I've been weary of reading about work-life balance, working vs. staying home with kids, etc. When I found Laura Vanderkam's post, at first I got prickly because I disagree with some of her views on flexibility and scaling back. But as I read further, I realized she completely nailed the reason why I continue to work outside the house.
Some of you who have been reading for a while are probably wondering the same thing. I make no secret about my desire to stay home and if I'm going to get really crazy, maybe even part-time homeschool the kids. I'm also all about going after what I want (thanks Mondo Beyondo!).
On a crafty forum a few weeks ago, when people were introducing themselves, one woman posted that she was ridiculously jealous of all the stay-at-home-moms who had posted and I could totally empathize. I was surprised to see that this woman had a high powered career for which she had a lot of training and experience, as a specialized hospital nurse. So it's not just those people who "have to work to pay the bills" who feel this pull to be at home too.
|(c) Kristi Lloyd Photography, 2012|
In our household, though, that's not the case. TJ and I are in the same industry, and have pretty similar earning power. I think he has a *slight* advantage as far as the number of open positions and flexible options like contracting or telecommuting, and the industry we work in does value his skill set more than mine. But overall it's been pretty even when we both work full time.
TJ quit his job about 6 months ago. And wow, have I noticed a difference in our family's overall happiness. We hang out together more. We each have more special time with T. We each get more "alone time" because we can trade off kid duty on weekdays and not just on weekends. We can go to the zoo on a Wednesday morning. TJ is pursuing both business and leisure projects he never had time for. But most importantly, TJ is happier, and we no longer have days where he doesn't see T awake. (He used to leave for work before she woke and would often return after she was in bed, since her bedtime is crazy early.)
So given that, from a financial point of view, it makes sense for me to keep working since we need some income to stay afloat, right? But I see it as more than that. As part of this marriage, it's my responsibility to support us while he figures out his dreams as much as it is his responsibility to support us while I do my thing, too. We don't have this automatic "oh it's the MAN's job to support his family and the WOMAN's job to keep the home fires burning."
In some marriages, that division works just fine, because one partner might LOVE their work and get a lot of personal fulfillment (and/or money), while the other could take it or leave it. Same is true where one partner really feels like they NEED to be home.
In our case, neither of us has a burning passion for the work we've been doing. I really LIKE my job, for sure, but it doesn't complete me, nor bring me great personal fulfillment. If I didn't have to do this kind of work for pay, I wouldn't. (Unless you count my extensive list making and project planning for toddler birthday parties...) I don't want either of us to feel "trapped" in a job they dislike because they are our sole source of support - that's a lot of pressure for one person to bear.
But keeping up my end of the support bargain is a struggle for me too. I LOVE the domestic stuff. I like having whole extra days to hang out with T (and now TJ), hence I'm keeping my part-time schedule, though I chose to increase my hours slightly. My logical brain tells me I should go back to working full time so we have better financial prospects, but the emotional side knows that working full time will make me frazzled and tired. Not to mention the thought of pumping milk for a tiny baby 5 days a week instead of just 2 or 3 makes me want to hide under my desk.
In my company and industry, part-time arrangements are VERY hard to come by so I want to hang on to mine as long as I possibly can. I want us to have an arrangement where (at least) one parent is home when kids are done with school, we can attend kid events at school during the day, and where early dismissal and summer vacation aren't massive logistical problems.
But it doesn't always have to be ME. The hard part is working it out so that *sometimes* it can be me and sometimes him. I don't want to just swap traditional roles and become the person who is working 50 hours a week while TJ handles all the home stuff. That's not my vision, either.
But damn, is it hard to find that sweet spot. For now, we're precariously balancing on it, and I am truly grateful.