Friday, August 12, 2011

If I go there will be trouble

At work, we have an internal website where you can post parenting questions anonymously and get advice from equally anonymous coworkers. Lately there seem to be a rash of "should I quit my job and stay home with my kids" posts - maybe because annual performance review time, and that's when people take stock of what they're doing.

A friend at work sent a link to the excellent Seattle Mama Doc blog, where she addresses her struggles with her decision to be a working mom. This is a topic close to my heart, even with my fabulous part time work schedule.  I don't blog about it, for fear of appearing like I'm less than committed to my job and not being a good worker bee.  But I've been living with this *ick* in my heart since I went back to work after maternity leave last year and the decision is still not any clearer one way or the other.

I am a ridiculously poor multi-tasker.  When I have too many things going on, I just.can'  My stress level goes up, and I start wigging out.   The solution sounds simple, right?  I just need to eliminate the non-essential activities.  The problem is that I go through cycles where I feel like I can take on the world, and I sign myself and T (and sometimes TJ) up for everything under the sun that sounds neat or enriching or (danger!) crafty.

So there are days where I wonder whether it would be better to quit working while T is little.  One less thing to juggle.  No more "Trillian sad mama working".  Her exact words, I kid you not.  I could be at the zoo with my peeps instead of at work on a Sunday afternoon.   Tuesday and Thursday evenings wouldn't look like:
  • Sit in traffic for 30 min
  • Pick up baby & baby's stuff from daycare
  • Sit in traffic for 20 min
  • Get T milk/feed starving, whiny, unloved dogs/prep dinner for T
  • Get T to eat and  in bed before we miss the sleep window
I realize that there are people who deal with this 5 nights a week, but wow, that would just make my head explode.  From the minute I leave work until T is in bed and the baby monitor is quiet feels like a race against the clock.

It's not as easy for me as "leaving work at work" because my arrangement stipulates that I need to put in another day and a half worth of work from home sometime during the week.  I'm lucky that it's flexible, so it doesn't have to be during working hours, but that means I'm spending T's naptime, nights and weekends fitting in that work.

It doesn't seem like I should complain.  I mean, I have a DREAM work schedule.  What tech company would let someone only work in the office 2 days a week?  Hardly any tech companies even have the concept of part-time work, let alone challenging work at my level in my field.   On a team that really, truly does respect work-life balance.

And when T is in kindergarten, the part-time gig will be exactly what I need.  But that tiny voice in my head says "that's 3+ years from now, and anything could happen between now and then".  Maybe my company will decide not to support part time work anymore.  Maybe we'll have another 3 babies by then (just kidding!).  And I've never been one to do something now because I *might* regret it later if I don't.

And of course there's the money.  I want my baby to go to the best school we can find, and that will likely be private school.  I like craft supplies (though lord knows I don't need to buy any more!).  At some point we might like to go on a vacation that involves an airplane and fruity drinks with umbrellas.  And all that boring stuff like 401k, employee stock purchase, and my unvested stock that means we won't have to work until we're 90.

On the flip side, I wouldn't be bored at home.  I already have more activities and learning stuff I want to do with her than I can fit into our weeks.  We have friends we haven't seen in weeks because somehow our off-day schedules fill up quicker than imaginable. 

I don't have career aspirations to be a VP.  My goal has always been to do work I like, with people who are cool, for decent money.  Check. Check. Check.

Therein lies the problem. I don't have a clear path on what to do.  And while I'm unsure, it would be stupid to quit.  Something that bold needs to be backed with sheer, radiating confidence.  Sigh.

Internets, tell me what to do.  Just kidding.  But tell me what you're doing, and why. 

(Oh and yes, I realize this is upper-middle-class navel gazing, the likes of which 99.9% of the world cannot indulge in.  I know I'm lucky.)


  1. There is no easy answer,and I'm not the one to listen too (single, no kids, workaholic), but I'm not sure if things get better when kids are in kindergarten and school. There is always something- dance class, soccer practice, doctors appointments, etc.

    I do believe that work will always be available, but your kids are only young once. And if you are considering having more puppies, then now might be the time to do it.

    Depending on where your income comes from, you and/or TJ- if you can afford to stay home then do it.

    Things get exponentially more expensive with multiple kids in daycare. - car, gas, tire, daycare. I think sometimes family can have more net profit with one parent staying home.

  2. Andy makes good points that you might not expect from a "single, no kids workaholic." :)

    I always knew I'd stay home with my kids, at least until they hit school age, so I can't really help on that end. My sister worked full time with her first baby and stayed home from the time her second was born. I remember her saying that she didn't know how much she missed with #1 until she was home with #2 and got to see it all. That stuck with me. Of course a full-time schedule is a totally different animal from what you have, it's just one of the biggest reasons I never considered continuing to work.

    While pregnant with Emmett, I considered going back to work to support private school payments. I even went so far as to look into getting a teaching credential, so I'd have summers off with him. Of course, after researching homeschooling I realized I could do better than an expensive private school by taking on education as a DIY project. We've chosen to live in a low-cost area, and it's allowed us to thrive on only one income.

    This is definitely one of those "only you can decide" questions, and it can be a toughie. Can you take a leave of absence to test the waters? Have you tried to live on one salary while banking the other (minus expenses that would disappear like daycare) to see if you can be comfortable? Good luck...

  3. I've been a stay at home mom for 8 years now and I still ask myself this question sometimes. I go through "work envy" with my husband, three kids making a racket in the back of the car on our way to drop him off, and thinking, "hmmm, in 5 minutes he gets to escape to grown-up land and I get to deal with this by myself...all day..." Sometimes I think a part time job would be exactly what I need, plus with the extra money we'd be able to afford things like, oh, a second car!

    What I love about staying home: a more relaxed schedule, being available on all school holidays and all summer long, and probably most of all, not having to leave David at this age. He sobbed for me long enough at the YMCA that they had to come and get me, and I never tried again, that's how much of a wimp I am with separation.

    Your part-time schedule sounds good from the outside but only you know what it feels like in reality. I hope you can make the choice without feeling any guilt either way. If you choose to stay home, you will eventually be able to find a job again (that's what I'm banking on, and once David hits Kindergarten I'll have been home for 11 years!). And if you keep your work schedule, Trillion will do great - having a chance to do all the fun activities that they do in daycare and make all those friends plus still get a lot of time with you on your days at home.

  4. Thanks so much for your comments!

    The problem is easier to solve with more than one kid - or at least, the solution would be way clearer :)

    I do agree that in theory, my part time work is a nice balance of extra cash, keeping my career current, and time with T. It's just running me over in practice so I need to see if there's a way to fix THAT. Who knows - it may just be the stress of ramping up on a new job that's doing it...


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