions that I would never accept or were down right pyramid schemes. But, within a week I had landed an interview for The Perfect Job. It was for an assistant producer position at a publishing company. Despite not having worked in publishing, I still fit the criteria, which was why I went ahead and applied. I was flabbergasted when they called me to set up a meeting, and I was nervous in the days leading up to it. All of those should haves kept plaguing my thoughts and squashing any self esteem that I had. But, I’m a decent enough actor and sailed through the interview with all sorts of faux confidence. I left the place feeling great about the interview, about the job, the company, my potential employer…I knew I would get the job, and that was why I cried on the way home.
My dream job was an hour’s drive through mostly New England back roads from my house. That would mean committing two hours (or more depending on traffic and weather) a day, giving me at least a ten and a half hour day. That would leave a time crunch for things like dinner, kids’ homework, chores, etc. But I knew it could be done. With planning and a crock pot, with my husband’s somewhat flexible hours, with (hopefully) the help of childcare it could all be covered and I’d have income to contribute AND I’d finally be working in the field I’d always wanted. It could be done. I could have it all; the career, the family, the house…
The day after my stunning interview I went for a walk through the woods with my two year old daughter. I kept thinking about how I’d miss not being able to spend this time with her and what that might mean. Sure, she would adjust to daycare just fine and grow up being no worse off — or would she? Someone else would be there to help her discover the joy of the world while I was busy plugging away at a desk. I nearly cried for the loss of my toddler and I hadn’t even missed a thing yet! I felt so conflicted; it was important for my daughter to see her mother be successful, productive, and happy, but it was also important for me to be there for her and to help her grow. Would I be able to find that special balance? I felt like I was at a junction and didn’t know which way to turn. I wanted both things, the stay-at-home-mom life that was going so well and the new adventures of being a publisher. I wanted things to change, I wanted to talk to adults, to make a difference and do something special. I also wanted to stay the same, keep the routine, and be safe. Some moments I feared not getting the job, other moments I feared getting hired.
Then came the issue of childcare. My oldest, a Kindergartener, is in school for a full day, but my middle child, a Pre-schooler, has only a half day from noon to three and there isn’t a bus service available for him. My oldest takes the bus to school in the mornings and they are both picked up at the same time in the afternoons. If I needed childcare, then my middle son would have to drop out of Pre-school since there wouldn’t be a way for him to get to and from the school. In our area, this meant that daycare would cost $110 per day for the three of them, more for the days that my oldest wouldn’t be in school like holidays or summers. Late pick-up fees would also have to be added on at $10 per child per hour after 5pm. There wouldn’t be a way for either Hubs or myself to get back before then, so it would be, at best $140 if we didn’t get hit with traffic or any reason to be kept at the office past 5. The cost would sky rocket during summer vacation.
I quickly realized that between taxes, gas for the commute, and childcare, the paycheck from my dream job would be depleted before I even got to buy a latte. I would be working to work, and possibly not break even. It just wasn’t going to pay for me to go back to work, even if it was for a job I really, desperately wanted.
I was still conflicted about what I wanted. I still wanted to find a way to make it work so I could take the job. I really wanted that position with that company and I wanted to work for that woman. I wanted to do it. But I also wanted to be home with my children, especially my small daughter. I wanted to wash their clothes every day and make their dinner every night. I wanted to fight with them over showers and clean up and struggle to make everything fair. I couldn’t decide which one I wanted more and I was heart broken when something as dumb as money went and made the decision for me. Perhaps if it were closer, or paid more, or it was another time it could all fall into place, but not now. It hurt to turn down my dream job.
I knew not taking the job would cut off potential contacts. It would put even more of a gap in my work history and further me even more from the industry I was trying to break into. I could sacrifice a lot and take the job to better my future prospects, but leaving my kids in the lurch seemed selfish. I know I did the right thing by staying home and possibly looking for something part time around town, I know I can still write and publish in the future. But doing the right thing doesn’t always take away the sting of walking away from something before you even got a chance to try. I didn’t reach for the golden ring because it’s not my time yet and there will be more opportunities, I just have to be patient. I’m trying to not be bitter about it because I know I will get another chance, but for this week, and until those bills are caught up, it’s going to be hard.