Working or Staying Home – It’s Not Always As Simple As a Choice

A few weeks ago a friend on Facebook posted a link to an article about how childcare is more expensive in some areas of the country, including the DC/Baltimore area. The article also discussed why there aren’t more options for parents, but mostly women, to work a different way and it really got me thinking about my own life and my former life as a working mom. Now, I don’t even know what I am. I don’t work, but I don’t consider myself a stay at home mom, either. Or maybe I’m just unemployed.

When my children were little, there was never any question I would work. I had a career I loved and I made great money. My husband (at the time, ex-husband now) had a career he loved and made even better money. We always felt like if you 1) paid enough money; and 2) paid even more attention, you could find a great place/person to take care of your children as infants and pre-schoolers. We decided very early on that we felt it was more important for one of us (me obviously) to stop working but not until our oldest got to middle school. That’s where we felt it would be the most necessary for one of us to be home.

So that’s how we operated. Although I had a great job, mine was the back burner career. I was the one who picked the kids up from daycare. Meaning I was the one who always left the office at 5 p.m. I was the one who had to carefully consider which projects I took on to determine if there was the potential for too much travel. I worked in a department where there were six directors and I was the only woman. As I would leave each night, the rest of the directors would just be getting their second wind and having their little get together in our VP’s office.

I found a new position with more responsibility and more pay and a shittier location from my home – Capitol Hill. And I worked there for four years. Four long, horrible years of fighting traffic and fighting bosses who felt we should all stay at the office till 7 p.m. Four years of driving like a mad woman (I think I picked up all of my aggressive driving skills then) and blowing through a pack of cigarettes on my drive back and forth to work each day (I’ve since quit) hoping I would make it to daycare and after school care on time without having to call a friend in a panic to ask for yet another favor to run and pick them up.

I also divorced two years into that position. So “our” great plan for me to take the easy route and not go full throttle with the career all of a sudden got thrown out the window. The problem then became, what do I do now that I have always had the back burner career? The mom who always has to leave early. The one who passed up opportunities so she could get to daycare on time.

In the end, I didn’t get the chance to make a decision on the matter. It was decided for me. There was a 25 percent staff reduction and little miss mommy worker was one of the ones laid off. I was unemployed for two years. It sucked. I couldn’t find a position. As the time went on and my marketing career stalled, I became less and less marketable myself because of the changes that were taking place in my field. I couldn’t say I had any social media experience because I missed it. I was sitting at home. I was searching for a job. I was broke. I went through years and years worth of retirement savings to continue to stay on top of my bills and mortgage. But … I was, in fact, not working when my oldest hit middle school. And that has been a blessing (she’s a freshman now).

I have re-married (and WOW, is he a patient, loving and wonderful man), I had a one-year stint as a consultant that was decent but I am still unemployed. Ever the career woman, I hate to consider myself a stay at home mom. That may offend people but it’s just something I’ve never grown accustomed to thinking of myself as. Probably because I only have custody of my kids every other week. But … I do a lot for them all of the time. I’m the one who takes the kids to practices, goes to all of the games, makes the pasta for pasta parties, helps to edit the yearbook and other fun things. I also volunteer my time to school and healthcare organizations. This is the way I try to keep my marketing skills up – by volunteering my time to run organizational social media and sponsorship teams. It makes me happy. I am glad I can be around to haul my kids around but it frankly isn’t enough.

I would love to have my career back but it just never seems to pan out. I’ve been out of the workforce since 2009 (with the exception of that one year consulting stint in 2011) and apparently I’m not the type of person companies are looking for now. I continue to look for a position but I don’t send in my resume for every single thing I see now.

I know I’m lucky – my husband can support us both – and many people don’t have that luxury. But man, I wish there was something I could do in my field, even part time. I miss that feeling. I miss the camaraderie. I miss knowing I’ve done a good job or have created something genius!! lol

It is truly a shame that employers don’t see the potential of women who want to work. Who are smart and capable; who are experienced; but for whatever reason, can only work part-time. I’d like either but I don’t think the only option for moms should be having to settle for working crappy hours at a retailer for minimum wage.