When I left off with my last post, I had gone from working as a full-time, in-office loan processor to taking my baby to work for half the day then working from home the other half. When my baby started crawling and wanting to explore, taking him to work was no longer feasible. So my supervisor offered to let me work completely from home.
I still had to commute for staff meetings, and when a problem came up it was harder to solve without being able to walk into someone’s office and fix it right then and there. We had the internet, but none of the fancy programs like Trello or GoToMeeting that make working remotely as easy as it is now. Physical files had to be transferred frequently, and I was taking calls from banks and title companies during daytime hours as well as try to care for my baby. We made it work, but when an online only job came my way, I took it. My company had already hired another in-office processor, and it seemed like a good time to make the transition.
The new job was one I could do at my convenience. The hours were full-time, but as long as I put them in each week, it didn’t matter when. I worked while my baby was sleeping, then while my husband was home in the evenings and on Saturdays. That job was perfect, because I could do it without my little guy crawling under my desk and giving me that warm feeling only a slobbery mouth sucking on your toe can.
Fast forward a few years to the story I told in Part 1 of this series. By then, I had three kids and hadn’t worked for a few years. We had moved to a different state, and rented out the house we moved from instead of selling it. When we did put it up for sale, it fell through the day before closing due to a problem on the buyer’s end. We had to re-list it and it sat empty for about seven months. So, I had to get another job.
I found one I could do from home, but I also had to be on calls most of the day. Unless I wanted my kids to eat suckers and watch Disney Jr. downstairs for hours on end while I worked upstairs, I had to send them to day care. Talk about working mom guilt! There I was, sitting in my house, yet still sending my kids away. That job was supposed to be part-time, but the company was small and as soon as I was trained, I started getting everyone else’s overload. It quickly went from 30 hours a week to 40 to 50+. But it was a take-it-or-leave-it situation where I couldn’t count hours and be done. I had to finish my work, period. And there was always more. As the Christmas shopping season rolled around, which was huge for business, my hours jumped to around 70 per week. My husband was working full-time as well, and I have no idea how we got through that. “Surviving” is about the only way to describe it.
The picture at the top of this post is what happened when I left my computer unattended with my two-year-old in the house. When my nerves were always shot, that kind of thing pushed me over the edge. I still remember walking into the kitchen, seeing the destruction, and starting to cry. My husband spent two hours carefully re-assembling the keys, and we had to order a few new ones where the attachment piece had been broken. I don’t think I ever would have handled it super great, but being constantly on edge wasn’t a fun place to hang out. When the house sold, I was finally able to quit.
Once I did, I actually had time to process my feelings. Move over mom guilt, regret and resentment were coming through! And they buried it like an avalanche. I regretted every minute I sat in front of my laptop while my boys fell asleep waiting for me to come say goodnight. I regretted every time the babysitter heard my two-year-old say a new word before I did, and resented the fact that even when I was with my family, I had nothing left to give. That was three years ago, and I haven’t worked since.
So, that’s my working mom history! My advice to other moms who are trying to decide to work or not can be summed up with two questions:
1. Who will watch the kids?
This is the question, isn’t it? Before you had kids, your choice only affected you and your significant other. Once you do have them, that’s no longer the case. Some people think working has a negative impact on their kids. Some people think it has a positive one. What do you think is true for your family? If that decision requires someone other than you to watch your kids, who will it be? Start there, and make sure you’re comfortable with the answer before going any further.
Trying to work and watch my baby at the same time, whether he was in the office with me or I was home with him, did not lend itself to efficiency. When my husband watched my baby while I worked, I was a lot more productive. When that wasn’t possible, I had to outsource childcare. Bottom line: someone has to watch the kids.
2. What is your “Why?”
More money is always nice, but if your husband’s job supports your family, what is your “Why” behind working?
While I was in the thick of having three little boys at home all day, I wanted to work just to run away from all the whining and spilled milk. Now that I have three in school and only one left at home, I’m beginning to realize there actually will be a next season of life. Although it often seemed monotonous, I’m not sorry for all the games of catch and Candyland I played with my kids. I’ll never be sorry for the memories of spending time together. (Though, now that my kids have been out of school for two weeks, I admit that’s a lot easier to stand behind during the school year.)
If your “why” is about not giving up your own dreams, think about how taking a specific job will help you achieve them. Because putting time, energy, and your best ideas toward someone else’s doesn’t get you there. I dare say to most companies, you’re worth is mostly tied to the way you increase their profit margin. When they decide they can make more money by sending your job overseas, resentment will rear its ugly head. I realize that’s a risk to every employed person on earth, but what I’m trying to say is if you’re sacrificing time with your kids to follow your dreams, make sure what you’re doing is helping you achieve them.
Decide what’s best for your family, but keep these two questions in mind as you do. Also remember that no choice is ever perfect, and what’s best for you now doesn’t have to be your forever situation. What I’m finally realizing, now that the next season of my life is slowly coming into view, is that building our life primarily on my husband’s income is allowing me to pursue my writing dreams without any pressure. And for the first time in my life, I can finally see how pushing through the hard parts of feeling trapped in my house with kids I love but don’t always love to have hanging on me is turning out to be a blessing.
Great American novel, here I come!