Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Some questions, some answers

Some good questions regarding me and my life and my crazy work sprung out of the last post, so I thought I'd answer for everyone to see. Sometimes I answer in the comments section, and sometimes I answer out here.

So, first off, Brent works 48 hours every 8 days. Two 12 hour days, two 12 hour nights, and four days off. In August and September, I worked 24 hours every 8 days, generally two day shifts in a row. My hope for October is to work 12 hours every 8 days, though it may work out to be a little more often.

Here is me and WHY I work:
Because I like the work that I do
Because I find the intellectual challenge involved in my work to be an easy and interesting way of meeting my intellectual needs (which we all have and find various ways of fililng)
Because I like the small breaks from family and domestic life
Because I find I appreciate and cope better with family and domestic life if I work (part time: full time is way too overwhelming for me, especially when I have kids)
Because I live in a country that has a good maternity leave
Because I work in a job that is flexible and works around my schedule, and in which I can work part time
I find I can manage my mental illness better when my mommying is compartmentalized, or book ended, or in segments, rather than neverending cycles of sameness and grunt work.

Here is what I wrestle with in regards to me working:
How many hours is a good balance at any given time, based on the size and needs of my family
The risks involved in my job, either to me or to my family if I were to catch or carry an illness home from work
SHOULD I work; some people seem to think it unethical for a mom to work outside the home--are they right? Are they wrong? Is a middle ground possible?
Saying goodbye to my kids, especially when they are still quite little and cry when I leave
The increased burden on Brent when I work, because he works full time and then has fewer days off when I work, plus the household runs less smoothly when we are both working; groceries don't get bought, laundry doesn't get done, and school notices go missing...Not because he can't manage, but because it's tough to do that type of neverending, cyclical work efficiently when you don't do it regularly, and when one person isn't in charge of it.

Here is how I feel about money:
I don't want to HAVE to work, financially. Finances are about choice. If I choose to have a house and two cars and I HAVE to work for us to afford it, the price of having a house and two cars is too high to me. Kids don't have to be as expensive as people think they do, and I would rather have a townhouse and be around for more hours, than have a big house and NEED to work more hours than I am comfortable with.
I work because it fulfills an intellectual need; which is fortunate, because it took 4 years in my career before I made ANY money. As in, the first four years I made approximately $6,000 dollars a year. Yikes.
However, more recently I've been finding it is more important to me that I contribute financially to our family in a significant way. Not huge, but more significant than $6,000. If I don't, my self esteem suffers.

I used to feel more guilt about working and being a mom, but then I read a book called Feministing (I have a link on my sidebar to this girl's blog, feministing.com--fairly liberal feminism, but engaging and reasonable nevertheless, and a fine balance to the conservative rhetoric I often find myself surrounded by) where the author points out that the debate over whether to work or not to work is a luxury of the upper and middle classes. For centuries women have been doing smut jobs for smut pay to support their families out of necessity. Are they any 'less' women, or good mothers, because they work? No. A need exists, and they fill it as best they can. That perspective alleviated a ton of guilt for me, because it made me feel that the debate itself; to work or not to work, is arrogant. It presumes certain economic conditions that are not a reality for most of the women in the world, and which we are perhaps not even designed for, you know? Instead of debating ignorantly in our affluence, perhaps we can focus our energies on making working conditions BETTER and more egalitarian for working women, which in turn benefits their families and society as a whole. [mini rant]
So i don't feel guilty anymore, but I am quite careful to balance work and family based on how well I function and how well my family functions when i work a certain amount of hours. I try and strike the perfect balance FOR ME, and presume nothing about the perfect balance for other women.

Anyways, that is some answers to some questions!
I have to disclaim that I fully support and endorse stay at home moms, and work from home moms, and homeschool moms, and work out of home moms. So many of us do parenting thoughtfully and well, whether we work outside the home or not, and I think it's wonderful.


tamie said...

Ah yes, a lovely post. Good thoughts.

You know, the first time I was married I pretty much didn't work at all. For ten years. I let my husband earn the money. That's just how I thought it was done, I guess.

But now, the thought of my partner being the sole wage-earner strikes me as very odd. Paradigms have changed. (Also, the notion that I'd be the primary child-care-er strike me as very odd. I want Jon to be just as involved with the kiddos as I am, if we do have children.)

However. Jon pointed out the other day that our society (and almost every other society I know of) only values-in-a-way-to-pay-money-for certain kinds of labor, and cooking, or caring for children, or all the other domestic tasks, are not that kind of labor. So, we automatically assume that kind of labor isn't actual labor, does not "count." You know? I'm not exactly sure how someone would rectify this in a wage economy. Hm.

Thanks for letting us in on what's motivating you on the work front, and what your thoughts are. I, for one, find this stuff very interesting! I'm so curious to see your life in actual action! Yay!

Tonya said...

Sounds like maybe what is making things crazy is that you both have shift work. Is there any way you could get a more 9-5ish job doing what you do? I don't have any good ideas here, I'm just thinking out loud. Eric's brother and his wife were both police officers for years. It was CRAZY. Sometimes they just wouldn't see each other at all - always very stressed. She retired a few years ago and it has helped immensely. Since that doesn't seem to be what you want to do, I was just wondering if there was some way you could use your "skill set" in a more normal hour type thing.

I know, nice thought, but probably unrealistic. I am NO help at all!

Oh, and if you want to use your brain in a completely weird way AND go insane, try homeschooling! :-)