I love my job. I love my company. If I had to pick a commute (provided not commuting was not on the table), I'd pick this one over most - but grudgingly, what with gas prices exceeding anything resembling reasonable anymore.
Working or not working has never been a choice for me as a parent. Like most parents, the kind of choices I can make have more to do with what kind of work I will do, what kind of hours I will accept, what kind of pay is necessary to keep us housed and fed and reasonably healthy. Less often anymore is it a choice over whether a parent will stay home. So many families are struggling to find jobs in this nerve-flogging environment of unemployment that for many families, both parents might be home full time.
And when work is available, for most families, both incomes are necessary to pay for the necessities. I have much respect for those families where parents have made the sacrifice of spending any time with one another to work separate shifts so that the staggering cost of child care doesn't make working untenable.
When families do have a choice of a parent staying home, more and more Mom isn't the automatic default. While I still think the career/parenting paradigm is more of a struggle for women than for men, I'm gratified to see many fathers being engaged in the nurturing and care of babies, some to the point of being the parent who is present for daily activities.
I used to think that if I had an actual choice to work or to stay at home, I'd always choose work. Of course, back then I didn't have fence to mend, irrigation to repair, painting to do or horses to ride. I know better now. I am also faced with the fact that as my children age, the time is soon coming when their need for an available parent close to or at home will wane. What if I had the ability to meet my family's financial needs and still be more available to my kids? What if that came at the potential cost of delayed promotions down the road?
Deborah Spar, president of Barnard College, suggested in a article in Newsweek that too many women these days think they are supposed to do it all and do all of it perfectly. That even when we know better, even when we tell other women its OK to not be able to do it all because no one can possibly be a full time career person, homeschooler, designated team driver and keep a perfectly immaculate house and have dinner on the table each night, we don't allow ourselves the same leeway.
Spar quotes a former student:
'Girls need to have all their grandmothers wanted them to have, while looking as pretty as their mothers wanted them to look ... You try so hard to be who everyone wants you to be while attempting to maintain some kind of individuality and in the end you seem to lose everything.'
I think I'm old enough now to appreciate - and more importantly, accept - that there is no way to win the game when half the cards I'm holding are still face down on the table.
The upcoming months signal a big transition for me and for my company. When the rubber meets the road, I will likely be making some decisions about where I want to go right now career-wise, and it will probably be the nearest opportunity I have to work toward a path that - for now - means I do something that affords me the ability to be there for my kids in a way I can't at the moment.
I think its OK to accept a career path that has a flat point in it for a while and then re-evaluate down the road a little bit what it is I'd actually like to be when I grow up. And, truth be told, I'm ambivalent about what it really means to be "successful." Does that mean making lots of money, having lots of power or having a personal life that is stable and enjoyable and where I have the leeway and time to be the mom I think I should be? In a perfect world, those things wouldn't be mutually exclusive, but in the real world they most certainly are. I don't want to take a back seat to anyone, but does taking a path where I have fewer people to manage and more time for my family really mean that I'm not still in the game? Maybe it just means I've swapped out a few of my cards.