June 21, 2007

We now return to our Lifetime Special after an extended commercial break...

There was no way we could afford to have a baby in New York City and I don't know why it took us months to finally admit it. Well, I do know. Marc was in school and could not transfer. What could we possibly do other than have me return to work and leave O with a nanny or in daycare? Except that we couldn't afford it - our least favorite option was going to be about $17K a year. And I hated the idea of leaving her. HATED IT. So O and I returned to Chattanooga to stay with my mom and step-father while Marc finished his program in the city, following us months later. I was still going to need to work, but O would be with my mom and I thought that I could handle that.

Except that I couldn't find a job in what I considered "my field." I went on some great informational interviews and met some interesting people, but where there were countless foundations and non-profits with Officer positions in New York, in Chattanooga, those great positions were filled and I got the feeling that when they did open there would be a short list of folks considered for them. I eventually took a position in the for-profit sector and it turned out to be a good thing for me. I worked on my public speaking; I dealt with independent contractors; I met some great people; I learned.

But I chafed at being away from Olivia and was constantly reviewing our options. Marc soon got his license and started applying for positions here in town. My mom told us that she was wearing out with full-time child care. The Parent's Day Out program we tried didn't agree with O. We thought we could make it on one salary. I turned in my notice.

It was weeks before I finally stop feeling a pang of guilt each day, like I was playing hooky and bound to get caught by my boss on my way to the zoo in my flip-flops. But I got over it for the most part. I love being at home with my daughter and I relish being able to spend all this time with her, to teach her so much, and experience so much of her babyhood. I feel that she needs this kind of time and attention from me, especially since her diagnosis. I also feel that my home life would suffer if both Marc and I worked full-time and out of the house. Our organizational skills are barely strong enough to keep us all in clean clothes as it is; if we both worked, things would be too stretched.

But there is still ambivalence. I look back at the lines I just wrote and I think about how easily Marc and I have fallen into traditional roles of breadwinner and homemaker. He has more earning power than I do. I am more comfortable being at home. He still does a lot of the cooking - it's not as though he comes home to me in an apron with a nice martini waiting - but he is out and I am here, so I end up doing most of the cleaning and laundry and "housework." I sometimes resent the fact that I don't have as much definition between work and home. There are times when I feel uncomfortable when we share our "What did you do today?" stories. He saved a life. I mopped the bathroom and then went to the park. Neither of us devalue what I do here with O, but I am conscious of the demotion that I have undergone in the world at large. I don't like to think of myself as a soldier in the "Mommy Wars," as in moms who stay home vs moms who work, but there is so much more to the concept than that. It is about power and value and rights. What if something were to happen to my husband or my marriage? Would I be able to support myself and my child? Will there be a job for me in my field when I decide to and am able to go back to work? Will I ever be able to attain the level of success or income that I might have had I not left work? And how is my decision to leave the professional world affecting those issues for women in general? Many of the gains made by women in recent decades will not keep themselves made without women there to defend them. Will there be enough professional role models for the next generation?

So I have questions and anxiety, but for our little family, this is working out right now. And that is what I have to base my choices on. I am satisfied with my decision to be at home, grateful to even have the option. And for one who never really had a master plan, I'm glad to have stumbled into this particular kind of job satisfaction.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have so many comments I could make to your latest entry. But I guess the thing that stands out is that your days spent with Olivia (the good ones and the screamy ones) can never be relived. And I am sure Marc is jealous when you tell him about your domestic day and the things O. said or did. When the time is right, if ever, for you to return to the workforce, you will be still be qualified and dedicated. Enjoy being "just" a housewife/mother for now. Love, M

2:15 PM  
Blogger Major Bedhead said...

This was a great post. I have things to say about it, but it will have to wait for tomorrow. I have a date with Harry Potter and my pillow right now....

1:05 AM  
Blogger courtney said...

As O gets older, who knows how your priorities will change. Perhaps your fund raising experience at UNICEF can be applied to fundraising for a cure for diabetes and maybe your work and your care for O will converge. Not to worry that there will not be enough female role-models for O and her cohort. This fembot is still slaving away in cubicle land. I guess serving as a 'what not to do' for future generations does have some value...

1:13 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

I think you are very lucky momy ,my baby only 4.5m old and I am breastfeeding(he does not know how to sit yet) and I don't care any more about living in NY or having PA job,I want to be with him ,but my huby still in training ,so I have to go beck and let Leo go to daycare,I have no $$$$ to pay for nanny in NYC, it is all my paycheck post taxes.This is my 4th night with out sleep,I don't remember beeng so down as now,but from next Mon Leo will be without me and I without him,it is too painfull,I start to hate myself.Enjoy O don't even think about job you will be able to go beck any time but you will never be able to make up for those first years and first steps.Say hi to Mark from me.
Anna Kalmanovich

3:28 PM  
Blogger Paige said...

anna-congratulations on the birth of your son! I'm sorry that you are having such a tough time. I don't have an email for you; if you want to contact me, there is an email address on the top right corner of the site. Marc and I are thinking of you.

10:45 PM  

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