Thursday, September 13, 2007

Reclaiming My Sanity

Back when I was a corporate drone, before I had three children, I had the good fortune to chat with an Executive Wife. Her husband was the CFO of my company and commanded a salary well into the six figures, yet Executive Wife worked at Whole Foods as a bookkeeper. I was always baffled by her will to work when she surely didn't need to work.

One day while strolling through Whole Foods with a three month old Olie, I bumped into her and we started chatting. I had recently resigned my corporate drone position because I found pumping and storing milk until the end of the workday to be totally inefficient; it was far easier for me to be at home and pop a boob in Olie's mouth whenever she demanded it. At that moment - an impromptu conversation amidst grapes and kale - Executive Wife shared her reason for working: her children were all away at college and she was bored. But - she confided - she had worked while her children were small, but once they started school, she quit working because she thought it was far more important for her to be available to them at that point; a maternal figure - she reasoned - was easily substituted while her children were babies. I didn't understand her logic then but, now that I have two school-aged children, I do.

Yesterday, Lizzie's Social Studies class went on a field trip to the Titanic exhibit. I would have loved to have chaperoned, but I couldn't - 100 pages of reading was beckoning. Like Stefania, I enjoy packing lunches, I like chatting/going for coffee with the other moms after the bell has rung, and I like to have the opportunity to volunteer at my kids' schools. I just don't enjoy packing lunches while typing a hurried e-mail to work, book briefing, and making sure everyone has on clean undies before heading out the door. I don't like the working mom hustle-and-bustle and the demands on my time that make me an absentee parent. Those of you who do it either because you want to or you must - I commend you. But me? I am just not going to do it.

I've been a full-time worker and I've been a full-time mom and I've done both at the same time - albeit not very well - which is why I can say with certainty - unless financial necessity demands it - I will not work full-time once I graduate.

Madhubby and I've talked about my desire to be active in the kids' lives and we're in agreement. We were both latch-key kids who came home to empty houses and cold ovens and we don't want that for our children. I want to pick them up from school and chat about their day as we head home. I want to know their friends and their friends' parents and be available for the unplanned play date. I know - it all sounds dangerously 1950s with the cooking and the coffee talk but I assure you, I won't be slaving over the oven and frantically scouring every inch of my house. Nope, I have a phone (for delivery) a car (for takeout), and internet access (to locate a housekeeper) and I'm not afraid to use them. I just want to be sane and happy and not look back on this time with regret. Is that too much to ask?


PT-LawMom said...

I think that is great! I am doing law school for much the same reason. Although the life of a lawyer is never slow, I'm hopeful that I can do more at home and have some flexibility to be there in the late afternoons with my children, even if it means returning to work after dinner or bedtime. I want to be there!

Stefania said...

No, not too much to ask at all. I'm with you: if you have the resources, use them! Why not make Mama a little happier, life a little easier...Good for you for taking these steps!

Another former latch key kid who had to watch her three younger siblings after school.

LawSchoolMom said...

@pt-lawmom: Law school has provided me with the flexibility I need at a salary I can live with.

Honestly, I don't envision myself working more than the 20 hours (100% from home) than I do right now. It's just enough hours to make me happy but not so many that I go crazy with guilt. Graduation is the last hurdle to (near) total bliss.

pbb said...

Not too much to ask at all. I'm glad you know yourself and have a vision of good family life. What do you think the role of Dad is in all of this, though? I think that's my hesitation about most SAHM or WAHM discussions - not that the idea is so bad, but why when the discussion turns to "kids needs a parent," it so rarely leads to..."and so Dad will be changing his schedule around," etc. Good luck!

LawSchoolMom said...

@pbb: I know what you mean! In our case, Madhubby is quite willing to stay at home with the kids but (a) I don't enjoy work as much as he does and (b) my job doesn't provide insurance - his employer pays 100% of our family coverage premium.

We do know of a few dads who stay-at-home with their children while the wives work, but in our circle it's pretty rare. More often, dad works from home, mom stays at or works from home, too, and they parent equally; I often see both parents at school drop-off.

I didn't blog it, but last semester Madhubby altered his work schedule to stay home with our son while I attended class. I know of other moms at my school who have the same arrangement with their husbands.

So, dads are involved but the ultra-conservative SAHM movement/Mommy Wars author would have people believe the best parent is always mom when that's not always the case.

Dutch, who went from corporate lawyer to SAHD, is a great example. Wood, his wife who is also a lawyer, did not like staying at home with Junie. So, they flip-flopped. You can find him blogging away at Sweet Juniper (check my blogroll).

PT-LawMom said...

My DH switched his schedule to nights when Pumpkinhead was an infant so that one of us was always home with him in the first two years. I think many more Dads are staying home these days. There's actually a Yahoo group for this - MAWDAH - Mom's at Work, Dad's at Home. Especially as more women start to attain higher-paying positions than their husbands, things are changing in those families.