Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dangers of unemployment

I'm a stay at home mom, but I call myself unemployed. Which basically means no one pays me for working about 17 hours a day. And that pretty much sucks, because I work hard, but there's no reward program for raising a family. I do enjoy a lot of perks, like being on my own schedule and getting the computer all to myself whenever I want. I have nearly seven hours a day kid-free. I once wondered - what do people DO with all that time when they don't work? And I've come to the conclusion that you will fill your day whether you work full time, part time or not at all. Because people are just BUSY! I know I stay busy all day long, usually with more things to do than I can even get done in a day, a week or even a month. But there are times when my overflowing "to do" list overwhelms me and I don't even know where to start. So, I don't. I end up distracting myself with any number of other things and never bring myself to do what's on the list. Oh sure, eventually I'll tackle all of those items, but I'm here to tell you some have been "on the list" for years. In fact, some I just plain took off the list, because, really, who wants to be reminded for YEARS that they never got around to doing something? And I'm sure the reason I never got around to it, was because I was busy doing something else.

But on those days, when there is absolutely nothing holding me back from doing "the list", and yet I can't seem to find my motivation anywhere, I find myself pondering really random and stupid things. Like, why do we put our socks and underwear in the top drawer? Why do dogs always have accidents on carpet when half of the house is covered in hardwoods? How do people become famous? Do people really enjoy cooking complicated recipes and if so, why? How can I spend hours on Facebook/the computer and always find one more thing to look up or read or research? Why don't I love exercise as much as, say, chocolate chip cookies? How can I look outside my window at a perfect fall day and still be inside on the computer? Are people really fulfilled at their jobs?

Perhaps there are no answers for these or other stupid, random questions. And perhaps if I had a full time job I would not have time to ponder them. Sure, I take care of my family and keep the house in working order, and make food and sign papers and write checks and grocery shop and run errands and volunteer, so why do I feel like a drain on society? Why do I feel like I have no marketable skills and that my only hope of having a fulfilling career is to go BACK to school, which I've already graduated from and spent thousands of dollars on? It's been nearly a year since I've been looking for "the perfect job" which turned into "a good job" which has now turned into "any job". But somehow I just think spending eight hours a day at a job I do not like or even enjoy, just to come home and try to cram everything I've always done into the rest of the day, and still be a good wife and mother to my kids, just doesn't seem appealing. I guess that's the kicker - you have to love your job. And I don't know what job I'd love more than raising my family. Sounds so old-fashioned and narrow-minded, but it's also been my primary job for almost 18 years. Sure, I've done other jobs, even been paid for some, but I always felt like the job was just another chore. Another something to get through until I could return home and do what I really wanted. Which is mainly just to BE HERE. To be present for my kids until they're grown. To teach them how to do laundry, and cook a meal and manage their time, and be nice and have goals. To basically become good people with compassion and integrity. And after that? Bring on the full time job. What else would I do with my time? But right now it just seems like a lot to balance. And as bored as I might become some days, I'd rather be bored than not here. It's a tough one.

I talk to my "working mom" friends and many say they would rather be home, or at least working part time. Some enjoy their jobs and can't imagine being a full time mom, or not having their own income. Almost all express regret that they "miss" certain parts of their kids' lives while working. Most say they "need" the money, and I'm sure some do, while others can't imagine scaling back their lifestyle to live on one income. I've yet to meet a working mom who doesn't have some anxiety about the whole work/home balance. And maybe there isn't one? Maybe it's just never "perfect" but we do what we have to just to make ends meet, or get through a difficult time, or save up for something. A lot of working mothers say they need their own life, their own identity, and do not feel guilty in the slightest for having their own career and life outside of family. I think it's what you know. For someone like me, who has been there for their kids every step of the way, I have NO idea what it's like to work full time, to juggle daycare and the responsibilities of raising a family while working. And the task seems especially daunting. However, for someone who's worked since their babies were old enough for daycare, a life like mine might seem unimaginably boring. I once asked a working mom friend if she missed her baby terribly during the day. She replied, rather flippantly, "no", as though the question was ridiculous. And maybe to her it was - while I was cringing at the thought of a stranger raising my baby while I worked, she was probably secure in her decision to place her baby in a quality child care setting and felt confident that he was well cared for during the day.

A lot of new moms like the work/home balance because it gives them the "me" time they crave from taking care of a baby (a demanding task to be sure) all day. But when your "babies" are old enough to stay home alone, you end up having a LOT of "me" time. At first, as the kids went off to school, I made the most of the two or three or four hours I got alone, depending on the schedule. But most of that time was spent running errands or cleaning house or on otherwise mundane chores. Besides, with only one income, who has time for shopping or a manicure? Now, my kids are gone almost seven hours a day, and I still feel like the time flies. When I AM working, I am constantly watching the clock and bored out of my mind. I guess nothing entertains me quite like my own company (haha), but when I'm alone I feel the time whisks by and before I know it, the kids are home again. When I'm working I'm fully aware that I'm not "busy" enough to keep me from counting down the minutes until I'm free and can manage my own time again. Maybe that's because I could never be busier than I am at home. Or maybe I'm just doing the wrong job for me. Either way, I don't know what the right job is, and I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up. I can't imagine any job being as fulfilling as what I do right now. And yet, I NEED an income. It's as simple as that. I just need a job so I can bring money into the family. Which is a lot easier said than done. I know there's no perfect balance. But it would be nice to know some of the secrets.

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