Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tough Trade Offs

I've debated whether or not to even write this post for months now, as there is so much mama drama on this subject that I was tempted to just shy away from it.  But in the end, since I'm focusing on trying to be more open and honest and I love to over share.   And this has been kicking around in my head recently, so -  here goes...

I've decided to continue staying at home with Harper and future kiddos for a while, instead of finding a teaching job in the fall like I had planned...

So often, women are made to feel bad about the choices they have made, especially as moms.  Because, let's face it - so many choices you make as a mother have trade offs - opportunity costs - and some decisions just plain suck.  If you are wise and able to turn off the noise, you will make the best decision for your family, but most likely, there are going to me things you lose.  Things that don't get done or dreams that don't come true.  But too, there are great payoffs.  

Women are made to feel guilty about the choices they make - often by other women - and sometimes this guilt is laid out intentionally, sometimes it's self-served through that ubiquitous comparison trap, sometimes it's unintentional.  But it's there.  Lurking.  

I didn't even want to talk about my decision because I didn't want to feed into that guilt cycle - intentionally, or not.  But it's been a big deal in my recent life and I wanted to share.  But I want to make sure I say, loud and clear, that my decisions are what make sense for my family, at this point in our lives, in this moment in time - and that I understand all moms make the same tough, unique decisions too.  

My way is my way - not something I expect from others or expect all to agree to.  If there's one thing I've truly learned from this parenting experience so far, it's that you really can't compare your journey to someone else's.  Everyone has their own way of parenting, and it works for them.  My baby is not their baby and my choices are not theirs.  And that's ok.  It hasn't been easy for me to see that at times - I thought I knew what choices I wanted to make, and when those things changed - I was resistant to the changes.  I had in my head the ways others did things and the way I was raised and the ideas of what I thought was right - and I had cobbled together this picture of parenthood that is just not realistic.  We all choose a wise path and do our best to stay on it, but sometimes, it changes, and we must be ready to face those changes.

All that to say, I thought I knew what I wanted.  And it changed.  And its' ok.  And it's not perfect.  And there are trade offs.  But it works for us, now, in this moment.

If you've been trekking along with me here on this blog for a while, you will know that I quit my advertising job in 2011 to go back to school full time to get my Master's in teaching.  And I did that.  I loved the experience and knew that teaching was where my heart was and what I wanted to spend the rest of my professional life doing.

I got pregnant with Harper during school and we adjusted our plans accordingly.  Since she was due right when I was set to graduate, I was going to take that first year off and then start fresh (this) fall with a teaching job.  As my classmates were sending out resumes and doing interviews, I was gestating a baby.  It felt a little anticlimactic at the time, and I felt like all of the momentum that had been built over the two years of school was going to just abruptly stop.  Don't get me wrong - I was so excited about Harper (duh) and that new challenge, but it just seemed like such a separate place from my school/teaching world.

Even up until the time Harper was about six months old, I still planned to teach this fall.  I felt a little out of the loop, but still pretty confident.  I filled out super-detailed applications, emailed resumes, mailed about 30 resumes when told to, got background checks notarized, the works.  Yet something changed.

I don't even want to get into my personal reasons as to why I decided I wanted to continue to stay home, because, again, I don't want to imply that my choices or priorities or goals for our family are better than yours or anything of the sort.  I just decided that it made the most sense for our family for me to continue to stay home.

And practically, it works out.  We have lived off one income for over 2 years now and have found a way to make it work, so thankfully I don't have to work for us to stay afloat financially.  And since I haven't even started teaching at all yet, it's almost like a natural break.  We also plan to have our kids fairly close together. I didn't want to start my first year teaching (which I've heard carries quite the learning curve!) and then take more time off for another baby and then have to basically have another first year all over again.  Not to say it couldn't be done, because of course it could, but if it makes sense - I would be more eager to get back if I already had an established classroom/school/etc. to get back to.  And luckily, teaching is a fairly friendly area for women (since most teachers are women!) and it won't be impossible to get a job after taking time off for family.  And despite my decision changing, those school systems don't know I changed my mind, since I had already done everything to apply - and yet, I haven't heard a word about any jobs in areas I would want to teach in (it's kind of a rough market right now for teaching jobs..).  Anyway, there are a lot of reasons why it works.

But in truth, my decision was so very hard to make.  I want to teach, I want to work, and I want to put that degree to use that I spent so much energy to get.  Yet I want to be home with Harper.  I want both, at the same time.  And that's just not possible.  It's no secret to any mom that this is a choice that has no clear perfect answer.  There are always the trade offs   

I spent a week in a serious state of anxiety, trying to make my choice.  I was so upset, and the minute I had decided on the pros of one side, the cons of that side reared their ugly heads.  Crying would commence and I rehashed it all with Tony over and over.  And once my decision was made, I felt like I was in mourning.  Isn't that terrible?? There are so many moms who would kill to have the opportunity to stay home, and can't, and here I was sad that I get to stay home with my amazing daughter everyday.  I was overjoyed that I could do that, but it still meant that teaching was on hold.  I felt both emotions at once, and they were tearing at each other.

It helped when I realized that I was seeing the choice in black and white - either I got to teach and would never see my children, or I got to stay home and would never fulfill my professional dreams.  Neither is true.  It's not black and white.  There is a balance that will be struck.  I'm not teaching now, but that doesn't mean I can't in a few years when it makes the most sense for my family.  I still have opportunities to use my skills and knowledge in a non-job type of way.  And there are, of course, so many wonderful positives about getting to stay at home.

After a while, I got past it.  I found a way to embrace my new role, my new "job" and move forward.  I realized too that in a way, I had been stuck, in limbo, since Harper was born.  I was going through the motions of stay at home momhood, but never really embracing my new role.  I always felt like I was stuck between two views of myself - two Claires that couldn't reconcile with each other.  I had Harper at such a transition time, and I just didn't know which place I belonged.  I dreaded that question at the dentist or the doctor - "so what do you do?" (welllll.... I used to do advertising, but now I am a certified teacher, but I haven't actually taught, and right now I am home with my daughter, but I plan to teach soon....).  I found it hard to comprehend that Harper, being a mom, was now what I do.  It somehow felt like cheating, since I know so many amazing moms who do that job PLUS another.  And I just found it hard to see this as my new role, my new definition of myself.

It's a process, but I'm learning to embrace this role and make the most of it. To go beyond the day to day and maximize the potential.  It's tricky, but I'm getting there.

In the end, I am so very happy with the decision I made.  And I don't think that being sad about delaying my professional side negates the happiness of being able to stay home.  I think it's ok to feel both joy and sadness, simultaneously  without excluding the other.  Ultimately, this was my choice, and I am so grateful that I even had the luxury of it being a choice.  I love being home with Harper, I wanted to keep doing it, and it never fails to register that I am so very blessed to be able to do so.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this because it was kicking around in my brain.  And of course you were all on pins and needles waiting to hear what I'm doing with my life :)  It struck me that I finally got a good taste of what every parent, every woman even, goes through at some point - there are always trade offs, and it's not fair.  Something has to give.  But, in the words of so many TV dads, life isn't fair.  And it's ok.  The important part is to find what works for your family, and embrace the positives.  Because, there are always, always those positives.



    Women for years have fought to have these choices, and go you for taking advantage of that choice. No guilt, be the best momma you can be, and move on. Your decision impacts no one but your family and people who disagree can go...well, go somewhere.

    Thanks for having the courage to do this and share it, and thanks to your family for supporting you. And thanks to you for maintaining such a positive outlook on it all! Inspiring!


  2. This is BEAUTIFUL!! I have so many thoughts of praise for you that I'm having trouble organizing them. But for now: YAY! I will eat lunch and then, with adequate blood sugar, I will send organized thoughts. :)

  3. Ok. Post-lunch thoughts...
    1) I love that you came to the conclusion that it is ok to have grieved the loss of right-now teaching (because! yes! It is SO ok!).
    2) I'm glad you realize that grieving teaching in NO way diminishes your joy in getting to stay home with Harper.
    3) YAY you get to stay home with Harper!!! What a lucky baby girl!! :):):)
    4) I really enjoyed reading your thought process in defining yourself. I'm sure it was quite startling to go through all those transitions all at once! That was a huge whirlwind of identities!!

    I'M SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!!! Happy new job!! :):)

  4. I heard this somewhere and i have always loved it "Girls put each other down but women build each other up" Good for you! You do what you need to do for your family. Also, have you thought about private tutoring? I know many women who went from teaching to staying at home and now tutor on the side. In my area you could make a killing for a few hours a week and you could always make it work with your schedule. It could also help keep your resume up to date and keep up with experience if you ever do want to get back into teaching. Just a thought! :)

    1. maggie! i didn't have your email, so i hope you see this - but THANK YOU!!! Thank you so very much.

      That is such a great quote - and so true. I appreciate you sharing it.

      And I wanted to tell you that you have me completely inspired. I have thought about tutoring before, but always brushed it off because I haven't actually taught yet, and I thought who would want to send their kid to a real but not really teacher? ha. but now you have me thinking about it anew - perhaps i could do free/low cost ones at first to build up a reference base... it's definitely perfect timing - i could research it over the summer and be ready to go by the fall..
      So thank you for inspiring me!! i will let you all know how it goes!

  5. Good for you, Claire! I'm so excited for you. I've learned from being a mom to never, ever judge. I know I'm doing what is best for my family and other moms are too. :)

  6. You are so right, tough trade offs, and hard to know what the right thing is. Especially because everyone has an opinion about what's best, huh?But, I'm so happy for you that you've made the right decision for you and your family at this time. I'm still trying to figure out what the right decision is (okay, I KNOW what it is, I"m just scared to bite the bullet). Every family needs something different. Every woman has to decide what's right for her. And the bottom line is, no decision is ever final - we have our whole lives ahead of us to work/not work/change our minds every year if we want to! Enjoy your time with sweet Harper, it goes too fast!

    And I love Maggie's comment, women build each other up. So smart.

  7. I'm so glad you wrote this post and shed some light on what a tough decision it is.

    Be proud of yourself and your family! Praying that those anxiety filled thoughts subside whenever they decide to creep up again.

  8. you are all so.amazing! i am writing you all emails in a minute, but wanted to say here - virtual hugs all around!! :)

  9. Wah wah wah! Just kidding. I know from plenty of walks that you struggled to make this decision, but I'm glad you are getting more time. Now...time to get knocked up again. ;)

  10. I'm so excited for you, friend! It really is so tough to be a momma, and I know how hard it is to make big decisions like this. Good for you for doing and sharing it. So happy for you!

  11. i am so proud of you claire. and i get EXACTLY what you are going through (have gone through, and are about to go through). as you know, i made the decision when the kids were older (jacob, 8 and hailey, 3) and sadly, it took me getting "hit on the head with a hammer" (my mom developing breast cancer) to make the choice. i knew that i was working FAR too much. i knew that my family (and myself) was suffering in result. but i felt like i "had" to keep going. to keep pushing myself to "do it all"... i feared that leaving would scar me with a "black mark" and erase ALL that i had worked so hard to achieve.

    anyways, it has been extremely "interesting" from a social standpoint... the ways others (online and off) speak to me/treat me now compared to back then (when i was "important";)). but once i was hit on the head with that hammer, the decision of what i needed to do was blatantly clear (have you heard the compass analogy that martha beck speaks of?). and i have not regretted that decision for a single day.

    so proud of you for thinking through all of this NOW... for being thoughtful and intentional. (and proud of tony for supporting you, just as ryan supported me!) xoxo


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