Saturday, May 3, 2008

The "Burden" of Choice.

....Cross-posted from Chicago Moms Blog.

A month ago, I was in a third interview with a reputable firm. I had made my way to the EVP and the Director of marketing. We started the negotiation of flex-time -at least 1 day from home.I didn't get the job. The consolation phrase was: "We'd hire you today if you could do 5 days a week." Fair enough. I get it. But then the man said(empathetically): "Funny? You never hear about men having to argue a case explaining their devotion to their career AND family.That is the burden of choice, I guess." I will reiterate that sentiment for emphasis; those were his words, not mine.

I smiled, shook hands, and walked out....pissed. After further consideration I wondered if there might be some marginal truth in that statement? Women before me worked tirelessly, and often without accolades to reserve the right of title to modern day's "Supermom". I don't want to deep dive into the social and highly debatable issues of it all.'s just a personal story of choice, fear, and the great unknown.

Monday, I officially announced my departure from my current day-job, where I am able to work a flex schedule.I was lucky as the client's request for my return after having my daughter gave me leverage to do so. It's a strange thing, endings. I was once coined: "The Velvet Hammer" by co-workers. I feel a little loss of that identity. My job required a graceful balance between being accommodating and hard-to-break. I was good at it. I am good at it. I just feel a changing wind, and decided to listen to my instincts and seek something different. I have been constantly twisting and bending my hopes both professional and maternal, to find a fit. I didn't sleep so well thinking about everything. Rationally, I know that raising children is one of the single most important things I can ever do, especially in today's world. I also know(cringe/squint) that I am not one of those women innately born to be a stay-at-home mother.

I feel like I am standing at the bottom of a set of diving board stairs. A huge staked sign says: "Caution, no lifeguard." Each board represents a climb to something: staying home full-time (which, if I'm being honest, scares me; it was HARD the first 8 months. I tried it), full-time career, and the diminished and hard-to-find part-time options in my industry. Each diving board is a leap into the unknown. There is a inverse correlation to all the things I find important, no matter which one I scale and stand on.

More than anything, I struggle with the blessings I was afforded by my late father. I feel wasteful. He was a self-made man, born in Tanzania. He started out wearing a hard-hat in oil fields, and paid his way through university in England.He then worked his way to a very comfortable life for our family. I didn't really want for anything; he provided. I didn't pay for my college; he did. Somehow, he managed to instill a work ethic in me, not always seen in my prep-school friends and other privileged peers. He was a bit of a hero in my eyes. His goal was always to allow for opportunity, yet he was a callous business man, too. His words to me were, "Never depend on a man or his bank account, you never know when either one will run out of what you need." It was a harsh mantra for a young girl, but the things we hear in formidable years are hard to unlearn. Not shockingly, I am perhaps a little callous and a little independent, sometimes to a fault.

So here I am, racked with guilt. Wanting to "do more" with my life. Hoping to stay an intensive part of my daughter's upbringing, yet also hoping to set an example for her, and forthcoming options she may have. I really do try to balance all these conflicting wants and needs while smiling and keeping the family satisfied, okay, alive and fed. Eeek.

Which brings me back to that word "burden": There is no clear path for me. We can afford for me NOT to work.(boo-hoo, I know). So finding another similar job isn't necessary, but it's an option. My husband actually appreciates and pushes me to explore my own business ideas and is open to "Whatever makes sense for me." That's an option. Staying's an option. Like I said before, I sound frivolous and ungrateful. I am not. I am very aware of my circumstances and surprisingly, like all things worth is hard.

In my case, I recognize it's a great problem to have. I am stuck in over-analysis paralysis right now faced with the conundrum of not squandering the choices, yet somehow figuring out how to let that very concept of choice work for me, instead of against me. Here's hoping!

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