I haven’t been blogging much. I suppose it is because I feel this innate pressure to blog about Christmas but while I have been doing Christmas, I have been thinking about many other things, mostly, as always, what I want to be when I grow up. At the end of January my maternity benefits will come to an end and I will need to launch into the workforce again but since we moved, I can’t exactly go back to my old job. Sadly.
The little voice inside me whispers, “perhaps this is a time to be bold, try something new and muster up the courage I would have otherwise let cool on the back burner.” The only catch – I need to make money. I do. Ben is in school full time and it is up to me to bring home the bacon so while my passion lies in photography and design, the undefined conventional is saying, “get a real job – one with a regular pay cheque and benefits.” Because that is what people do. That is what financially responsible people do. When I break this prospect down however, it seems less than appealing. Yes, I could go back to the bank and at best, get a job as an account manager, make a comfortable salary and then spend it all on childcare whilst someone else takes care of Audrey, Jakob and Ella but would I just end up being miserable? As I have been mulling all of this over, contemplating life, passion and our current situation (and how we have gotten here) I have come to five major conclusions.
I don’t want someone else raising my children.
I don’t. We place a value on the care of our children when all we offer to pay childcare workers is minimum wage (or slightly above). Raising children is a huge responsibility. It’s more than just making sure they don’t kill themselves – it is shaping our future citizens and leaders. It is helping them become the people they are going to be. Plus, I’m selfish. I want to spend time with my kids. I think to myself, 20 years from now, will I regret not spending more time with them? Will I say I am financially ahead because I chose to work outside the home? I doubt it. I’m not saying that those who do choose to work outside the home love their children any less but it’s just not for me and I will explain why in the subsequent conclusions.
There are endless waitlists for daycares.
Even if I did decide to put the kids in childcare, there are endless waitlists to get into said daycares…at least the good ones. I know. I have talked to other moms in the same situation. The stress of waiting for a spot alone could cut years off my life and what if I don’t get a spot in time? What then? Ben can’t take time off school, so we would sit making no money, stressing.
The profit margin after paying for childcare would be minimal.
Even with the low wage we pay childcare workers, it is still expensive, especially for someone like me who doesn’t make a tonne of money anyway. Even if I did find a respectively paying job, with one kid in fulltime childcare and two others in afterschool care, I am only walking home with less than a part time income. Furthermore, if I decided to only work part time, chances are, as I have been told, I would have to pay for fulltime care anyway as they are such coveted spots.
I will always need a creative outlet.
I’m an artist. I have tried to deny it but the truth is, I will always need a creative outlet. When I didn’t have children this was easy to fit in after work or on the weekends. But now that I have children, I have found that my hours outside of work are spent just trying to keep the pieces of our lives together – paying bills, paperwork (with a child with special needs this is more than you think), therapy, grocery shopping, homework, etc.. There is little time for leisure with or without the kids. But as you can imagine, being married to a musician, I think the arts are important. I think it is important to nurture the creativity of my children and set an example. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that their creativity needs to be suppressed or that taking time to be creativity is a waste of time, or an irresponsible use of time. The arts help us to learn how to express ourselves. Dancing, drawing, making music – all of these serve as vehicles for the emotions that need to get from the inside to the outside. Perhaps, and I’m just throwing this out there, we wouldn’t have so many mental health issues if we gave our children the appropriate tools to express themselves.
I value experience over security.
I have been giving this point a lot of thought lately and I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of people: those that value security and those that value experience. Neither one is better than the other – it is just a personal preference that often stems from the generation we grew up in, or the way we were raised. Baby Boomers value security. They witnessed the way their parents struggled and did not want that for themselves. Ownership was and is important as is a healthy nest egg and a comfortable retirement. I started out this way. Ben and I owned property at a relatively young age and should we have stayed in the market would probably have paid off our mortgage by now but instead we sold our house and used the money to live in England for a year while Ben did his Master’s degree in Choral conducting of all things. Yesterday, as I was driving to pick up Jakob and Ben up from a day of snowboarding (they both tried it out for the first time) I thought, my kids are so fortunate. But I hesitated afterward and wondered, why would I think this? We are not wealthy and while I think they have some pretty awesome toys (mostly thanks to the grandparents) we do not have the latest gaming systems, ski gear, or fan-dangled toys. We NEVER go on family vacations and we rent a modest house full of craigslist furniture finds. But I think they are fortunate for the same reason I think I was fortunate as a kid – experience. They have been able to have many different experiences from living in Europe to playing ice hockey, to trying out snowboarding. When Ben finishes his doctorate, it is my dream that we will be able to go to New York (while I have been twice, Ben has never been and I think he would love it). New York however, is not cheap and a decent trip would be at least $5000, if not more. That would be a good chunk of cash to put towards a down payment on a house…so would I forgo the trip (if we manage to save that much) in order to own property sooner? Chances are, no. Some people are so good at saving. I am not. I want to see the world, I want to try new things. Don’t get me wrong, we have put security systems in place. Should anything happen to us we know our children will be well taken care of but I don’t want to spend the majority of my life stockpiling for the few good years we will have after retirement before we die. After-all, my husband is a musician…I don’t think they actually retire.
So what does all this have to do with work? The bottom line is, I don’t want to spend my days, doing something subpar, while sacrificing time with those things I hold most dear – my kids. How can I have my cake and eat it too? Aaaah, the classic work/life balance conundrum. Lately, I have been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I appreciate her writing because she is a researcher at heart. She majored in English, then went to law school and has written biographical works on JFK and Winston Churchill. Her “happiness project” was methodical, well-researched and extremely intentional. I’m not particularly a self-help kind of gal myself, but the reason I picked up the book in the first place was because I was tired of being miserable. I was and am determined not to let circumstances (which, as of late have not been entirely amiable) rule my mood and subsequently, my days. I have found Gretchen’s experience inspiring and perhaps, just the little push I need to get my life and mood back to where I would like it to be. That was a big sentence that needs a lot of unpacking – more than I have time for in this post. As mentioned, I have been doing a lot of thinking – thinking about values, priorities, objectives and goals.
Fortunately, I haven’t entirely defined this space yet, so along with EVERYTHING else I write about, I am going to use this space as an online journal of my journey. I don’t know what that will look like yet but I have hope, a dash of inspiration and a glimmer of the courage I thought was lost forever. Stay tuned.