On Being a Full-time Mom

July 3, 2008 at 4:15 pm (goings-on, Other, parenting) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

So, I finally quit my job.  Yeah, I’d been thinking about it for a little while, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go the route of full-time mommyhood.  Why?  Because of so many societal and cultural pressures to always do more: to work more, make more, be more.  Especially as an educated woman of a certain class, it’s as if I’m expected not to fritter away the workplace opportunities that countless women before me had to fight a political and cultural uphill battle to gain.

That we farm out chores like housework and childcare to women of a lower socio-economic class than ourselves belies how much we really value the most intimate functions of domestic life.  I’m not arguing that cleaning toilets and mopping floors is for everyone.  (Although, housework can easily burn as many calories as a trip to the gym, so why not save money on the maid and the membership?)  Childcare, on the other hand, performed full-time by loving and invested parents, has got to be better than institutional care for a young child’s social and emotional development–their confidence, self-esteem, and sense of security in the world.

Ultimately, I think, children value your time and attention more than the things you can buy them and the shiny wrappings in which they come.  Young children who haven’t yet attended school and have no experience yet of peer-pressure and cultural cues, do not care that their clothes aren’t name-brand or that their furniture and toys are second-hand.  In fact, they don’t even know what a brand is or what consignment means.  So, what better time to be poor than when your children are young?

People are always congratulating Stephen on making it through his Master’s program having had a baby in his first year, but we say grad school, with it’s flexible and autonomous work schedule, was the ideal time to have a baby.  Stephen was always able to work around me, whether I worked a solid and stable two full days like at the bakery or a random and ever-changing schedule of afternoon demos like with Horizon.  In the end, though, me working full days was better for Stephen because when he had to come home early for me to be off to do a demo, the commute-time meant he only got two or three hours of work done on some days–hardly even a half-day.

This summer, Stephen landed a job with a hedge fund manager that not only pays amazingly well, but that he really likes and looks forward to doing part-time even when he has to return to school in the fall (if he returns to school in the fall).  Since Stephen is able to make at least three times more than me per hour and since he can easily make all of our financial ends meet, my work was just cutting into our time together as a family.  When Eleanor was four months old, I went back to work because we needed the money and I’ve been working Saturday or Sunday–sometimes both–ever since in order to not cut into Stephen’s work week too much (since we don’t have a nanny, me going to work means he has to stay home with Eleanor).  Only having one-day weekends–our “family fun day”–was a sacrifice we were willing to make when it was financially necessary and now that it isn’t, it’s a sacrifice I can’t rationalize making any more.  We were starting to wonder how we’d spend all the extra money we were making, anyway, and then it occurred to us that we didn’t need to make money that we can’t use.

Things would be different if my job at Horizon was something that really fulfilled me on more than a financial level–my ego, my soul, my future.  Don’t get me wrong, Horizon was a great company to work for, the job I was doing was engaging, my boss was really flexible, and the pay was great.  I certainly got a lot of practice speaking off the cuff and to groups of strangers and, in general, dealing with the public.  These are valuable skills that I can take with me to any future position and, on a personal level, I feel more confident with the experience of this job under my belt.  But, alas, I was in sales and marketing–a department I was never quite comfortable with, although I didn’t have to be an aggressive salesperson because I never worked on commission.  That I was “marketing” to the public made me feel, sometimes, like I was just out there hawking products.  Sometimes, the products were awesome–organic, local, independently-owned, something I’d actually buy–but a lot of the time I was demoing products that I didn’t personally like or regard as being particularly healthy or eco-friendly.  On those occasions, I made it my personal mission to at least use the demo as an opportunity to discuss with members of the public the environmental impacts of their food choices and why they should consider paying the little bit extra for quality organic products made closer to home.  But, let’s face it, I mostly worked in Capers and Choices markets, which are the Talley’s Green Grocery of Vancouver–meaning, if you’re shopping there, you already care.  So, basically, I came to feel like I was preaching to the converted.

So, what’s next?  Well, in the fall I want to start volunteering at the Aquarium again.  Maybe this time I can be a presenter or group leader or something a little more engaging than data entry, not that I didn’t learn a lot about the coastal geography of the Pacific Northwest by entering data for the Cetaceans Sightings Network.  Also, I’m thinking of enrolling in a yoga teacher training program; there’s a dearth of child-friendly yoga classes in my area.  Ultimately, though, this move to not hold a permanent paid position for the time being, allows me to spend every glorious day of summer with my little girl and what could be better than that?!

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