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Work vs. life: Do you regret giving up work stuff for kids?

I love my job, and I know deep down that I would never be fulfilled as a mama who didn't work outside the home. My ability to work from home, my great bosses who totally get my juggle, and the fact that I'm the primary breadwinner, seal the deal.

But today I'm feeling especially angst-y. Everyone in my division, everyone, even the administrative staff, is attending a big meeting at the feet of the big boss in New York. Due to the relatively last-minute nature of the trip and the fact I have a very small baby, I negotiated with my very understanding immediate supervisors to sit this one out; we have a big launch coming up in a couple of weeks, and putting me on two red-eyes in order to listen to a couple of PowerPoint presentations seemed silly.

I've been to New York plenty of times, I've shaken hands with the big boss, I know I'm not about to get laid off or marginalized. But somehow this is (mentally) just one too many times I've had to miss an important meeting because of children. I love my children, and I've had no real desire to endure the stress of travel in the last two months of my pregnancy and the first four months of Monroe's babyhood. But I love the thrill of getting together with remote colleagues IRL, I love New York, I'm feeling like I'm missing out on more than just a meeting. I'm missing the vibrancy and connected-ness of shaking hands and getting coffee and brainstorming with my co-workers.

I know "they" say you'll never lie on your deathbed wishing you'd spent more time at the office; I know my inner struggle is a rich woman's dilemma (note: I mean rich in life, not money ;). But still: do you ever wish you were more like the stereotypical 50s daddy, kissing baby goodbye in the morning and sailing off into the rewarding world of work without a second thought? Do you ever wish you could turn a switch and be childless just for a day or two, flipping the switch again when you were ready?

As I type this, Monroe gurgles and goos and whoa-oohs downstairs, and I know I'm happy I'm here. But... what the heck am I missing?

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heck yeah mama! there is no arguing that by being mothers we have reached the highest level of womanhood - that our experiences and knowledge and intuition are unmatched - and that we are able to give and receive one of the deeper kinds of love. Really, it doesn't get better than that.

But, the conundrum continues. With the birth of our most beautiful creature, some of our own beauty passes from us to them. Our energy seems to be more rooted and ancient, while the blossoms of it spring now from our children. With all the magic, there does come a sense, at times, of wondering what could have been done, if our lives were still our own.

Anyway, I'm just saying YES, i do the same thing, and I also have a stay-at-home, super flexible job with a boss sent from heaven. But sometimes... I wonder....

i think i will always be one for daydreaming. :)

Oh what I wouldn't give for this dilemma! Grass is always greener... I would love to be able to work from home and make it all balance without having to leave the house at a certain time every day. I do not think I would miss meetings and the formality of the 30 minute lunch. Of course, right now I would just be happy to have a job, but doing my job in my jammies seems so appealing that I cannot even express it. I tried to start up my own home business last summer and failed miserably. And you just can't telecommute as a social worker. What is it that you all do at home, and how do I break into that field???

Well said, Sadie Rose! I agree that I'm grateful to have found a professional opportunity that provided some of the balance I was seeking but even while feeling productive, it's not the same as my before kids career. It will likely be several years (if ever) before I'm able to bring in a six figure income again, or even a five figure commission check. And, for the time being, it's my husband's career that takes precedence over sick kids, doctors appointments, or the cable guy--I get to be the one to take care of all of those things, even if it falls on a work day. But again, it's all about balance, and I'm happy to have that. My pre-baby career was high stakes--100% commission--no deals, no paycheck. I'm happy to not be riding on that roller coaster at the moment.

I had a bad day last week (or several!) and made a hasty comment to my husband about wanting to go back to work just so that I dont have to fight the battles at home all. day. long. Yes, some days I wish I could walk out the door and leave the laundry, crying, whining and dishes to a great nanny to take care of so that I can go meet with a CEO or hop on a plane for a presentation. But I also know myself well enough to know that I'd be thinking about my boys while in the meeting with the CEO, wondering if they're having a good day or a bad day, and looking forward to coming home to see them. So, I'm not ready to give up my gig as full time CEO of our household.

I've put my career aside entirely right now, while kiddos are young. It's hard not to ache, sometimes, for the feeling of being a grown-up, for a part of my brain to be stimulated and to not feel ambitious about where I'd love to be career-wise. I just try to be calm -- eyes on the day when my younger son starts kindergarten (I'd think about returning to work when he started pre-school, but really, what sort of job allows you to show up just three hours a day?). So, I'll wait, and work on having faith in myself that I can successfully return. Waiting, waiting....

Ditto what Kristin said. I have put everything aside right now career-wise. Everything. And there are definitely days that I do regret what I've given up for my children (often in other ways other than career, too). And I long to feel like a capable grown-up again with ambition and drive all for myself instead of just for my children. I definitely wonder what my life could have become had I only had myself to think about and work on.

I too would kill to have a work from home job that I could do while my son is in preschool...but those 3 hour/day jobs are hard to come by.

Like Kristin, I just keep my eye on Kindergarten and try to keep positive and count my blessings in the meantime.

But just reading your post made me want to go to New York...oh, the yearning!

debby:

:::::::::hijack alert:::::::::::

INORITE? Actually I understand that Community Action Organization usta let folks bring babies to work, but that's as close as it gets in social work. I know people who do consulting but they usually have a partner's income or are semi-retired.

Single mamas often need health insurance for themselves and their kids, so here comes "traditional" work dealio.

I've done my fair share of travel before and after kids; and I can honestly say I do not miss my former work-a-holic self. By nature I have a tendency to become very focused and had a hard time separating work from home even apres child. I am happy with my current work situation especially knowing that as my kids grow, I can flex my schedule to accomodate changes in our family situation.

Also working in a field where women (especially mothers) are underrepresented, I feel an obligation to stay on a career path that will make it easier for future women and mothers entering my field. Balance is hard to acheive and sometimes I feel overwhelmed doing the juggling act, but for now I'm in a good place.

Except for maternity leaves, I have always done the 40-hr work week since starting motherhood. But, I could tell that the 40 hours were not enough. There were plenty of after-hours or early-morning meetings or networking functions that could have helped me "advance" in my career more, broaden my awareness of industry issues. I could have gone to more conferences to further my work. In the end, 40 hours a week away from my girls was more than enough. But, I had to work them 40 hours so we could get my medical benefits, which were better and cheaper than my spouse's.

So, I feel like I have had that feeling, of wanting to be like the 1950s daddy, of just heading out without a care and going to seal a deal or something and bring home wads of cash. But, there is something in me that keeps me closer to home and saying "no, thank you" to the breakfast with the Gov at the MAC club.

Now that my girls are older, almost-4 and 7, I have consciously focused more on furthering my career. I have chosen a job that makes me travel up to 2 times a week but that also gives me the flexibility of picking up my daughters right at school dismissal time twice a week. The travel that comes with me new job feels like a luxury, to have the time and space to focus on my work. I don't think I have allowed myself that luxury before. Plus, the other benefit / side-effect of this job is that my spouse has had to strengthen his home ties -- making dinner, packing lunches, putting the girls to bed even before I get home.

I've worked full time from home, and full time out of the home, and neither is ideal for me.

I love working - I can't imagine not having the stimulation (and of course, we couldn't do without my salary - so there's little use in dreaming about it). I don't even think part time (less than 30 hours) would work for me - because there are no high-level part time jobs in what I do, and I know now that I'm not happy doing work that isn't high-level anymore. Still I'm surprised by how I long for my kids when I'm at work. I went out of town for work last month, and for the first time I cried at the airport - when I worked from home, travel felt like an escape. This time it felt like I was ducking something important.

I feel frustrated sometimes because I just don't have the option of working late if the project goes long (and by the time I can log in after the kids are in bed, I'm totally fried).

I just want more time. My 'beauty' routine in the morning is 2 minutes in the car while my husband drives and I try not to spear my eye with the mascara wand. Exercise? Ha. That would mean sleeping less. Not happening.

Before I had kids I remember reading about how a drug comapny was going to market their narcolepsy drug (hangover free alert-ness for 24+ hours!) to regular folks - they quoted a parent who said they'd love the drug so they could skip a night of sleep every once in a while and I scoffed. Now I get it. Boy, do I get it.

I really am struggling with this issue right now. I'm also working full-time from home and most of the time feel extremely fortunate to have an interesting job, a stay-at-home spouse, no daily commute and more opportunity to see my little one during the day than I would otherwise (when I'm not traveling of course). The hours are crazy though and I can work through the night sometimes due to con calls with far-flung time zones. Also, the ridiculous politics of my job mean that I increasingly need to get on a plane to have face to face conversations and stay "visible".

I feel pretty motivated and ambitious in my career but I struggle with the balance. I just can't justify traveling any more despite pressure to do more and it is so painful to be away from the little one. Every time I have to take a trip longer than two nights I feel terrible b/c I hear that our son is acting out and clearly affected by my departure. Our re-entry is challenging and I feel like I'm failing as a parent or have missed out on some funny new antic he's doing. At those moments, I don't want to admit to myself (or my spouse) that I took great pleasure while away in taking myself out to dinner and enjoyed a visit with my long lost friend the New Yorker. Or that I worked all night and then actually slept in until 8AM b/c I didn't need to get up with our son. There is something amazing about not being accountable for anyone else for just a sliver of time.

Meanwhile, back in reality, we're struggling to decide if we should expand our family in which case I will definitely not want to travel or work the hours I do currently so I can focus on just bonding. I'll have to accept that I may not be able to advance in my career as much or as quickly as I'd like for a few years longer and that's a meaningful factor for me.

Ultimately, I think the hardest thing for me has been to find that balance and adjust my expectations for myself - something that just doesn't come easy.

One thing I could never understand was the appeal of "working from home". (Unless of course, you are breastfeeding, in which case, I totally get it). I feel as though I would be so unproductive at home, faced with the constant tug to do other things such as play with my daughter or do things around the house. A major part of the satisfaction I get from work is the constant interaction and camraderie I get from co-workers and the feeling of working as a team to focus and get stuff done. I just don't think I can give that up. I work full time out of the home and my compromise with my former, ambitious career women identity is no/minimal travel and 40 hour weeks with no/minimal extra hours. The problem is now I'm in the position to possibly be promoted into a new, more demanding role (with some travel) and feel like I am going to turn it down and thus shoot my career advancement in the foot because frankly, I'm not willing to give up more time with my daugther (plus we want another baby soon). I feel guilty for not giving all my self and energy to my daughter, and at the same time, feel guilty for not living up to my full professional potential.

I'm the backward one here. I've loved staying home for the last ten years and I haven't "missed" a thing. Now that my kids are old enough to manage themselves, I'm at the crossroads of finding some work and re-inventing myself. Wish me luck!

I've done a little of everything work-hour wise in the past 3.5 years since having my first child. I now have him and an almost 2 year old, work out of the home in my professional field very infrequently, and spend about 2 hours/week in a paid hobby gig. It's a nice balance for us, with upsides and downsides all around. After cutting back at work, initially to half time, it was very hard to see others taking on my responsibilities. I knew my priority was my family and, frankly, my heart wasn't in my work at all, but it was still painful to see this happening around me. I think being post-partum didn't help either.

Last winter my husband was out of work so I went back full time and had all the time in the world to focus on work, take on extra responsibilities, etc. There was a part of me that was very stimulated by this. I hadn't realized how much I missed it. But overall it really wasn't that great. I missed by babes, I missed going to the park, to music class, naptime, all that good stuff. I missed having the time to get things done around the home. (Contrary to some stereotypes, I don't clean my toilet any more than before. I just have the time to do it whenever I feel like it.) Life has a really different pace when you're not tied to someone else's direction of your work hours. I was so relieved and grateful to be able to quit once he found work again.

If I have to compare, I missed home more than I missed work. Maybe I can say this because it's not an all or nothing situation for me? I've made staying home as enriching as going to work, which I think helps. And I've recently been realizing that being past "babies" helps. I have social connections through the kids' activities, every now and then I put on a skirt, we go get a coffee, all that stuff that just makes you feel less mommy and more woman. And that pang of being valued at work? Pales in comparison for me to the pang of wishing I was with the boys when I'm not. I treasure my time away from them, don't get me wrong, but am so much more relaxed when I'm not.

I love hearing everyone's take on this. When my husband flew out of town recently on business I was quite envious of his night away that's for sure, and am planning a get away for the first time for myself soon. On the weekends, my husband hates going anywhere without the kids. I love to. I suppose the grass is always going to look greener somewhere else but when it comes down to it, I'm happy in my own yard.

Hey there,
I love this! It's really great! Can you make some for kids ages 10 and older???

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